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Rising Stars: Meet Andrea Puckett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrea Puckett.

Hi Andrea, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
Initially, I had dreams to become a lawyer, then it turned into wanting to be a nurse. But I knew that wouldn’t work out too well because the slightest sight off-leash would make a swarm. So after high school, I was back and forth in college and achieved a few certificates and jobs in between that time. But after all of that, a passion was still missing. it wasn’t until 2019 when I decided to start my own boutique. My sales skills were already there. I’ve worked in the sales area almost all my life. From doing door-to-door sales in high school selling newspaper subscriptions to working at “ Bath&Body Works” as a customer service sales rep.

Each one successfully became one of the “top salesmen” in the department. Then, I loved to dress and had an eye for fashion ever since I could remember. From the fashion magazines like “Elle” or “Vogue”, down to urban street style and wear. I was into it all. It was a regular thing for somebody to compliment my outfit or to ask me where did I get it from. So, I thought to myself maybe I could give the people what they have been wanting or better yet, give them an interpretation of what my style was like. I remember sitting in my room thinking of a name but couldn’t brainstorm anything catchy at the time. I finally came up with the “SoXtra” boutique because my friends would always call me extra or tell me that sometimes I was a little bit of an exaggerated personality.

The funny thing was I thought I could be a little extra sometimes myself. So there it was “SoXtra Boutique” was in full effect. I had a pretty good vendor, I set up my Instagram for people to view the different products and promoted most of it off my main page since I had a pretty good following already. I was doing drop-offs and pick-ups and had a few orders to be shipped. But the problem was I didn’t have the room for all of my inventory to fit at that time and a had some other personal things I was dealing with. So, I put the boutique on the back burner for a little.

Things started to gradually get better for me, I got my license back, purchased a car, and just recently moved into my own place. Around October of 2020, is when I decided to give the boutique a second chance. I attended a pop-up shop inside a clothing store called “Ayo Boutique” where they also had a studio space right upstairs that was also big enough for different events if you wanted to rent it out. So at the pop-up shop, there were many different vendors selling their products like clothing, food, art, and more. While in attendance, I was informed that the owner offers sections in the clothing store that you could purchase monthly.

You could literally sell anything at the wall you purchase; art, clothing, house products, whatever your heart desired. As long as it’s not illegal. But inside it was mostly walls for clothes and shoes. So after the event, I got the owner’s number and thought it would be an excellent idea to put some of my stuff in there. Especially since I was rebranding and trying to relaunch my business again. Plus, I had a big shipment coming in. I talked to the owner, we arranged the date and time I could move in. Once I was set up, “Ayo Boutique” was a pretty cool environment.

It felt like a mall inside of a mall. If you could imagine different sections, full of different inventory of different stuff. Each person’s wall had its own setup portraying their unique style and look. You could be as creative as you wanted because it was “yours”. Some people had led lights around theirs, some had custom and/or professional designs and of course, my wall was right in the front filled with pink paint. So fast forward 5 to 6 months later and I was gradually building my business up.

During that time, I made some business cards and gave them literally to everybody I came n contact with until my following grew each and every day. It was to the point where people were telling me that I had already given them one already. Which was a good thing because they already knew too about me by the time I got to them and yes I’m still handing out business cards till today. A problem I was running into at “Ayo Boutique” was space. I had more and more inventory coming in almost every other day and I was running out of room for hardly anything else to fit in my wall area. So, I started to look around for storefronts and commercial property in general.

I came across the landlord for “Ayo Boutique” who was leasing his property right across the street from where I was. I jumped on the opportunity quickly. I met up with the landlord within that week of me hearing about it to take a look at the space and the conditions. It wasn’t the best property and I knew it would need some time, work, and money. But, the issues were minor and could be fixed up. I told the owner I wanted it and how much I had at that present time. He worked with me and until this day I thank him for the opportunity of getting my foot in the door.

I was so overwhelmed with emotions once I signed the lease and received my keys. I really couldn’t believe at that moment I was officially a business owner, “my own business boss”. Nobody to hardly answer to or get permission for this or that; it was all mines. Signing those papers was the easy part, the hard part was yet to come. I had a lot of work to do to the shop; like painting the walls, building a backroom, getting security cameras set up, getting somebody to design and install my sign and the list goes on and on. So I knew right then and there it was grind mode time thousand.

Still, till today I still have a lot of work to do on/n my boutique. But I take it to step by step at a pace I could afford. Yet, I am so happy about what I have accomplished in space and business so far. I get compliments on the appearance of my shop all the time, which is, of course, big and pink. Appearance means a lot to me because that’s a make or break for a lot of businesses.

Nobody wants to come into a business with the mess or just not unkempt. Plus, I have gained a lot more customers with all the space I have now.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No, it has not been all peach and cream to get to where I’m at today. I had a few challenges in my way and I still have to face many more in the future. One would be when I was running out of room at “Ayo Boutique” and went to look at more property. As I would go around attending different open houses I felt defeated.

I had no paperwork that legitimized my business. I didn’t have a business finance account nor was my business LLC’d. most important things you need while filling out the applications. So when I turned them back in they were half completed. Plus, I was young and felt like certain people wouldn’t take me seriously. I would get callbacks, texts, and emails about how it was a pleasure for me to be interested in their property and spaces. “But” they have considered other people or how every those email went.

So again when I did get approved for the space I am in now I was head over heels. “SoXtra Boutique” is now LLC’d and legit. Another challenge I am facing at this present time is trying to extend my business and get another space. This time in a mall in the Baltimore area, like Towson mall, White Marsh Mall, or Eastpoint mall. Either of the three would work for me right now.

So if you live in the DMV area definitely be on the lookout for me.

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