Lori Brasfield Sanders
Owner, Lola B Boutique
How did you get your start?
While completely immersed in my 20-plus year career in a male-dominated field, I had the epiphany that DeSoto County needed a dress shop. What started as a creative outlet for me, turned in to so much more. I eventually left my corporate position to pursue Lola B full time. Having my experience and education in business, much of starting and running a company came second nature. The fashion industry dynamic and understanding this new market was a learning experience, and it still is!
What’s your day-to-day like?
My primary goal with Lola B is to make sure every customer has wonderful experience. That means I am responsible for knowing the markets we serve, forecasting volume and buying the inventory, hiring and training a motivated (and mostly seasonal) staff, and creating an inviting shopping atmosphere. Financial planning is critical, because formal wear is seasonal and expensive! Having an interest in fashion or formal wear is only a small part of owning this business. Building relationships with clients and designers, financial planning and management, and training a seasonal staff in a short amount of time are my focuses every day. That means, many spreadsheets, phone calls, hundreds of emails, and spending time with people makes up most of my day. At least six days a week!
How would you describe Lola B?
The Mid-South’s premiere formal wear boutique. We custom order for clients, we’ve dressed thousands of girls for proms, homecoming, and pageants, and we have bridesmaids dresses and tuxes for wedding parties. We’ve been on the red carpet at the Grammys, have personal relationships with designers like Johnathan Kayne and Tony Bowls, and you’ll see girls on the Tennessee and Mississippi stages in State pageants very soon in their one-of-a-kind Lola B gowns and outfits. And most of our local pageants are won by girls wearing Lola B!
How has the shop changed over the years?
While Lola B was always planned to be a dress shop, we did start with casual wear in addition to gowns. For practical reasons as a new boutique, we wanted to make sure we had clients all year round. As we grew the formal wear side of the business, we were able to phase out of casual and expand into our new space at 5847 Getwell Road.
You have a few side projects as director of the Miss Amazing Pageant for young women with disabilities and the Founder of Girls of Grit, a summer day camp program for teen girls. What inspired you to get involved?
In addition to running a business which allows me to mentor young women, I also donate my time and experience to non-profit organizations that empower girls and women. In 2014, I founded Girls of Grit, a summer day camp that provides activity based learning for girls and teenagers. Girls are exposed to a variety of career paths, taught leadership skills, and practice value-based decision making. I facilitate these camps, and in addition to the time spent fundraising and planning the activities, I took four weeks off from work in 2015 to hold the camps. Girls who attend camps credit the experience with building their confidence, expanding their world view, and being encouraged to pursue non-traditional careers.
In 2015, I was asked to take on the role as state director for the Mississippi chapter of Miss Amazing Inc. Miss Amazing is a national 501(c) that provides leadership, interview skills, and event/appearance opportunities for girls and women who have disabilities. In 2016, my second year as Director, we grew the state program by 50 percent, traveled the state promoting the event, and made appearances with the Miss Amazing representatives.
Also, I am the Vice President of the DeSoto County Business Women group. Each month, I secure community leaders and representatives for the charity spotlight as speakers for the groups monthly luncheons. The DCBW group is a philanthropic and networking group focused on community awareness and service. Since taking on the VP position, I proposed changing the format of the luncheons to include the charity spotlight speaker, to ensure the group's financial donations and service time were focused on a wide variety of need in the DeSoto County area. All of these endeavors fulfill my purpose, which is to support and empower girls and women.