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Lower Mills shop owner enjoys freedom of self-employment with Archangel Boutique

Yawu Miller | 4/19/2017, 11:13 a.m.
After earning a degree in Entrepreneurial Studies from Babson College in 2000, Lashonda Jefferson went to work in the corporate ...
Archangel Boutique owner Lashonda Jefferson opened shop in 2007 in Lower Mills, attracted to the foot traffic in the neighborhood business district. Banner photo

After earning a degree in entrepreneurial studies from Babson College in 2000, Lashonda Jefferson went to work in the corporate sector, earning a salary that enabled her to pay off student loans.

But after several years, Jefferson couldn’t give up the entrepreneurial itch. Since her days as a high school student at West Roxbury High School, she had an interest in fashion. Opening a clothing store seemed like the right mix of passion and practicality. Over the last ten years, she has built her store, Archangel Boutique, into a profitable business that provides her full-time employment.

Banner photo

On the web

For more information on Archangel Boutique, visit: www.archangelboutique.com

Initially, she decided to go into business selling on Saturdays and Sunday, while keeping her 9 to 5 on weekdays. The first step: finding the clothing.

“It took me quite a while,” she said. “I was trying to find wholesalers. I actually went to New York City, to the Garment District.”

She incorporated her business, Archangel Boutique, and obtained a license so she could buy clothes directly from whole sellers. In New York, she pounded the pavement, asking retailers where they obtained their wares, visiting different vendors and building up contacts over the course of a year. She also attended trade shows across the country.

Finding a location posed another initial challenge. Jefferson looked at storefronts on Newbury Street, in Newton Centre, Quincy and Milton before settling on a shop in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester.

The Dorchester spot, less than half the cost of spaces in other locations, enabled Jefferson to sell dresses at a price point that allows her to move significant volume.

“If I were located in the Copley Square Mall, I wouldn’t be able to offer dresses for $79,” she said.

Self-financed

Renting the space and purchasing inventory required no borrowing. Jefferson was able to draw on her savings for those costs. But going into business, even just two days a week, was not easy matter.

“I was definitely nervous,” she said. “I wanted to see this was something I wanted to do full time.”

The location turned out to be a blessing. Around the corner on Dorchester Avenue, a string of restaurants brings foot traffic to her commercial strip.

“I close at 7 p.m. on weekdays,” Jefferson said. “People will park here in front of the shop and they’ll buy things before they eat.”

The shop also is conveniently located little more than 100 yards from the Milton stop on the Mattapan trolley line, bringing foot traffic to Archangel Boutique and other Lower Mills businesses that include a tailor, dry cleaner, optometrist and real estate office. When she opened, that foot traffic translated into near-instant business for Jefferson.

“When I first opened, it was walls of people walking in off the street,” she said. “That and word of mouth.”

Ten years after she opened, the district includes more restaurants, and more foot traffic. She augments her street presence with social media promotions.

As for inventory, she buys clothing in small batches, but buys on a weekly basis to keep it fresh.

“I carry small quantities and I usually get shipments every Thursday or Friday,” she said.

In addition to keeping a lean inventory, Jefferson also makes sure she orders a limited number of each item. “People don’t want to show up at a party and see someone else wearing the same dress,” she explains.

Her dresses range from $49 to $99.

“I try to keep things affordable for this area,” she said. “If you overprice, things stay around longer.”

Jefferson says she has no regrets about leaving the corporate world to open her own business. Health insurance is her largest business expense, and the freedom of determining her own schedule and freedom from business meetings are a bonus.

With a successful business up and running, Jefferson says she may be up for a new challenge: designing her own clothes.

“The reason I initially started the store was that I wanted to work in fashion,” she said. “I wanted my own line. I’ve learned the retail side. Now I can start my own line.”