Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Ford and Amy Johnson.
Katie and Amy, plesa share your story with us.
Amy and I are sisters and best friends… in November of 2012, I approached Amy with this crazy idea of starting a business together. A mobile boutique… out of an Airstream trailer. I think at first she thought I had completely lost my mind! At the time, Amy had received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy and was working at a job she loves to this day. We both had small babies and I was working as a stay at home mom. Honestly, it was crazy. We had no plan, no real vision of where we could take this idea, and no money! In January of 2013, I became a single mom and realized staying at home with the girls was no longer an option. So, Ollie Mae began out of a desire and a necessity. We purchased a 1973 Airstream trailer on eBay. After traveling across three states to haul the trailer back to Texas, Ollie Mae was born. We worked for months (heat of the summer in a tin can… it was HOT) with the help of family and friends to convert the old Airstream trailer into a one of a kind shopping experience everyone has grown to love.
Our business was named after our great grandmother, Ollie Mae Burns. She was a woman of Godly character, had a strong will and plenty of grit and sass to go around. (Exactly the reputation they hope the store will embody) This one of a kind boutique is really a homage to the generations of wonderfully fashionable women who have taught us how to be brave, give back to others, and draw their strength from the Lord.
We have come a long way in five years. We now offer women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories and an assortment of smaller home goods. We have learned so much about the industry and how important it is to learn where the items you are buying are coming from. We work hard to buy ethically sourced items from our vendors and give our customers quality and peace of mind when buying from the shop.
We continue to travel and have shows out of the trailer while maintaining our website, retail space at The Lone Star Mercantile in Allen, TX and this week, we will open a pop up shop at the historic ML Edwards building in Mt.Vernon, TX. ML Edwards is a fantastic restaurant, store and event space in Mt Vernon and we are so excited to be a part of what they are creating in east Texas.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh goodness no!
We literally started this business with the mantra of “how hard can it be?” Well, we found out! From the rehabbing of the trailer to the inventory system to the buying of products, we found out how hard it actually is!
In the beginning, just learning how to drive a 32 foot Airstream was a struggle… I will never forget pulling it down 75 one evening without the sway bars and it was swaying so hard on the road I just knew my time on this earth had come to an end! Lol! So now, we know…sway bars are important!
Our first buying trip to Market Amy and I walked into Dallas Market Center and after about 1 hour had to take a break and just cry. We literally had no idea what we were doing and no clue how to achieve our goals or dreams for the store.
I think the two biggest lessons we have learned in the past two years are: 1) Never be afraid to ask questions! We have no shame! We will ask just about anyone for anything we need help with and 9 times out of 10 it works. No need to act like you have it all together when you don’t! 2) Don’t be afraid to fail! We have worked shows that were flops, overbought tons of inventory we couldn’t move and even survived an outdoor show when a mini tornado blew through and one of our tents ended up in a tree! But, we keep moving forward. Learning from our missteps and every time we do we become a little wiser and a little more in control of our business.
Ollie Mae – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a rolling boutique and specialize in women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories and small home goods. I think we are probably best known for being sisters and best friends who genuinely care about our sweet customers and raising money for the kids in Haiti. We have worked hard through the years to carefully pick items for the store that reflect what we love personally. Clean, simple designs, soft fabrics, well made and ethically sourced goods, with a little bit of humor thrown in. Our style is a little bit farmhouse, a little bit eclectic, and a super personal. We recognize this business carries our great grandmothers name and we hope our choices in all things Ollie Mae related would make her proud.
What sets us apart most?
Before we had a real concept for the store, we knew we want it to work on a give back model. We both had worked in various outreach ministries during our lives but none had touched our hearts quite like that of Haiti. We wanted our customers dollars to directly affect the lives there so we got to work. Most recently, Ollie Mae has partnered with the Live Beyond organization and specifically “Johnny’s Kids”. 10% of all profits made from purchases online and from the store will go directly to helping this wonderful cause! Amy and her husband Greg have worked closely with Johnny’s Kids in an effort to specifically help with their physical therapy care. This makes Johnny’s Kids very personal for us.
In Haiti, adults and children with disabilities are often treated as outcasts. Whether it’s a physical or mental disability, individuals with special needs are neglected by their families, bullied by the community, and excluded from social activities and left alone with no one to care for them.
A group of children with various types of disabilities in Thomazeau are lovingly known as “Johnny’s Kids.” Our customer dollars will be directly help the children enrolled in Johnny’s Kids with physical therapy and other medical need.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Amy and I each have three daughters. Without a doubt our proudest moment has been building something from the ground up and having them see us (women and sisters) achieve that dream. To step out and be brave! For Amy and I this sentiment carries with it a deep personal meaning. We pray relentlessly we can teach our babies what being brave really looks like everyday. Whether that is having the boldness to speak truth in the lies or being fearless in starting your own business. It could be as daring as serving others abroad or having the nerve to share a meal with the homeless man on the corner. It could be a simple as having the courage to get out of bed and face another day when everything seems stacked against you.
Being a mom is our greatest joy and as business owners building a career they can be proud of makes our hearts swell. Even if we sell it all tomorrow, we will be able to look back with them and talk about that thing we did. Those road trips and late nights with our girls helping us price inventory and pack up the trailer. That business we built.
- Address: Ollie Mae located in Lone Star Mercantile
2031 W. McDermott Dr.
Allen, TX 75013
Ollie Mae Pop Up Shop: ML Edwards & Co
103 Kaufman St
Mt Vernon, TX 75457
- Website: https://olliemaeairstream.com
- Phone: 405-625-5858
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @olliemaeairstream
- Facebook: https://facebook.com/olliemaeairstream
Cherry Bones Photography, Live Beyond