Several months ago, ok, maybe a year ago, I was inspired to start a blog series called "Boss Lady". The mission behind Boss Lady is to inspire young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs. 
My team and I are reaching out to all the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive in to the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between. 

                                    Photo Credit: Elle Roman

I’m Lara. I’m from Little Rock and except for a short stint in rural Montana I’ve been here my whole life. I lived in West Little Rock as a child - - back when Reservoir Road backed up to a farm and the kids who lived there would sometimes ride their horses into my neighborhood - -and gradually migrated East. As a teenager my family lived mostly in Hillcrest and I graduated from Central High. My first apartment was at 10th and Scott and most of the folks in my sphere thought I was nuts for wanting to live downtown, and I was crazy for that old apartment building and the energy of the neighborhood. Flash forward more years than I like to count, and I’m still downtown. This time with a retail business on Main Street just five blocks from that first apartment and a warehouse project behind my old high school.

I’m sort of a late bloomer…didn’t start college with any seriousness until I had two young children and a full time job and even then I didn’t really mean to. I didn’t think that college was an option for me at the time, but working in the office of the president and CEO of Heifer International inspired me take a single UALR course on Sustainable Development. I loved taking that class so much I took another one. Then I took two. It took seven years, but I graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a minor in Gender Studies.

Being in retail was also something I just sort of fell into. I started creating staff and VIP gifts for Heifer’s president, which led to work as the coordinator for the Heifer Gift Shops, which led to working with the Clinton Museum Store, which led to managing the Store at Esse Purse Museum, which led to Moxy…  (A fun aside is that my first real job in high school was working at MM Cohn Department Store which was THE swanky store in Little Rock at the time. My desk at Moxy is a rescued fixture from the MM Cohn lingerie department given to me by our friends at Good Stuff Auction.)

                      Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan

  1. What is your business?  Jon Estelita and I own Moxy Modern Mercantile in the SoMa district of downtown Little Rock. We offer vintage and industrial furniture and décor along with a fresh and often irreverent mix of gifts and stationery. We love the quirky and have a knack for finding things that others might overlook. Our approach to decorating at home is pairing the old with the new to find that just right blend of fun and function and we bring this approach to our retail mix, too.

    As a sideline, I’m renovating a biggo warehouse behind Central High. It’s 20,000 square feet of concrete and steel that houses a workshop and storage for Moxy and when it’s complete, will offer studio space for artists and artisans.

  2. When did you start your business? Moxy officially opened Feb 11, 2014. We got the keys to our space at the tail end of October 2013 and spent three months readying the space. We were both employed full time elsewhere, so we were squeezing in renovating time where we could.

  3. What inspired you to make the leap?  I got a call from a friend letting me know about an upcoming storefront vacancy on Main Street. She asked if I knew of anyone looking who’d be a good fit or “maybe you…” Well, she planted a magic bean with that phone call. Jon and I made an appointment to see the space and without a clue as to what we were going to do with it, decided to take it on the spot.
  4. What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation??  Gotta have the java in the a.m. and my daily call with my mother. We talk every day, usually in the morning, but if we miss our morning call we catch up in the evening. We talk about the events of the day and what’s on the horizon for the next. She is my partner in the warehouse project and a real inspiration to me. I come from a family with more than its share of strong, entrepreneurial women. My nana had a beauty shop in her basement where my cousins and I couldn’t resist spinning each other dizzy in the shampoo chair. All three of her daughters are business owners. My aunt, Susan Maddox owned a marketing firm in Dallas, before “retiring” to open Rosemont Bed & Breakfast here in Little Rock; and my mother and her other sister Sylvia Payne co-own Kahler Payne Antiques & Vintage in Hillcrest - - a sweet cozy shop, which coincidentally was once a beauty shop, and was where I learned the ins and outs of retail early. I spent my teenage years and young adulthood going to auctions with my mother and aunt and scouring estate sales on the hunt for great finds.

