Student-owned boutique Très Chic brings fashion to MU campus

The boutique, run by MU student Alexis Qualls, opened in the MU Student Center this semester despite the ongoing pandemic.

A new, student-owned boutique opened in the MU Student Center in September. Très Chic, owned by MU senior Alexis Qualls, aims to serve women of all shapes and sizes and make them feel beautiful. Qualls, a Textile and Apparel Management student, got the opportunity to open her own boutique through the Missouri Student Unions’ Entrepreneurial Program.

Qualls was inspired to open a boutique that focused on contemporary women’s clothing and accessories because of her love of fashion and design. The idea for Très Chic, meaning “very fabulous” in French, adapted from the work Qualls did at an entrepreneurial summer program in 2016.

“We spent two weeks at SLU college, and we had to come up with a business plan that would benefit consumers in that time period,” Qualls said. “My business plan was a clothing store, but it was a mobile boutique. … So of course, it’s definitely different than what I have now, it was going to be a mobile truck that drives around St. Louis.”

This business plan took second place in an entrepreneurial competition and eventually became Très Chic’s store design.

Pleasing customers and making them feel fabulous is exactly what Qualls and Très Chic did. According to two of Qualls’ customers, Très Chic offered the ideal experience — affordable prices for college students, good customer service and an overall good in-store experience.

“What stood out most for me was Alexis’ setup and customer service,” Arieanna Boyd, a first-time customer at Très Chic, said. “I could tell where everything was and there was easy access in the store. I also liked how I was able to try clothes on at home and if the merchandise didn’t work out, I could bring it back to return.”

Boyd said she sees herself becoming a returning customer because of her positive experience. Boyd found it convenient that she doesn’t have to leave campus to find trendy clothes.

“Students should always know that there is a store that caters to female needs right on Mizzou’s campus,” Boyd said.

Esiri Emeje, another first-time customer, agrees that the atmosphere at Très Chic is welcoming. Emeje finds the versatility in products and Qualls’ customer service enticing enough to be a returning customer.

“It just had a vibe and an aura that encouraged you to come shop and look,” Emeje said. “She has clothes that I never thought I would wear until she said ‘Hey, this will look good!’”

Despite the positive feedback, Qualls shared that she’s found it challenging to balance her business and college, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“At first it was very overwhelming because it was definitely a transition that I had to get used to because now, I’m not just Alexis the college student, I’m Alexis the college student who owns a business,” Qualls said. “It’s a lot more time-consuming. I can’t do everything that I want to do, especially during the pandemic. It takes a lot more work too because I have to actually pull my customers to come into the store because a lot of people aren’t on campus.”

With COVID-19, Qualls has had to increase the boutique’s social media presence significantly. Qualls spends a lot of time on social media and launched a website.

“At first that wasn’t something that I was going to be doing, but now it’s something that I know I probably need to do, because I know a lot of people are going more towards an online store,” Qualls said.

Qualls explained the many changes that COVID-19 has had on Très Chic and how it affected the store’s business. Not only was she sanitizing on a regular basis, steaming clothing and being cautious of social distancing, but she was also only able to allow four customers in her boutique at a time. Qualls saw all of these changes as room for improvement.

Qualls said that while it may be time-consuming to run a business, it doesn’t bother her because this is what she loves to do.

“It is a 24-hour job and I don’t think that a lot of people know that,” Qualls said. “You actually have to put in the work, so I’m up at like two in the morning ordering clothes … . My goal is to make people feel like they’re in their closet because when you’re in your closet you’re so comfortable, you’re in your own space, you know what you have, and that’s how I want people to feel when they come in,” Qualls said.

Edited by Sophie Stephens | sstephens@themaneater.com

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