Hefty Success: Fat Fancy Clothing Store Caters to Big Women and Men
By Amber Revoir
A Mercy Corps Northwest intern sat down with Annie Maribona, co-owner with Carlee Smith of the downtown Portland boutique Fat Fancy to learn the secrets of their success. As it turns out, a little boost went a long way.
MCNW: How did you find us? And which of our programs did you use?
AM: MCNW was recommended to us by a friend. It has been hugely helpful. We enrolled in the matched savings account program and have attended several of the classes offered. We don’t know where we would be without Mercy Corps Northwest – thank you!
MCNW: Can you tell me a little about what you do? How did you start Fat Fancy?
AM: I had the dream to start Fat Fancy for quite some time. I started it out of necessity. I needed [a store like] Fat Fancy, so I knew there must be other people out there who needed one, too. I started it the only way I could at the time – at home.
The first sale was in my studio apartment. I moved my furniture out, set up clothing racks, turned my walk-in closet into a dressing room, and advertised primarily via the Internet. The first sale was a huge success. People came from as far as 300 miles away to shop, and it was a great time.
From there, I set up shop in a friend’s basement in NE Portland. My business partner Carlee Smith came on the scene shortly after. Together we are a great team. Fat Fancy held monthly sales since December 2007 to raise money to open a permanent retail space. The community has been so supportive of us, attending fundraisers and helping us win a small business grant from Intuit. We have been featured in local, national, and international press and garnered support from underground plus-size celebrities. We opened a dreamy retail storefront in downtown Portland in December of 2009! Come check us out on SW Morrison St., between 10th and 11th avenues.
MCNW: What’s the most challenging thing about owning a business?
AM: For me, the most challenging issues are time, energy and stress management. There is so much to do, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. I have had to learn that I can’t do everything myself, and it’s actually better to let someone else do things you don’t specialize in. When I have the courage to ask for help, I am greatly surprised to find people are more than willing to offer it. It’s important to have supportive people around you, to stay focused on goals, and to remember to be excited about your business. Also, it’s very important to take time out for yourself, to stay grounded and well rested.
MCNW: What is the most fun thing about being a business owner?
AM: For me, it’s when customers find outfits that make them look and feel like a dream. Mission accomplished – that makes me so happy!
I love helping someone into her first pair of high heels or into a look that is new to them. It’s wonderful that our customers often feel comfortable enough at Fat Fancy to do something new or different with their style. Also, I love turning people on to size acceptance and body positivity, which is basically the idea that every body is beautiful.
Visit Fat Fancy at 1013 SW Morrison in downtown Portland.
Amber Revoir is an MBA graduate of Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School and was a summer intern with Mercy Corps Northwest in 2009.