At Patriot Software, we’re committed to providing accounting and payroll software that lets entrepreneurs keep their time and money on what they love: running their small business. Each month, we speak to our small business customers with #PatriotSpotlight. These customer success stories both celebrate and inspire U.S. small business owners.
For our inaugural #PatriotSpotlight, we spoke to Sarah Lawrence, owner of the Tulsa-based clothing store, Black Sheep Boutique.
Standing apart from the herd
22-year-old Sarah Lawrence has always been a black sheep. Her interests unique, her aspirations ambitious—she was never one to settle for being part of the herd.
That strong sense of individuality sparked an entrepreneurial spirit within her and set her on a path to become a Patriot Software customer success story.
“I’ve known since I was a little kid that I didn’t want to work for anyone else,” she said. “I always envisioned myself being a businesswoman: owning something and doing my own thing.”
She wasted no time living up to that vision. She graduated from high school at age sixteen, went to beauty school instead of a four-year college, and opened Black Sheep Boutique by the time she was twenty years old.
The store has been successfully operating for two years. It stays true to all facets of Sarah’s black sheep identity: providing chic clothes celebrating a woman’s individuality, and offering salon services as a nod to her cosmetology chops.
“I love styling and I love to make women feel beautiful,” she said. “That was what I wanted to do, so I just kind of threw up a Hail Mary and did it,” she laughed.
Then came the naysayers
Pursuing the black sheep’s path to business ownership didn’t come without its fair share of Doubting Thomases.
“The biggest challenge was getting people to take me seriously,” Sarah told us. Her accomplishments aside, to the eyes of outsiders she looked like a naive girl with overzealous ambitions.
In the end, she had her father cosign on her LLC application—even though he hadn’t invested any money or planned the business.
“It put me off that I had to have a man with me just so people would take me seriously,” she said. “But I ran my business on my own. I didn’t need anyone else to do it with me. It was just me.
Even when I opened the store, people would come in and tell me how to run my business, saying that I needed to go back to school.”
Fortunately for Sarah, being a black sheep meant she knew how to rule out the naysayers. She focused instead on doing what she knew best: running her small business.
“I knew what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. And I just did it,” she said. “Now they’re watching me succeed.”
Going beyond success
With the challenges that came with going against the grain, it took awhile for Sarah to fully grasp the scale of her success. Rousing amounts of praise and acceptance aren’t typical for black sheep.
“It didn’t really set in that I had a store until our one year anniversary,” she told us. “We threw a party, and the turnout was huge. I just couldn’t believe how many people showed up.”
It was just one of many markers of small business success: a loyal customer base, an ever-growing online store, thousands of followers (and shoppers) on social media, plus plans to open two more stores in Oklahoma and Texas.
Through all the success, she still stops to remember how far she’s come.
“Just the other day, a girl I’d never met came up to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, do you own Black Sheep?’” she recounted. “I mean, growing up in school I was such a dork and didn’t have any friends. Sometimes I’d eat lunch alone in the bathroom stall. Now, I have this great small business, and it’s awesome.”
“Just go for it. I mean, why not?”
Being a black sheep turned out to be good for Sarah’s business. That being said, what does she think aspiring entrepreneurs can do to stand apart from the herd and succeed?
“Just go for it. Don’t be afraid. You’re always going to wonder, ‘What if?’” she urged.
“So just do it. And if you succeed, then, how great is that?”
Every small business has a story worth telling. We’d love to hear yours—share your own story and photos with the hashtag #PatriotSpotlight so we can check it out.