We all know that person… The one who always looks poised and polished, with exquisite personal style. That’s Brenda Lane, and her passion for high-end fashion on a budget inspired her to open her own shop, Honey/Brown Boutique.
“I always had the idea of owning my own boutique because people will ask me ‘where did you get this? How much you pay for it?’” Brenda said. “It was like ‘you got something going on here.’”
Brenda’s shop features high-quality fashions. She estimates 98 percent of her inventory is new or gently used. She describes her search for clothing and accessories as a “scavenger hunt.” Brenda finds pieces that meet her standards for quality, and then resells for up to 50 to 60 percent off the retail value.
“We specialize in high-quality fashion as in Coach, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren,” she said. “Anything you can think of. The other day I found a Fossil backpack that was basically new. I found Marc Jacobs for $5. We specialize in high-quality fashion on a budget.”
Brenda is a Cohort 5 graduate of HustleSBE, a Startup South Bend – Elkhart business bootcamp program for Minority and Women business owners who are focused on exploring new solutions for their customers, generating new ideas, and shoring up current business practices to create a solid foundation upon which to grow.
“I participated in the Hustle program so I could learn what to do and how to do it… And what not to do,” she said, laughing.
While Brenda’s background is in the healthcare field, she’s always had the dream of owning her own boutique. She received her degree in Human Services from Ivy Tech Community College and continued her studies in Behavioral Social Science at Bethel University. During her time at Bethel, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“It was just a life turning event and everything,” she said. “So, I just got to start pushing my business and connecting with people to get me where I’m at today.”
A native of the South Bend – Elkhart region, Brenda finds the community to be supportive, with programs and resources available to entrepreneurs. She participated in the RISE (Regional Innovation and Startup Education) Applied Entrepreneurship Program, where she learned of the HustleSBE program.
“The RISE program gave me the confidence and the information that I can do this,” Brenda said. “I know I can do it, but once you have people pushing you and rooting with you, it just gives you more of a vision to bring your business to life.”
HustleSBE helped her overcome one of her biggest struggles in starting her business – Marketing. The courses helped her get out of her comfort zone, work on developing her website and learn how to use social media to promote her business. She appreciated the topics covered, everything from bookkeeping and taxes to resources available like the Chamber of Commerce, and she enjoyed the variety of guest speakers facilitator Jess Koscher brought in to present.
“It’s never a dull moment,” she said. “Jess and everybody, they all make you feel comfortable. It’s something that you would be glad to get up and go to. You know it’s something you think about two to three days ahead – what am I going to wear, what am I going to think about, what I’m going to say. I give Jess an A, A+ times two. I can be in a room with her and talk with her for hours and learn. I mean, she’s focused on everybody learning and achieving. That’s the best thing.”
In the near future, Brenda’s goals for Honey/Brown Boutique include navigating the market, promoting the business, and getting the website up and running. But her long term goal will take the boutique on the road: renovating a truck to create a mobile boutique on wheels.
“I can travel to different locations,” she said. “Local events and even other states and things like that when they have summer events or any events that want to have a boutique on wheels. I’m just living in the moment and I’m grateful for it. I’m excited to see what the future holds!”