Taking a page from food trucks, four local entrepreneurs hit the streets to make their dreams a reality
Story and photos by Christina Campodonico
Pull up to The Coffee Co. in Westchester this weekend and you might just get a side of some sweet fashion along with your pancakes. Three fashion trucks, selling everything from stylish accessories to sumptuous sheets, park outside the restaurant on the corner La Tijera and Sepulveda boulevards Sunday mornings.
Hava Monet’s Blu Sugar is one of them. Whether stationed in Westchester or roaming around Venice, the royal blue truck makes shopping — even on the run — a luxurious experience.
A Tiffany blue staircase unfurls like an elegant invitation to come inside. Smooth mannequin arms extend their wares from the walls, like sophisticated hand models. A crystalline chandelier illuminates the interior with a warm glow, while dark hard wood floors and cotton area rugs make the inside feel like a breezy, beachside living room.
For Monet, this truck, filled with boho, chic and vintage clothes, is an expression of her style: “Blu” for cool, “sugar” for sweet, she says.
But mobile boutiques like Monet’s are more than just fashion statements. For the four women who park their trucks at The Triangle on Sundays, these pop-up shops are a meaningful source of income, entrepreneurial experimentation and personal pride.
Take Lynn McNeil, better known as the #sheetlady on social media. After her grandmother died from brain cancer in 2013, McNeil decided to take her side business, selling luxury linens and eco-friendly cleaning products, on the road.
“A couple of months later God gave me a vision to go bigger and I looked for a truck … and created it all myself,” says the single mother of two, whose step van, Freshness Maid Chic, is filled with furniture from her grandmother.
“She’s with me everyday rolling on the truck.”
McNeil sees her mobile home goods business as not only a reminder of her grandmother, but a true blessing. She found the former Bimbo Bread truck on a dusty, dirt road in South Gate and purchased it for a bargain price of $4,500. According to a national survey by the American Mobile Retail Association (AMRA), trucks can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000. Yet a customized one could cost up to $100,000, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“It was the best truck they had on the lot. It was in perfect, perfect condition and the guy even vouched for [it] and said, ‘Yeah, you’re getting a dream there,’” McNeil said.
Drenda Douglas and Kelly Kennedy, co-owners of Necessities & Accessories with Sprinkles, also cited the low start-up costs as reasons to enter the mobile fashion business.
“It was less expensive to get up and going. And to get going without having to worry about having the consistency of rent — things that we knew would be hard with a new business, not knowing if the business would be successful,” Douglas said. Based on the same 2013 AMRA survey, $25,000 is the average start-up cost for a mobile retail business.
So instead of waiting for hypothetical customers to come to their doorstep, Douglas and Kennedy go to their customers.
“We go to the traffic. We create the traffic,” says Douglas, who has taken Necessities & Accessories with Sprinkles all over Los Angeles, from the Downtown L.A. Art Walk to the Autry Museum. Douglas and Kennedy even make house calls to private parties and beauty salons.
“It gives your customer that VIP service, like ‘My beautician sent the whole boutique here for me!’” says Douglas.
Running a mobile fashion truck has given Douglas, especially, a new lease on life. When her workplace wanted to force her on permanent disability leave, Douglas, who suffers from a degenerative bone disease, opted instead to go into business with Kennedy, her friend of almost 20 years.
It was the combination of mobile freedom and financial security that made the option so attractive.
“‘Cause no matter what, if I don’t walk, we could build a ramp,” says Douglas. “We could still get our store out there. Still be prideful and still make money.”
For locations, follow the trucks online and on social media.:
Twitter & Instagram: @blusugarmode
Freshness Maid Chic
Necessities & Accessories with Sprinkles