Updated: Nov 2, 2018
This week's Dreamcatcher is Andrea Denningmann of Addi&Ains Boutique. She is a force to be reckoned with! Andrea is a go-getter if ever I met one, and I've asked her to share her story because though she had dreamt of having a boutique long before I met her, when she decided it was time, she took off running and hasn't slowed down. And it's been thrilling to watch! Be sure to check out her Facebook Group to keep up with her items nationally. You can follow her on Instagram for local pop-ups in the St. Louis area, as well as her permanent location with Boutique It Collective at The Meadows in Lake St. Louis. PLUS, two more locations coming to the area this spring, so be sure to follow!
4 Ways I Knew It Was Time To Make The Dream A Reality
by Andrea Denningmann
My love for fashion began early on as a child. I loved playing Barbie’s like most little girls. I loved that I could dress them, style them and create them to be whoever I wanted them to be. It was my opportunity to escape the troubles in my life. I faced a lot of struggles as a child, and had to grow up faster than most other kids I knew. One thing I was certain about is that I was determined to make a name for myself. Early on, I decided that I would set out to follow my dreams and transform those dreams into a reality. I needed to prove it to my family but most importantly to myself with the help of Christ.
As a little girl, I remember watching my grandma run around her adorable hair and nail salon. I always thought it was so cool that she was the owner and in charge of all these stylists and nail technicians. I was proud to be her granddaughter and some of my best childhood memories growing up were created in that salon. While she may not have realized it, she taught me that bravery, strength, and independence are skills you need to acquire when owning your own business. I guess you could say being a small business owner was in my blood, and by the time I reached high school my aunt had opened her own salon and I began working for her as a receptionist. I really enjoyed the experience. You may be wondering if I then decided to open my own salon but one piece of advice my aunt passed on was NEVER OPEN A SALON. Though I did enjoy working at the salon and loved how cute, stylish and fun all the hair stylists were, I knew that wasn't the choice for me, but I enjoyed being in that world. In my opinion, my aunt was a responsible, dedicated and hard working woman which I admired. What I learned most from working there was that owning your own business is not all rainbows and sunshine. Owning a business and having employees comes with its challenges. I know everyone always says that, but I am here to tell you it is so true.
My senior year in high school I began a retail position at Express and during my time there I discovered a love for the industry. I know it sounds so cliché, but I had a passion for fashion. Later, in college I narrowed my career choices down to either becoming a buyer, or one day opening my own boutique. I knew that I needed to create a competitive edge for myself to stand out within the fashion industry, so I came up with a plan for how I was going to achieve and reach my goal. Many professors lectured on the competitiveness of the industry and I remember one of them specifically saying that “you all may think you want to be buyers but those positions are highly competitive, highly mathematical and few and far between–especially if you want to stay local." Only a few companies in St. Louis offered those positions. A buying position is not likely to just happen fresh out of college, especially in the area I lived. I decided to come up with a plan for how I was going to achieve and reach my goal.
The first step toward setting me apart from the thousands of other girls who wanted to work in fashion was to study and travel abroad and so I did just that. I studied at a fashion school in London, and had the experience of a lifetime. During my time spent in London I was given the opportunity to work for L’Oreal in the perfume and cosmetics division, aid in London fashion week, and intern in the press office for Stella McCartney and work at the show for Paris Fashion Week. I gained a lot of valuable experience during my time there. I would have wanted to stay there long term, but realistically knew couldn’t afford or justify the loans I would acquire and the process of getting a visa overwhelmed me, so I knew I needed to get back home. Thoughts of starting my own boutique were always tucked away in the back of my mind, but when I would entertain the thoughts my insecurities, voices of inadequacy and reality would creep in. I realize now that God was telling me it’s wasn't my time yet, but he has big plans for me and I needed to trust him. I had zero confidence in my ability to start a business. I hadn’t the first clue of how to even begin, let alone manage one. I would speak to others about my desires and that one day I would open my boutique, but deep down, I never believed I would realistically ever be able to afford it or even follow through with it. It was just a dream and in all reality I thought dreams typically don’t come true. I kept them safely tucked away in my heart. I have to say that I'm realist. I knew I wasn’t ready, and felt I had to follow the hierarchy of starting a in a low position, pay my dues, and work my way up the corporate ladder to gain experience. I had hopes of using my previous experiences to better position myself in the corporate world. I was determined to prove to myself, and the world that I would defy the odds and become a buyer one day. After graduation, I landed my first job as an assistant buyer for a uniform company. It was anything but glamorous! The pay was poor, the buyer was condescending, and I was dealing with scrubs for doctors and nurses. Not what I called fashion but, hey, it was a start! Thankfully, that position didn’t last long because three months later, I was offered a job more up my alley as an assistant brand manager for a product company selling headwear and accessories. It was the kind of company where you either sink or swim, family–owned, and had a small country feel. It was a fun job with travel, which I was thrilled about and was a huge step toward the direction I wanted my career to go–working in “real” fashion. I attended trade shows, helped in sales presentations, worked with designers in line presentations, etc. It really was an amazing job, but 2 years later I was let go. It devastated me, actually wounded my pride more than anything, and though I didn’t know it at the time it was one of the best things that happened to me. God was working in me during that season of my life. He saw I was in a toxic situation spiritually and so he removed me from it. What I needed most during that time was to lean into him, trust him, and rely on him and not my own selfish desires. I still hadn’t relinquished all my control over the situation though. I thought I was still in control because I spent the next several days scouring the internet for jobs. My search for a new job became a job in and of itself! It was during these rough times that God taught me humility.
