By MATT BLOIS
Last summer, Ravenwood High School freshman Chapel Forte started selling home made jewelry with a friend.
She was raising money for a mission trip to Haiti, and the fundraiser went better than expected.
The jewelry sales paid for the whole trip, and the experience stuck with her. Late last year she started looking for a job, but decided she could do better.
Instead of applying for cashier positions at a retail store, she asked her sister and mother to help her start a business.
Chapel, along with her sister Charis and her mother Christine, is starting a mobile boutique in Brentwood called 32 Thoughts.
The family is turning a trailer into a store on wheels. They plan to sell clothes and accessories at community events and parties.
“We get to make the rules ourselves and decide what we want to do with everything. We get to be in charge,” Chapel said.
The family buys clothes from a wholesale market in Atlanta. They examine styles and consider price points before selecting something for the inventory. Chapel said that’s her favorite part of the business.
Forte said it’s a big advantage to have multiple generations stocking the store.
“When the moms came in to shop they said, this looks exactly like the thing my child would have chosen. That’s because 14 and 15 year old girls picked it out, which is very different. Most shop owners don’t have that,” she said.
The trailer isn’t finished, but the Fortes plan to finish refurbishing the trailer this summer. Then they can bring their mobile store almost anywhere a car can drive.
The family held a soft opening for the boutique earlier this month. They sold clothes out of their home to test the point-of-sale system. On the first day Forte said they sold a few thousand dollars worth of merchandise.
Forte said the business will be a good way for her daughters to make money, but it will also give them important entrepreneurial experience.
“The best part about this is these are things kids don’t learn in school. The bigger picture of our community and getting involved,” she said. “Even the business skills. It’s hands on. I’m letting them run the business. I stand back and guide.”
Chapel said she’s had to learn to communicate with vendors and manage the boutique’s finances. She and her sister said they also had to learn a lot of technology skills to set up the point of sale system.
She wants to keep the mobile boutique running as long as she can, but she’s still not sure what will come next. She said it could be a new business.
“This is a really good learning experience though, so I can know what the entrepreneur path is like. This gives me a good perspective,” she said. “I don’t really know yet, but maybe something like this.”
The family donates a portion of sales to charitable causes. Forte survived a breast cancer diagnosis, and the Fortes donated some proceeds from the soft opening to Gilda’s Club, an organization with a presence in Franklin that provides support to people with cancer.