Meet Onylah Taggart, a ComArtSci third-year student, and now businesswoman of East Lansing’s first student-led, Black-owned brick and mortar boutique.
In the summer months of 2021, DBN Boutique – standing for Dazzled by Ny – took full effect after personal ambition fueled Taggart to add retail representation to the streets of Grand River. She shares that the boutique’s presence will be “sassy, classy, and trendy.”
Her style is reflected in the boutique’s versatile merchandise to dress women of all ages and tastes for any season of the year.
In Taggart’s experience, opening DBN has presented great rewards, challenges, and a wide range of support from communities across Michigan. Lanique Calhoun, a kinesiology junior and long-time friend of Taggart, is a DBN sales associate. She recalls the earlier days when DBN started as a hairstyling service in the comforts of Taggart’s freshman dorm. Over the years, the vision advanced to selling products like shades, shoes, socks, jewelry and other glam accessories.
Calhoun’s supportive presence at DBN dates back to preparing the shop for business from tagging clothes to building shelves.
The boutique’s grand opening in early October of 2021 was exactly that – grand. The new location hosted a runway fashion show where models sashayed the boutique’s wardrobe atop Grand River’s platform.
Taggart’s steady online social presence correlated into a large attendance that evening, giving life to her hopes that this would translate into customer foot traffic at the shop.
“I think we’re making a great mark here in East Lansing,” Calhoun said.
After weeks of exciting publicity and back-to-back interviews, Calhoun clarifies the boutique’s wardrobe is not to be described as “specifically for Black women because anyone can wear these clothes.” The target of course is for Black women because “we feel like there’s nothing for us here,” regarding the present retail stores of East Lansing.
Good friend, business partner and jack of her trade, Kayla Todd is a lash technician whose business resides within the 301 M.A.C. Avenue Suite 107 location.
Todd offers certified services, lashing products (such as lash trays) and cleansers to lash experts and customers alike. She lashes inside DBN Boutique Tuesday through Saturday.
Calhoun, a cousin of Todd, says the lash tech provided lash services in her dorm up until COVID-19 moved MSU students off-campus. The summer before their junior year, DBN opened to the public giving Todd a stable suite to offer her skills to customers once again. The duo was able to curate a business model that benefits both of their entrepreneurial journeys.
Taggart gives due credit to her ComArtSci studies in advertising management, along with the courses that have developed her knowledge to run a business efficiently. Her consumer behavior course gets a special mention from Taggart for being impactful because of the curriculum’s effective application to DBN Boutique.
“It allowed me to think about my consumers and audience; to track their behavior, buy-in processes, target audiences; and ads,” she said.
Taggart is taking everything she’s learning in class and bringing it out on the sales floor.
Like many students returning to college amid a pandemic, Taggart has found juggling her responsibilities as a student business owner stressful.
“I’m still looking for my sweet spot,” she said. “I feel like as long as I’m getting up every day I can make it happen.”
She hopes to onboard new staff to have more focus on graduating soon.
Despite the pandemic conditioning her to the online learning model, she advises students to adjust and realize that “it’s really on you to do what you can to stay on top of everything.” Taggart expresses open arms to act as a resource for students wanting to execute their business plans.
Customers are met with the genuine styling expertise of DBN staff who can style you to express your inner fashionista.
As the boutique grows, part-time positions are currently available at this location.
DBN’s owner is gunning for bigger and better reach in the near future.
Taggart said: “This is a great start but, I do want a storefront or a spot in a mall so people can have better access to me.”
DBN’s progressive attributes aspire for boutiques across the U.S. and ultimately global expansion.
Her ambitions stand strong even amid the coronavirus medaling with most business establishments economically. Taggart attributes her success in these times to plenty of research, stating “Google was my best friend,” proving that among communal duress, the reward of running a brand sustains.
“I absolutely love being on my own time,” Taggart said. “Freshman year was a time when I had three jobs…and I had to be able to afford the life that I wanted to live. Now that I have a child, I have to be able to afford his life too. I had to make investments that are going to keep this up. It’s something I love to do, so why not make my dream a reality.”
By Christa Young and Lily Cross