Women in Flint and Genesee County are propelling themselves to new heights. Their numbers are impressive: At 5,500 and growing, they are helping fuel Michigan’s ranking at the top of the nation for the growth of women-owned firms since 2014. The HUB Flint will highlight some of these achievers in the coming weeks. Meet Marquitta Harris.
Marquitta Harris loves the work she does so much that she wants to stir up the entrepreneurial spirit in others and encourage them to open their own businesses.
In fact, the name of Harris’s store is FAIM Boutique, which stands for ‘For All Individuals Moving up,” and she says that name inspires her to keep doing what she’s doing, despite the challenges.
Harris grew up in a home where design was important. Harris says her boutique dresses women in terms of body and spirit, boosting the way they feel about themselves.
“I always wanted to do something I love, which is dress or style women,” she says. “We give confidence. We make people feel famous. We order unique pieces to make them look famous.”
Harris has built up clientele for her boutique steadily over the past eight years. She promotes the store through social networking, vendor events and fashion shows. She utilizes both Facebook and Instagram for it.
Harris’s boutique employs about five seasonal employees that work with customers, tag and hang clothes as well as model and promote the brand. And she hopes to employ more people as the business grows.
“I think it’s great to see so many people starting their own business. When I started mine, there weren’t as many businesses open. It keeps the money circulating,” Harris says.
Harris recalls that around the time she started her business, many other people were just learning to become entrepreneurs. Harris has encouraged those who want to build their own brand by allowing them to rent out space in her boutique for the last eight years.
“Basically, they just need space and someone to help promote their brand. I try to do that through fashion shows I have myself, vendor events and my commercial space. If you put your stuff in my store, your store can be popular,” Harris says.
Harris has featured at least three businesses a year in her space, which has been at three different locations and is now located at G3490 Miller Rd in Flint.
“Twenty four to 30 designers have rented space from me over the years. I’m trying to get a photographer, a couple T-shirt lines and kids’ clothes. I’m working on my space being a hip-hop/historical store where high school and college kids can hang out. I want murals painted on the walls of people who helped paved the way for us. I want to make it ‘the now.’”
Harris believes working together is more powerful than when new entrepreneurs try to go it alone.
“If you keep working from your car or house, people will be in your personal space and you’re limiting yourself,” Harris says. “When I went into the business, my responsibility increased so people would take me more seriously and my business could grow.”
This year, Harris says she watched fashion designer Erica Walker blossom into a better designer as a result of being in her boutique. Harris says she often ordered pieces to make Walker’s designs “pop.”
Another designer who utilized space in Harris’ boutique was freelancer Ronita Ramsey, who Harris says had a lot of ideas for plus-sized women.
“She wanted to make them feel better about themselves because a lot of her sisters wore plus sizes.” Harris says.
Makeup artist Takeya Taliyah performed make-up artistry in the boutique under her brand BeautyBrat.
“She is trying to get her brand into Macy’s,” Harris says.
Harris believes when a person gives back to their community, he or she will be blessed. She says she has never received any grants or loans to remain in business eight years.
“I believe I’ve been able to do that because I give back.”
Harris says she believes designers in Flint are just as good as Michael Kors and Gucci.
“I say, let’s try to be Macy’s,” she says. “I deal with a lot but I keep coming. God’s not blessing me for no reason. I want to keep going. I still want to help people.”
One of Harris’ goals is to have a kids’ fashion show at a school. She also wants to help launch her children’s brands.
“My son wants to launch a clothing line called ‘God’s Gang.’ I have already designed sample logos. I also want my daughter to have her own lip glosses. I want her to be one the first babies with a brand,” Harris says. “I’ll never stop being an entrepreneur. I’m not rich, but I’m rich within. In the hospital, I was in so much pain I wanted to give up. But I wanted to show my kids it will turn out. I decided ‘I’m going to go hard.’”
Not only does Harris plan to go hard at her own goals, but she plans to continue to help others “go their hardest” as well.
“It’s important because I was raised to help others and give back. When I came up with the name FAIM, I decided whatever we could do that’s what we would do due to how we named the brand.”
Editor’s Note: You can learn more about FAIM by visiting their facebook page or calling (810) 449-0110. FAIM Boutique is located at G3490 Miller Road in Flint.
This series on Flint and Genesee County entrepreneurs is sponsored by Metro Community Development, a community development financial institution and originator of BizBox, a 360 degree business program that includes training, development and financial support.
To learn more call 810-767-4622 or visit metrocommunitydevelopment.com