                                    Photo Credit: Hannah Carpenter

  5. Tell us about a day in the life of running your business.  I used to be a night owl but during the last few years, I’ve begun getting up earlier and earlier and find that I can make a lot happen before 10am. I typically am up around six and spend about an hour waking myself up, tending to pets (Fergus – a corgi, Mario – a terrier mix, and Stella, a highway kitty) and readying myself for the day. Then I spend time doing something around the warehouse. One of my current projects is removing carpet adhesive from a long corridor, so I might work on this for half an hour or so and then settle down for a quick chat with my mother. Before I leave for the store a little after ten, I work my list of phone calls that need to be made that day. I like getting these out of the way first thing to keep me from getting sidetracked by the day’s events. I hate remembering at 5 pm that I’d meant to get in touch with a contractor or vendor and have to wait for the following day to make the call. At the store, Jon manages the visual merchandising and customer service and I do all the behind the scenes business to support the store. On an average day, I’m sourcing new products, placing orders, entering inventory, paying consignors, balancing checkbooks...all the myriad odds and ins that it takes to run a business.
  6. What keeps you motivated?  I really enjoy the lifestyle we’ve created. I love that I almost never have to set an alarm clock and that I have a work partner who complements my skills so well and is so much fun to work with. And I love the response that our customers have to our store. It’s a terrific boost to overhear them laughing at some wacky thing and enjoying themselves. Jon and I both get a lot of positive affirmations from their comments. “This is my favorite store!” will keep us going for a long while.
  7. Describe your dream day.  Lounging in a posh hut set in a secluded tropical cove with an unending supply of fruity drinks and a loaded Kindle.

                      Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan

  8. What is your greatest strength/super power?  I’d say my greatest strength is being a can-do girl….sometimes I just don’t stop to consider that I’ve never done something before and have no experience, so not realizing that I “can’t” I just go ahead and do it. Having a knack for asking the right questions and finding the right people to ask is also a big help.

  9. Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat?  Instagram. I find lots of inspiration on Instagram, @hannahacarpenter, @bellavitajewelry are two of my favorites. I’m inspired by Hannah’s simple, perfectly compelling photography and aesthetic (I’m sure it’s not as easy as she makes it look) and Brandy is such an amazing business woman. She’s always got something new in the works. Her hustle makes me want to reach higher and work harder.
  10. What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) Most evenings I take a half hour to sit on the loading dock at Moxy Warehouse (aka my back porch) with a mocktail. I enjoy watching the trains go by while I reflect on the happenings of the day. It’s a terrific reading spot, too and with a little over an acre I have my very own dog park.

    I really enjoy what I do. So my work is my also my play. In my “down time” I find inspiration exploring other stores online or in person, traveling to trade shows and flea markets. The same goes with the warehouse renovation - - chipping damaged plaster from a wall or painting a rusty railing are leisure time activities for me…so I’m really lucky.

                                        Photo Credit: Saira Khan

  11. If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? Hire staff. Launch an online store. Open a Moxy in a major city or two. Design and produce a line of retro-inspired furnishings. And finish the warehouse renovations complete with solar panels. Okay, I might need 2 million.
  12. What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go?  Jacking up my personal credit cards to open a store….we just celebrated our third anniversary with expanding our sales floor and are now operating with a line of credit.  So far, so good.
  13. Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable?  Tooting my own horn. I struggle with posting on social media. I’m really most comfortable being behind the scenes, and it’s a little tough for me to even brag about the store. However, I understand that we have to get Moxy news out there. We can have an amazing store but if no one knows about it we won’t have it for long. Another thing I try to keep in mind, is how much I love seeing what others are up to. A glimpse inside a maker’s workshop or an artist’s studio is always fascinating to me, and I enjoy following my favorite shops - - so just maybe folks want to see what we’re doing, too.

  14. How do you handle discouragement? I take a nap and then go at “it” harder from a different angle. Unfortunately, for Jon, I may also vent to him before rallying to face something hard. He’s really good about listening even when he’s probably heard that vent before.

                      Photo Credit: Saira Khan

  15. Which iconic person inspires you?  I love Oprah Winfrey. I recently read her book “What I Know for Sure” and found inspiration on virtually every page.
  16. Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote?  “It doesn’t matter how deep the water is, as long as you keep swimming.”
  17. If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose?  I’d really like to work with marketing guru Seth Godin. 

                       Photo Credit: Saira Khan

  18. Who are you in your next life? A Maine Coon cat.
  19. Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business?  I’ve learned that having two consecutive days off is important to me. I inevitably work during some part of both days but having the time to fill as I “want” to and not as I “need” to is a real gift.
  20. What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs?  Acknowledge your fear and keep going.

                        Photo Credit: Nancy Nolan

Moxy Modern Mercantile social media:
Instagram: @moxymodernmercantile 

Photographer social media:
Nancy Nolan
Hannah Carpenter
Saira Khan


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