This week we talked with Elaine Myada, owner of The Elm Shop and participating vendor at ShopHER. The Elm Shop is a women’s boutique that curates unique and beautiful items that support Black-owned businesses and HBCUs across the country.
Hello, Elaine! Let’s start by sharing the most important thing that you would like people to know about The Elm Shop.
Hi! The Elm Shop is a women’s boutique, and we carry accessories, bags, clothing and jewelry. I think what sets The Elm Shop apart is that we’re targeting women who want to be classy, graceful and stylish. The idea is to provide accessories, bags, clothing, and jewelry that elevates their style and makes them feel great as a woman. You know there’s this trend right now to wear a lot of tight and revealing clothing, but the women who shop at The Elm Shop are women who take care of how they present themselves. Some are career women, they’re educated, they have young families, and that’s who we cater to.
How and when did your business begin?
I started buying handmade masks in April 2020 and when I posted pictures people would ask where I got them. I was selling them to friends and family. The woman I purchased them from suggested I buy them wholesale and resell them at retail! And so, I kind of fell into selling masks. Then I started meeting other women who made jewelry and other types of products and I began working with them, which allowed me to expand into handbags, clothing and jewelry in the fall of 2021. Everything has felt destined to be, it’s fallen into place, and I’ve been able to meet other great women. These business owners, creators and makers have been wonderful partners for me.
Why did you decide to take part in ShopHER and what has it done for the growth of your business?
I had recently applied for another similar program and didn’t get in so when I saw the information for ShopHER I reached out to Heidi Sheppard and applied right away! I wanted to take part in ShopHER to not only gain retail experience, but to grow my business by reaching new customers. I also wanted to have the opportunity to interact with my customers and hear directly from them about why they were purchasing an item, items they may be interested in and to share with them more about my shop. ShopHER has been a big blessing to my business. I’ve been able to gain hundreds of new customers and expand my product line.
Can you tell me more about some of your partners?
Sure! One of my partners is based out of Atlanta and she makes handmade jewelry for me. I was shopping with her, and she happened to mention that she sold her jewelry wholesale and so I told her about my boutique, and she was happy to work with me. I also get my bags and clothing from several vendors around the country. I focus on supporting women- and minority-owned businesses, with the idea to create an ecosystem for these businesses where we can help each other grow and prosper.
And I know that you have an important relationship with Howard University. Do you support any other HBCUs or organizations?
Yes! So, I started selling Howard masks back in the fall of 2020 and then I began working with another Howard alumnus and we started designing masks and t-shirts together, so now we have matching t-shirts that are also featured in my boutique. Then I expanded to include other HBCUs such as Spelman College in Atlanta, Morgan State University in Maryland, and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Education is important to me and so is supporting my alma mater (Howard University). Philanthropy is also a big part of what I do with my shop. Several times a year, I donate 10% of sale proceeds to various organizations, including the Ladies of Howard University Scholarship Fund.
And finally, if you could go back in time to before you started your business, what is the one piece of advice that you would give yourself?
I think for me it would be to put in place a lot of admin pieces at the beginning, like inventory tracking. I would also get marketing support because I think one of the hardest parts about doing an online boutique is that you really have to be marketing consistently. Marketing takes time, energy and effort from content creation to regular posting, so that’s what I would prioritize.
Deb Almond, owner of Candid Almond, one of the ShopHER vendors.
Photo courtesy of Elaine Myada