Company profile: The Traveling Pants Company is a mobile clothing and accessories boutique that carries distinctive pieces for women. Serving Detroit and surrounding areas, shoppers are treated to an experience that they won’t find at their local mall. Owner and curator, Deidra “Madame Beaucoup” Hogue is a fashion maven who conquers the corporate world while transforming wardrobes. Hogue is creating quite a buzz as she has been featured on several local media outlets. This Empirelista On The Rise has established a sisterhood of loyal clientele that is steadily rising.
Contributor Raquelle Harris spoke with Hogue about her dynamic and innovative business.
Raquelle Harris: You definitely have a unique business. How did you get started?
Deidra Hogue: I’ve always been into fashion, not directly, as I work in corporate America and I have an accounting degree. What I do as a career has nothing to do with fashion. But, that has always been a dream of mine, to own a store or be a buyer. I chose the safe route and went into accounting and finance. But, I was always the girl in the group that had style and people would always ask me for advice or help finding something or putting together an outfit. I said, well maybe I should carry this over into a side hustle and possibly make some money, do some styling and take this seriously. I started a blog, first, under my moniker, “Madame Beaucoup.” I talked about fashion, things that I liked and enjoyed. It was kind of like a lifestyle blog too, because I would talk about events happening in the city. I’m the go-to girl for what to do in the city, I’m connected and I always know where to go and what to do. I would talk about fashion, the way I put things together, advice/tips. But, then I got bored with that. Coming up with content was time consuming and it wasn’t feeding that artistic side. I wanted to capitalize on my talent, my gift. I have an eye for what looks good and putting things together that evolved into styling. I started offering styling sessions, closet audits and personal shopping services. That became time consuming as well because I could only do it on the weekends, it took a lot work to find things, but it was fun putting a look together for someone for a special event and then they’d take pictures and talk about it. That was fun, I would do that for free but, it was not worth my time. The time that I spent and the energy I spent putting together a look just was not worth it, especially because I could only do it on the weekends.
Last year, in the March Free Press (Detroit Free Press), one of my Facebook friends posted a link about mobile boutiques that were becoming popular in Michigan. I had never heard of this concept before so, when I read the article I was like, “Oh my God, this is the answer to all my prayers,” because I was trying to find a way to get into retail. I was basically trying to help other boutiques build their business, instead of looking at something to own myself. I didn’t have the capital to open up a store front so, when I saw this, I was just blown away by the idea and how cool it was to shop inside of a truck. When I read that idea, I just took off with it. I called the state of Michigan to find out what I would need to do to get licensing and permits. I called some of the boutique owners that are friends of mine to find out how I would be able to purchase wholesale. That week, I spent setting up everything. I figured out a name for the company; I thought the name was genius and people would remember it. One of my friend’s brother owns a used a car lot; I had him find me a truck. Everything happened so fast, my opening date, I wanted it to be in June, even though I started in March. Everybody kept saying that I was crazy, why would I try to turn it around so fast, why don’t I wait until next summer so I’ll have more time to make it perfect. And I said, “No, I’m opening this summer.” I actually opened in July. I started my website for online sales in June, but the actual truck grand opening was not until July. It was crazy because everything happened so fast, but everything was inline. I just used my resources and I just asked and people helped, reached out, suggested without me even asking sometimes. It was so many blessings. There is no way I could’ve done any of this without the people that I know and the people in my circle. It wouldn’t have happened this fast.
RH: What sizes do you carry?
DH: From small to 3x
RH: How do you know what’s going to be a hot seller?
DH: There are certain vendors that I know. I have certain vendors for plus sizes, certain vendors for younger girls, college girls, that I keep track and check and see what they have. How I determine if I’m going to order or not, it’s all in if I would wear it. I only order things that I would actually wear. Have I missed the mark? Yes, but I have a pretty good average on what sells.
RH: It sounds like this has been a learning experience for you. What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned being in this business?
