Jennifer Carnahan spent 15 years climbing the corporate ladder at some of the top Fortune 500 companies, including General Mills, McDonald’s and Ecolab. Despite her success, Carnahan said, she needed more style in her life.
Last year, the business executive left the security of her office job to pursue a dream of opening a clothing boutique in northeast Minneapolis. Primrose Park debuted in October, and while Carnahan, 38, has achieved her long-held goal, it hasn’t been easy. On days when the cash register hardly opens, she is reminded of her personal motto, displayed on the walls of the cozy store: “Dream Big. Be Happy.”
Why did you want to open a boutique? It has been an aspiration of mine since I was in my early 20s. Growing up, my mom would take me shopping in Chicago and New York, and I fell in love with the fashion industry. I realized all my business experience and training had positioned me to successfully give it a go.
Who is your customer? The boutique appeals to the woman who wants to look chic and stylish and considers her wardrobe to be an extension of who she is. Whether it be heading into the office, going to the theater, brunching with friends, watching her kids’ soccer match or raking leaves on the weekend, she wants to feel comfortable and great in what she wears.
What’s the price point? Right now about 90 percent of the store is between $50 and $100. There are a few specialty pieces in the $125 to $250 price range, but I wanted to keep the store affordable and chic all at the same time. We shouldn’t have to break the bank to have fabulous things in our closet.
How has your personal style changed since your days in corporate America? I’ve become a bit more casual. Since I don’t have to run around from meeting to meeting and lead big presentations, I like to be a bit more comfortable. Who wants to stand in heels all day when you don’t have to? My go-to shoes at the shop are my Minnetonka Moccasins, and I also find myself in more relaxed knits and jeans now. Don’t get me wrong, though — I still love my dresses and can be found wearing them at least one day a week in the shop.
Aside from your store, where do you shop? My two favorite brands (not in my shop) are Kate Spade and Lululemon. Kate Spade for the dresses and shoes (a girl always needs some sparkle on her feet, even with jeans), and Lululemon, because on the side I teach Yoga Sculpt at Corepower Yoga and Spa in Maple Grove. Locally, I admire Parc Boutique, Cliché and D. Nolo.
What’s the most challenging part of owning a boutique? Having confidence in the business plan I built, strategy I devised and product plan I put in place. Owning a boutique is like being on a roller coaster that never ends. One day I have a phenomenal day and am so excited for all the people I met, the clothing that I sold and the feedback I receive from customers. The next day can be completely opposite … where I don’t sell as much as I had hoped and then I freak out.
What’s one of your style secrets? A lip color that matches your look and draws attention is always stunning and a head turner. And whenever I fly, you will be hard pressed not to find me in a pair of my Kate Spade glitter or sequin shoes. Flight attendants, pilots and passengers comment always.