This resilient, budding tech entrepreneur hasn’t let life’s curveballs stop her from pursuing her dream career in fashion.
By Danielle Ransom, Photo courtesy of Kayla Elizondo
Kayla Elizondo was just 22 years old when she opened her first storefront boutique in Corpus Christi, Texas. Business was going well and things were starting to look bright for the young entrepreneur when she hit a rough patch, losing her company in the aftermath of a divorce. Low on resources, Elizondo moved to Austin, working in various areas of the fashion industry before trying her hand at running her own business again. In 2014, she opened the monthly subscription service and online boutique Discover LOLA.
Austin Woman sat down with the entrepreneur to hear her thoughts on developing an online fashion brand and her advice to hopefuls looking to dip their toes into the industry.
Austin Woman: What first drew you to fashion?
Kayla Elizondo: It started when I was young and I saw my mom get dressed to go out on a date night with my dad. My mom was a schoolteacher and, you know, they have long days. She was changing and getting dressed. As she was changing, I saw her transform. That is the point when I truly just fell in love with how a garment could change a woman’s life. The confidence and beauty that my mom exuded was amazing. I was 6 years old. Literally, that next day, I told my mom I wanted to be a designer.
AW: What led to the development of your online fashion brand?
KE: Five years ago, I went through a divorce without any resources. I had to close my storefront boutique in Corpus Christi. My family and friends encouraged me to go back to school, as they felt that would be the best thing for me. I was told fashion was not for me and it was not the place for me. When I moved to Austin in 2011, I really rediscovered my passion, and that’s the true moment that Discover LOLA was born.
AW: Why a fashion brand?
KE: I truly love dressing women. I believe in my core that when a woman loves what she is wearing, she is confident, and that confidence truly radiates. It’s awesome because I get to see women transform, and, for me, that is so empowering.
AW: Why Discover LOLA?
KE: When I knew I was going to move forward with this lifestyle-clothing company, I really wanted something that connected people. One thing that we all do is we live on and love always, no matter what. That is core to my story and the shopping experience with my customers. My personal circumstances made me realize I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. Everything I went through made me who I am today. “Live on, love always” is a mantra I live by every single day.
AW: Why did you move to Austin versus starting over again in Corpus Christi?
KE: I’ve always wanted to move to Austin, and I fell in love with it a long time ago, when I visited a friend who was living here at the time. I feel like I was destined to come here. I found a job, met my future husband on a blind date and moved into a new apartment—all in one day. I didn’t choose Austin; it chose me.
AW: Why did you open an online store versus a brick-and-mortar location?
KE: I did originally intend to open another storefront, but since I was new to Austin, I opened an online store to test the waters first and did a few trunk shows. As things progressed, we built an online community from these trunk [shows]. I’ve also been able to do pop-up shops with businesses that have reached out to us to bring our products to their store.
AW: How does Discover LOLA connect with its customers and provide them a unique experience?
KE: We are creating the social experience through connecting the online community with the brick-and-mortar community. We are meeting our customer in her element. At these pop-up events, we have stylists come out and help customers free of charge find a piece that fits their personal style. The whole thing with Discover LOLA is we want to give our customers this really great shopping experience. I remember I used to go to the mall with my friends and have a really good time. We’d try on clothes and we’d shop. That just doesn’t exist anymore. With Discover LOLA, we are giving our customers that shopping experience.
AW: How has the entrepreneur scene in Austin helped build your brand?
KE: Discover LOLA is a fashion tech company. [While] the entrepreneur scene [in Austin]is very vibrant, enthusiastic and inspiring, it’s not surprising that there are challenges for female entrepreneurs here. What has been valuable for me is finding supportive mentors. I have found a few supporters that have been really key in helping me increase my business—by tenfold this year. I have one mentor who is absolutely phenomenal. Sometimes, people have the misconception that these mentors are going to do things for you. However, the advice they give you should empower you and ignite you to do things. If you are willing to put in the work, the sky is the limit.
AW: Is there a specific style you go for when curating items?
KE: My client base [is]women ages 25 to 50, so, I really go for functionality. We are young business professionals, moms [and]wives, so, it’s really important that everything I carry on Discover LOLA is curated for these lifestyles.
AW: Do you have any tips to share with people looking to break into the fashion industry?
KE: Be niche. Know what your brand is, what you are after and what your company is going to be. Don’t deviate from that. Never lose sight of your passion, the “why” you started your company and stay true to your core. People will always give you advice and, the majority of the time, it’s not the right advice. Take a break and clear your head. I like to call it “brain break.” As entrepreneurs, we are so heavily invested with every single little thing of our company, especially in the startup phase, so, it’s hard to take a break. It’s really important to take time out for yourself. Enjoy a hot cup of tea or go for a run. Find mentors but don’t take advantage of their help. Use their advice to fuel your fire. Live on, love always. No matter what, just keep going. You got this.
AW: Any style advice?
KE: Personal style is never one size fits all.