DH: I’ve definitely learned about managing cash flow as it relates to accounting for the winter when I’m closed. The truck is closed during the winter. I did not have an indoor location last winter; I will have one this winter. I was dependent on online sales, which is hard to do because people have so many options online. It was really slow and tough getting through the winter because I still had all the bills, but not the cash coming in. So, I learned about cash flow. The second thing is the behavior of customers and shopping. I realized that if I don’t have several things to choose from or if I don’ t have an array of things to choose from, people don’t think you’re a legitimate business. If you give people so many good choices, they feel like they have to make a decision, they have to buy something. And If they don’ t make a decision and they wait, then it might not be there the next time. I also try to keep things unique. The one thing I hear all the time is, “Everything in here is so unique and different.” The things that I carry, of course you won’t find them at your normal flagship store and you also won’t find them in those boutiques that are a part of a hair salon or the neighborhood boutiques.
I want people to wear something that nobody else has. I describe what I carry as, a conversation piece. Not to sound cocky, but whatever I wear, somebody always asks me about whatever I have on. And it’s just a nice way to start the conversation. I would describe my style as conversation starters.
RH: Who would you say are your mentors? Who inspires you? Do you have someone/something that is a muse for you?
DH: As far as style and grind and how she started, June Ambrose, the stylist, is definitely my mentor in my head. As far as business and what she does in the community it would have to be Rachel Lutz from The Peacock Room. And Patty Brock, she owns Annabelle’s Couture in Royal Oak. Before I opened my boutique, I would go in there and shop with her all the time because she always had really unique items; it was my style. And, she’s so super nice and friendly. She inspired me, I adapted her way of handling customers. When you shop in her store, she makes you feel like you are her friend; like a real girlfriend, like you’ve been to her house. It makes people want to buy and shop with her. She has repeat customers, people keep coming back to her because she is so inviting, friendly and welcoming. All of that is by design.
I find myself hugging people after they make a purchase because I’m so appreciative. It’s not a game or trying to play on somebody’s emotions, I am very grateful that somebody spent their hard earned money with me. People look for me and come back to me and I appreciate that so much.
I learned that from her (Brock)—that you can be a store owner, you can be a retailer, and be approachable and friendly and act like you know the person, even though you don’t. She also gave me all the information I needed to figure out how to buy as a retailer; it’s a process, it is a job to figure out what’s going to sell, how you buy, all of that. It’s definitely an education.
RH: Many of us can identify with being entrepreneurs and having a 9 to 5. How do you strike that balance?
DH: In my head, I make myself feel guilty because anytime I spend with my business takes away from time with my family, and my children. I figure that if I have the truck out on Saturday during the day, normally most of my events are in the morning. So, if I have something scheduled and it ends at 5, I make sure that I go straight home and get my son and hang out with him—my daughter works, so she’s busy with her schedule. On Sundays, last summer, he was with me, helping me with the truck. It was kind of like bonding, he would complain about it all the time, but I found out that he actually liked it and liked hanging out with me. He was actually paying attention and learning. So, it was a learning experience for him, as well as making sure I spent that time with him.
Work of course is 8 to 5. I really can’t complain about my corporate job because they are very supportive of my dream. They know I do this on the weekend. One of my co-workers stayed with me ’til 11 o’clock at night preparing a presentation for a pitch competition that I was a part of. I have a flexible work schedule; when I need to leave, I can leave, as long as my work is done. And I work from home on Fridays so that gives me some time to get some calls made and things done during the day. I’m very fortunate.
RH: Do you have plans to eventually transition to this full-time?
DH: That is the plan, that is my next dream and goal; to transition this to my full-time career. Ideally, long term, I really want to open a store front and have the truck as an anchor for special events and private parties. I do private parties where women have birthday parties, book club meetings or bachelorette parties where they want to do something different. I would bring the truck there and they can have an hour or two of private shopping with wine and food—there’s a dressing room in the truck so you can try things on, your girlfriends look at you, it’s fun; I bring the shopping to you. I don’t charge for the private parties, I just have a $100 minimum purchase for the group.
The Traveling Pants Company’s haute fashion is perfect for Empirelistas. Wardrobes that complement our personality and business savvy are essential as we venture from one destination to the next.