Tamara Johnson turned her interest in fashion and accessories into a business. Tamara is the owner of Liliglow Boutique, an online shop with chic accessories and signature bags. Tamara has also built giving back to the local Philly community into her business model. Read on to learn more about this entrepreneur with a purpose.
What inspired you to start your company?
I started sewing about 5 years ago. I loved Christian Siriano from Project Runway, his feisty spark made me say, hmm, I’d love to do that. So I started off with a beginner’s handbag pattern that didn’t come out well at all. Nevertheless, I kept tinkering. Once I felt more confident with my craft, I started to vend at flea markets, and was pretty well received. I liked meeting new people and selling my creations so I decided to take my hobby a little farther. I knew no matter what something wonderful would happen.
Tell me a bit about your background. Did you always have entrepreneurial aspirations?
Small steps helped me shape Liliglow. When I was nearing 30 I began to seriously think about building my brand. I attended some marketing classes and networked a bit to learn more about the industry. It was a very different path from what I was accustomed to. I’ve been a creative person for my whole life, and utilized every artistic medium I could throughout high school. I decided to study architecture in college. The training was pretty intense, but it helped mature my creative side. Inadvertently, I believe it was the foundation to help me discover my entrepreneurial spirit.
What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since launching your company that you’d like to share with budding entrepreneurs?
One lesson is never enough to share, but since I can only give one I will suggest that you truly listen to that small annoying voice in your head, heart, or stomach (wherever yours is located) that tells you to never give up. It will be hard to hear some days but wait for it. It gets louder. It will inform you of the right direction to go, who to research for inspiration, what partnerships to flourish, what projects to drop, and most importantly when to stop thinking so much so you can relax. It will steer you towards the right path, even when the direction looks really hazy (and believe me, it definitely will get hazy at times). That’s the best lesson I can give at the moment, because I’m still learning it myself.
Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon? What are some major goals you’d like to accomplish in the near future for your brand?
Yes, I’m actually creating a new series of handbags for the Spring and Summer. I’m tweaking my current style to be more fun and spontaneous while expressing the love behind my micro-brand. The changes will be subtle at first since I’m always testing what works, but I’m playing with comic book art, artistic prints, some tribal fabrics, and dabbling with spray paint to add texture. It’s so exciting to develop. Outside of that, my two biggest goals are to hire my first employee to assist with creative development & marketing, as well as shaping a plan to have some entertaining pop-up shops that will help me meet my customers face to face and fuel brand awareness.
I love that you have a service component built into your business where you sponsor nonprofits, can you tell readers a bit more about that?
I know that my company is still in its infancy, but I want to learn how to give back and do it in creative ways. For this year, my goal for the company is to sponsor 3 nonprofits by donating 10% of my targeted sales to each selected organization. What’s amazing is Liliglow just connected to its first charitable sponsorship, YoungLives Delaware Valley, a Christian-based program that assists teen mothers to flourish in their lives and community. I recently attended one of their banquets with my business mentor, and I was so deeply moved by the programs efforts – especially the genuine love I felt. I walked away knowing that I wanted to do more, and realized that even the smallest act of kindness helps. Hopefully I can be that small act to others through Liliglow, and hopefully make a big difference. To learn more about our sponsorship program, please visit our website.
How would you describe your own personal style? Do you have any style icons?
I’m actually laughing at this, since I do receive wonderful compliments on my personal style, yet I’m the queen of wardrobe reruns. I love dynamic patterned leggings or candy colored stockings paired with some cozy ballet flats. I play with zesty nail lacquers a lot, so I try to the incorporate the color (or mood of the color) into my daily wear. My style icon I would say hands down is Beyonce. I mean, wow, when I watched her visual album I felt like I was standing in the midst of an animated painting, and I was inspired to add a few details to my style with vivacious lip color, sultry eyes, or even stacked rings. Summertime will be very fun for me to experiment. Aside from Mrs. Carter, I take inspiration from everywhere, check out my Pinterest page.
What do you think sets Philly apart style-wise?
I’m really biased about this, I love Philly not just because it’s my home, but it’s a really fashionable city. I usually find the best style trends when I’m strolling through Center City during the mid Summer or early Fall. I so admire the hipster scene, from the grunge-look to the posh-upscale –the style blending is awesome! Our Philly fashionistas are draped in infinity scarves with layered looks, mash-ups of color, Hollywood style glasses, and hip hugging jeans. And our plus sized divas have such a classic, sensual style that truly flaunts their ultra sexy, femininity. We definitely have a signature style that people notice outside of the Tri-State.
What are some must-have accessories and jewelry types you recommend for spring?
I think everyone should try the trending thin stacked rings that are worn right above the knuckle. Decorate your hands with them, go crazy. Don’t stop there, get a stiletto manicure or stock up on bold nail lacquer to further accentuate the look. It’s very Rihanna, so chic and modern bohemian. However, if you like to play it safe, dabble in a minimalist style and test run only a few stacked rings on each hand, with pastel hues or a single clear top coat on your nails.
Since your hands will be the focus, get a few signature clutches for yourself to strut around in. I will be stocking clutches soon from independent designers Lee Coren and Me Dusa for the Spring/Summer. For the mentioned rings, shop local Etsy Artisans, you’ll be delighted in the variety of styles they have. To pretty-up your nails, especially on a DIY budget, try Sally Hansen’s Collections. I love them! My go-to and favorite are the Insta Dry – they are awesomely bold, glossy, and of course they dry in a snap.