Looking through the window of Indiependence Boutique, located on the first floor of the MU Student Center, customers can see witty graphic T-shirts strategically placed on a modern wooden display case as students walk by with evident curiosity.
Indiependence Boutique was the vision of MU junior Kiarah Moore, who was eager to start a store that featured only Columbia-native brands and independent labels.
“The goal of Indiependence Boutique was to create a modern décor incorporating various items, which would compliment the garments rather than overpower them,” she said. “I want our customers to get a warm, artsy but very laid back feeling when they enter the boutique. “
Moore made this possible by applying for the space through the Unions Entrepreneurship Program, a program that allows students to apply to occupy a space in the Student Center for a full year to foster their own student-run business.
Student Auxiliary Services spokeswoman Michelle Froese works with other faculty members to ensure that this entrepreneurial opportunity goes to the right business and the student understands the extent to which their business must be planned. This past year, Indiependence Boutique was the only business that applied for the space.
“What we found though is that once we go through the packet with them and go though what’s required, that diminishes how many (students) apply,” she said. “There’s a lot that goes into having a business, so students have to have their ideas together and plans together and I think that’s why this time only Indiependence applied.”
Indiependence Boutique will be taking the place of three Internet based companies — OMG Coupons, MizzMenus.com and Listener Approved — which were based in the space last year.
“We want to give student businesses an opportunity to experience what it’s like without having to pay rent for a location and this seems like a great way to do it,” Froese said.
Indiependence Boutique is not the first project Moore has taken on, but is the first fully developed establishment.
“I’ve been designing and selling underground for some time so I feel like opening Indiependence Boutique was just a natural process,” Moore said. “I’m very appreciative that the Entrepreneurial Program believes in me.”
Moore’s main goal was to create a more personal boutique that catered to the needs of the “Indiependent” MU student. Big brand names and cliché posters won’t be found at this establishment, she said. Moore is looking at labels such as Seventh.Ink, Ugmonk, Leaders, The Hundreds, Arrogant Empire and SKabor.
“We will carry mainly T-shirts but once the winter months hit we’ll have sweaters, cardigans and jackets,” Moore said. “We’ll also carry very unique pieces of art from local artists.”
Students also seem to appreciate the effort Moore has put in to searching for and fostering local brands and artists for her boutique.
“I think it’s a cool idea that they have to feature artists that aren’t as well known, but are just as creative as big artists as well,” freshman Christy Valentine said.
The creativity of Indiependence will hopefully lead the boutique in a successful year and inspire other students to apply for the Unions Entrepreneurial Program, Froese said.
“That’s what we’re hoping to do: spawn creativity in our students,” she said. “You don’t have to be a business major to do this. We have students all over campus with concepts and a way to execute those concepts and they’re not necessarily business majors and we welcome them to apply.”