The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



SMC alumna discusses fashion boutique launch

Angela Bukur | Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Saint Mary’s alumna Vanessa Cooreman Smith combined her love of fashion with her drive to succeed when she launched Flourish Boutique in Granger in 2008, and she returned to the College on Monday to share the story of her business.

The lecture was co-sponsored by Saint Mary’s Business and Economics Department and the Cross Currents Program’s Collegiate Speaker Series. Smith, who graduated in 2004, said the boutique was a dream of hers that began during her undergraduate years.

“When at Saint Mary’s, I found myself trying to fit my passions and creative talents into other avenues that were more practical for living in the Midwest,” Smith said.  

During her junior year at Saint Mary’s, Smith said she discovered her passion to start her own business, and after college began to take classes in business and fashion through the Art Institute Online.

 “All the time I was doing that, I was planning, saving and researching,” she said. “Despite my fear of failure, I knew it was my calling in life was to start my own business.

Smith combined a small business loan and her savings to open Florish Boutique in 2008 as a women’s clothing and accessories store, Smith said.
The business’s mission is to help women “flourish” both in fashion and in life.

“The definition of the flourish has two meanings: first, as an embellishment or flair on clothing with that as a testament to the clothes we have, and second, is to thrive or prosper,” Smith said.

Smith said her goal is to help women find unique and special clothing, but also to make them feel confident and great about themselves.  

“Only two months after Flourish opened, the stock market crashed,” Smith said. “I knew it was too late to turn back.

“Looking back, when faced with the recession at that time, I felt like all my life’s mentors were preparing me for something difficult. The personal stress and toll was insane, we sold our house and our cars because we were so determined to make it work.”

We had to come up with many creative marketing strategies like fashion shows, trunk shows, giveaways, etc. to help us during this time.”
Smith said the adversity in the beginning served as motivation for her future success.

“Despite everyone’s advice to close, it was like whenever someone told me to close, I became even more determined” Smith said.

Two turning points of the business was her “giving philosophy” to gain fans and the use of social media, Smith said.

“The turning point felt like a huge shift in momentum, but it didn’t mean overnight or lack of stress,” Smith said.

Today, despite the recession, Flourish have experienced year after year growth,,” Smith said.

“We launched our e-commerce store in 2011, [were] featured on CNN and have gained a big fan following through Facebook and blog posts,” Smith said. “We also now have specialized staff, internship position, and are outgrowing our current space.”

Smith said in the future, she would like her business to become a major player in the online world of boutiques.

“If you start a business it will be challenging, but on the other side you can live your dream,” Smith said. “Life can throw things at you, but you must pursue a job you love to do.”

Contact Angela Bukur at abukur01@saintmarys.edu