In the third part of WEtech Alliance’s Youth Entrepreneurship Series, I had the opportunity to interview Charlotte Fortin. Instead of spending her summer basking in the sun, this 17 year-old Belle River High School graduate decided to open her own clothing store. Even though our time was short, I can tell that Charlotte has a bright future ahead of her in fashion from her choice of clothing on display to her very cheerful nature.
It was a bright and sunny Wednesday morning when I traveled to Wound Up Urban Couture at 195 Ouellette Street in Belle River. As I pulled off the main street into the spot in front of Charlotte’s boutique, I was initially impressed by the beauty of her building, but the true show was on the inside of the building. As I walked in, the shelves were lined with chic sweaters, pants, hats and glasses and at the cash was the young business owner, Charlotte Fortin, who had just returned from a tradeshow in Toronto.
As we got to speaking, she first spoke about the inspiration for the name of the store: “I didn’t know what to call it,” explained Fortin about the name of her three-month-old clothing boutique. It wasn’t until she heard the dance-inducing Whine Up by Kat Deluna that she thought of the name.
Her last name might sound familiar in entrepreneurial circles; her family might be seen as an inspiration for her desire to go into business for herself. Her father owns and operates DataRealm (member of WEtech Alliance), a business with services ranging from controls engineering to plant productivity software. It doesn’t end at Dad though; her Aunt and Uncle operate the local Floor Coverings International franchise, their daughter Pam owns a local interior design firm and her grandfather was Leo Fortin of Hi-Ho fast food restaurants and Place Fortin in Emeryville. Her family has been very helpful in her business and her Dad even co-signed her loan.
The business hasn’t been all upside however; “it’s not as easy as it looks. I thought I would get the building, sign the lease, get the clothes and fill [the store] out. […] Bills and the little things are what surprised me. Everything costs money. I expected certain things like rent, hydro, Internet but I didn’t expect [for example] that I needed a broker and I didn’t realize that I needed to pay an 18% taxes on all imports.” If you plan on visiting her store, ask her how difficult it was to move her wall racks to the store, it is a great story.
Charlotte’s come a long way since her first job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant only a few short years ago. Looking forward, Charlotte has big dreams: “Hopefully in five years, I will have been able to get a job in fashion merchandising. I want to work with a designer to create a brand.” At the same time, she hopes that Wound Up is still a thriving business in Belle River.
As far as tips go, Charlotte’s advice was very simple: “…go for it. [Starting a business] is a big deal, but if you really want it, go for it,” she said as she pointed to a trinket on her wrist: “I bought these bracelets online from a designer in Texas,” showing that there are endless avenues to get product in this age of information. “Go for it – you don’t have that much to lose [to start]. Even if it goes downhill, there’s always a lesson. I’ve learned more in the last three months than in four years of high school.” Before I left, Charlotte wanted to acknowledge all of the help her family has given: “I couldn’t have done it without them,” she explained.
Charlotte has a ton of clothing from California and has more new stock coming in every week. For more information about Wound Up Urban Couture, check out her website: http://www.woundup.ca/, her Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woundupclothing and Twitter: https://twitter.com/wounduPclothing.
About WEtech Alliance’s Youth Entrepreneurship Series: For the next few weeks, WEtech Intern Jacob McCourt will be running a series of interviews with young Windsor-area entrepreneurs in anticipation of the Entrepreneurial Spark Tour event happening at St. Clair College on September 5th in partnership with Windsor West MPP Teresa Piruzza. This event will allow St. Clair College students to touch, see and interact with innovations happening right here in Windsor.