Veota Souvannavong – Owner, Shopaholic Fashionista

The Buffalo Style Watch

SHOPSIGN Sandwiched between the latest Italian couture and NYC design wares of surrounding stores, Shopaholic Fashionista’s modest motif appears to evoke a different feeling on Elmwood. The girly boutique, located at 425 Elmwood Ave, is a dream come true for Buffalo State College Student Veota Souvannavong, who opened up shop this past March. “I did a lot of soul searching, and I asked myself what my passion was and it was clothing and shopping,” the fashion maven said. The self-sustaining and svelte Veota, 37, knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur since the age of ten. The type of business she wanted to own, however, was still unknown. All she was certain of was her desire to follow in her father’s footsteps. Veota and her family fled Laos, Thailand in the the ‘80s in order to escape the plague of communism. When they arrived in the U.S., her father opened up his own mechanic shop. “They were in search of the ‘American Dream.’ This ‘dream,’ however, has eluded my parents,” she said. Her father’s business eventually failed because he lacked the skills needed to keep it alive. Afraid of facing a similar future, the student, who bounced from job to job during most of her twenties, returned to Buffalo State College to further her education and pursue a second degree in fashion merchandising. shopaholic1 The layout of the pink-themed boutique with freshly-painted white walls resembles that of a walk-in closet and is charmingly snug. Step inside, and behold a dessert tray of colorful jewelry and clothing by local designers, including printed fabric bags and cuffs made from repurposed material. Lichtenstein pop art splashes the walls with color around a dainty bouquet of flowers. Everything Veota sells is $50 and under so as to lure in a college-aged crowd. What the college student has observed over the months, however, is that a lot of older women walk through her doors as well. Shopaholic Fashionista soon stood to represent the “every woman’s store,” catering to fashionistas of all ages. While sizing is presently limited to junior and miss sizes, plans for merchandise expansion are imminent. “I wanted Shopaholic Fashionista to be about being a shopaholic and being able to buy everything in one place,” she said. SHOPLAYOUT Not a trust fund baby, nor in any business partnerships, the self-disciplined and fully motivated business owner has worked more than 30 jobs, many dead-end, just to survive. Shopaholic Fashionista is all on her own time, on her own dime, and her story is representative of the inner conflict many “shopaholics” experience, the continuous search for peace between wanting and needing. She has learned through this process that many businesses, especially within the saturated fashion market, fail because they focus too much on the wants and do not set aside enough funds for the “needs,” like reliable advertising and marketing. This has been a challenge for Veota. “It’s a lot of trial and error…a lot of putting out fires,” Veota said of her journey so far. Speaking on Buffalo’s fashion scene, Veota believes the talent is there. It is just a matter of individuals like herself keeping others interested, which is no easy feat. “The challenge is getting people to shop local,” she said. Veota plans to stick it out, knowing very well that there is a rough road ahead. “I was pretty naïve. I thought, if you build it, they will come,” she said after the shock of seeing zero sales during her first two weeks in business sunk in. But Veota Souvannavong is someone you want to root for, someone whose story, whether one’s own personal circumstances can compare or not, is commonly stitched in the patchwork of American fabric. “Too many people get stuck in a rut, where they accept the meager life they’re living and have given up on their dreams. The road to attaining your dreams is certainly an arduous one. Whether my business succeeds or fails, at least I can be proud of the fact that I had the courage to go for my dreams,” she said. For store hours, events, and online shopping, check out http://www.shopaholicfashionista.com. Posted by Jessica Brant