By Diana Stallworth
When Emily Avedikian was 15, she was struck with an idea that would go on to transform lives. Now, as founder and director of Keeps Boutique at The Gatehouse, Avedikian provides new clothing for women and children in crisis, offering them a fresh start. Named as a Giver on The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future 2017, Avedikian is driven by the ability she believes retail has to do good and help those in need.
WOMEN IN RETAIL
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting female leaders in the retail industry. From small business owners to CEOs, women are leading the way.
We spoke with Avedikian about her passion for retail as a vehicle for giving back and her plans for the future.
Can you briefly explain your retail concept, Keeps Boutique at The Gatehouse?
I help women who are coming from a world of poverty, abuse and brutality “shop” for brand new clothing at Keeps Boutique. When they enter the store, they literally believe that they do not deserve anything there. Through building relationships, I have the opportunity to witness them transform into someone confident, determined and willing to use their many gifts and talents.
What inspired you to create such a space?
When I was 15 I started Keeps Boutique, a nonprofit that provided new clothing to girls in foster care. After working with youth in emergency shelters, I thought that girls in the foster system should have new clothes and started Keeps Boutique. My vision is still to provide new clothing to women and children in need, with the intention of communicating to them that they are valued and loved, no matter where their walk in life has taken them. A new outfit can be the beginning of seeing yourself in a new way and bring hope for a new start.
What does the future have in store for Keeps Boutique at The Gatehouse?
Possibly more Keeps stores for women in crisis or girls in the foster care system. I have always wanted to have a tour bus called Keeps and travel the world with other female speakers, empowering women and teaching them emotional health, self-care, boundaries and, most of all, how to really be true to yourself and know who you are. And last, to have a Keeps Boutique clothing line sold to the public, with proceeds that go to women in crisis and allowing them to get the help they need.
Were there any women in your life who inspired or mentored you throughout your career?
Deborah Lyons, a wise woman who runs operations at The Gatehouse, and Lisa Rose, a woman with big dreams “to give women a hand up,” came together and started The Gatehouse, which will leave a legacy for years to come. They are a great model for what it looks like for women to help other women, and they prove anything is possible.
What advice would you give to young women interested in careers in retail?
Retail is not about clothing — it’s about people.
Lastly, what’s your story in 5 words?
Without love, I am nothing.