He provided, as he always does, and I began working for Neiman Marcus as a sales associate. Not exactly what I wanted to do, but it felt like my best option–truthfully my only option. I made the most of the experience and learned the true meaning of what serving a customer looks like.
It means going above and beyond breaking the mold and servicing the customer like never before.
I developed skills in this job that would prepare me for what God had planned for me and my future. Three months later, I would start a position at Brown Shoe Company as a buying rep, and later a new store specialist which is where I acquired the majority of the skills I needed before launching my own business. The company was great, the relationships lifelong, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I was challenged, pushed, and mentored during my five years there. It was the hardest decision for me to make, but eventually I felt God calling me to follow his next plan for my life and become a stay-at-home momma. My first daughter was born while working at Brown Shoe, and it wasn’t until my second daughter came that I chose to stay home with my babies. I had major fears that I would never be able to get back into the fashion world and that I would lose myself and my hearts desires, but I trusted that God knew my desires and knew what was best for me. I put my complete faith in him and obeyed. That only lasted for a few months until a new opportunity in a very different role popped up at my church. I dove right into ministry, and later began a homeschooling journey with my children...but that’s a story for another time.
It wasn’t until almost two years later that I would take the big step forward, that leap of faith, and trust the path God placed me on to launch my own business. Now that my backstory is done, it leads me to these 4 points I want to share with you; how I knew it was time to move from dream to reality with my business.
1. I embraced my backstory. God has been grooming and molding me my entire life by placing me in jobs and roles that would provide me with the skills needs for that sort of endeavor. Each of those experiences had paved a way, guiding me toward this journey into owning my own business. So don't take your backstory for granted! Trust that there's a plan, and keep going forward.
2. I was inspired by the courage of friends, family and previous co-workers. Watching others following their dreams inspired me. I loved encouraging them to follow their dreams and praise their work! All the hard work they were doing was admirable. But, sometimes I found myself feeling jealous, thinking: "Why can they follow their dreams and I can’t?" But those around me began to inspire me in new ways. I started to reshape my thinking. "If they can do it, surely I can do it as well."
Psalm118:6 it says “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear” and I knew this to be true. He is on my side and has been since the beginning. I became confident that I had the skills needed, experienced a variety of different areas in the industry, and felt confident enough in my abilities that I too could do the scary thing of launching my own business.
3. I focused on doing what I loved, but doing it with my core beliefs at the center. I could see God’s plan more clearly than I ever had before. As I reflected on my background, I began to realize that with each experience, internship, and position I had listened to God–maybe not right away– (because I can be stubborn like that) –but I could finally see how he had been working in my life! I knew that I wanted to live my dream, but also to do something to have an impact on other women and to share with them the hope that can be found in Christ. I repeated to myself I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13), and wanted to encourage women to view themselves the way God views us.
"You are fearfully and wonderfully made"
God placed an amazing group of supportive women around me that were dealing with similar struggles and making decisions to follow their calling and dreams themselves. These women were launching new businesses of their own and I just felt God saying "Now, it is time. I have been working on you and you are ready." Just like he states in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I love that verse. Whenever I have questioned the direction of my life, wherever it was leading, I would always land back on this verse. It provides me with a sense of peace knowing that everything is out of my control, but it all rests in his hands, and I am ok with that. Lead me Lord and I will continue to follow.
4. I knew it was time to live my dream so that I could be the best example for my kids. Since I home school, I want to be intentional when raising my children. I want to equip them with the skills, understanding, and guidance needed to open and operate a small business. In my opinion, they will acquire valuable life skills that are not just taught in formal education but through experience. My children are the inspiration behind my boutique Addi and Ains. I want them to not only be involved in the business, but I want to infuse each of their personalities in the brand. Addison is my sporty, casual, basic girl and Ainsley is my sweet little fashionista who adores dresses, bows and accessories of all kinds. They inspire me, and I want to lead by example.
My hope and prayer for you is to listen to your calling, and do the same–whatever that may look like for you in your walk of life. His plans for us are far greater than we could ever even imagine for ourselves!