It seems that women all over the world are adding entrepreneurship to their resume.
According to an article on Guidant Financial, the National Association of Women Business Owners reported that there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses nationwide.
In Atlanta, Lena Huggar — wife of R.L. Huggar, lead singer of R&B group Next — and Charity Washington — celebrity stylist and wife of retired NFL player Leon Washington — added their name to the list of entrepreneurs due to the grand opening of their boutique, Elle Mari.
Adorned with by diamond chandeliers, a decorative wall, and cozy chairs, the ladies opened the doors of the glamorous boutique with a grand opening on Sunday, Aug.19 at The Walk at Legacy in Suite 110.
Along with Toya Wright, who hosted the event, the grand opening was supported by a number of the duo’s family members and celebrity friends, including Kandi Burruss and Shamea Morton.
Morton, who is expecting a baby girl with her husband Gerald Mwangi, bought a few pieces to support her friends and shared her excitement about the Elle Mari grand opening.
“It’s empowering to know as women we can do this, there was once upon a time when we couldn’t,” Morton said. “Now that Lena and Charity have this beautiful store, I think it’s inspiring not just to me, but too young girls to let them know, Hey you can do this too.”
The concept for Elle Mari was birthed when Huggar and Washington decided to bring together their skills sets to build a business.
“I’ve had an online clothing business since 2010 and Charity has been in the fashion business for about 12 to 13 years styling some of the most influential people in the industry like Jay-Z, Anthony Hamilton, Dwight Howard, and Adrian Peterson, so we just put our heads together,” Huggar said. “We’ve been friends for a long time, so we decided that if we put ourselves together and do women empowerment, we are going to get a lot further than we would on our own.”
The shop’s name was derived from the store owners middle names. Huggar’s middle name is Danielle, so the last four letters of her name and Washington’s middle name Marie is shortened for Mari.
While starting a business is a huge accomplishment for both Huggar and Washington, the girl bosses admit that there are challenges to running a business.
“A con for both of us is that we’re both active mothers, so that’s the hard part,” Washington admitted.
Despite trying to balance motherhood and business, the dynamic duo always remembers what’s important in life.
“We always put aside our business first, and the (benefit) of having this business is that (Atlanta) is a booming market where everyone’s into fashion, and the fashion industry is the number one industry in the world,” Washington said.
Huggar said that the pieces in the Elle Mari collection are all based on their collective and different personal styles.
“We try to pick out pieces we would wear and also try to style for women in clothing that maybe we wouldn’t wear,” Huggar said. “We take a little bit of that, mix it, make sure the prices are reasonable, but still looks high-end fashion, fits right, that we wear the clothing and that’s how we make sure that everything works smooth.”
While many women are opening their boutiques around the globe and online, Huggar and Washington plan to stand apart from the crowd by bringing two creative minds together.
“We’ll just stand apart because we have two minds,” Washington said. “Most boutiques have just one owner so we have two owners and we’ll just do us, we have God so regardless, everything will flourish.”
In three to five years, Elle Mari is predicted to expand to Charlotte and another Atlanta area as well as expand into the beauty industry.
“We want to make sure that the store is a place that you want to come, try the clothing on, take a picture, snap in front of the floral wall, feel comfortable and beautiful when you’re in here so when you walk out, you know that you’re going to look great in your outfit,” Huggar said.