When Lauren Ward took her first job in retail at the age of 16, she didn’t know her work would inspire her future career. To her own surprise, Lauren was a natural – so much so that she knew she had to open a store of her own someday. With less than $300, she ordered her first batch of clothes, and NOTO Boutique was born.
According to Ward, NOTO has been offering ‘fresh, young and fun’ women’s fashion in downtown Akron for 10 years. From new and gently used clothing to jewelry, accessories and bath products, NOTO has something in store for everyone. “I have the best customer base, from high schoolers to women in their late 70's. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Lauren said. “I have so much pride in the fact that our customers aren’t one type of person. They range from all over the spectrum, and that’s really what I love.”
Lauren credits much of her early success to the mentorship of Akron-based florist and glassmaker, Jack Baker. Now that NOTO Boutique has found its legs, Lauren is paying her mentorship forward by giving other Akronrites the opportunity to learn the ropes of owning a small business. To date, NOTO has offered over 20 internships to local university students and budding fashionistas. “It feels good to be able to hire people, give them some experience and allow them to see if this is something they would want to do,” Lauren said.
With Akron’s renewed focus on small business, Lauren is eager to see even more retailers, restaurants and coffee shops join NOTO’s ranks. “I feel a ton of pride in having my shop here,” she said. “There's a lot of entrepreneurial spirit, with the community coming in and really boosting you up, letting you flourish.”
For those planning to start their own businesses, Lauren emphasizes that persistence is key. “It doesn't happen overnight,” she said. “Don't stop if you're having a bad week or a bad month. Keep going. Don't call it quits, just keep working towards your goals.”
Score your own fashion-forward apparel and accessories at NOTO Boutique on eBay.
NOTO Boutique is a participant in Retail Revival, a partnership between eBay and the cities of Akron and Warren, Ohio, to support small business owners who want to introduce their products to the global marketplace.