Is starting a business during a pandemic the craziest idea ever? Some people don’t think so. Business innovation is soaring across the country despite a recovering economy. Here is another story of COVID innovation in Acadiana:
You might be looking at the whole pandemic wrong. The quarantine, says Mitzi Guidry, was a chance for lots of people to re-evaluate things.
“I kind of joke and say people have kind of come out swinging,” she said. “At least entrepreneurs.”
That’s kind of her story. The Louisiana native who spent years working in the fashion industry in Los Angeles over time began to become aware of the industry’s effect on the environment. There’s lots of waste and carbon emission in the fast fashion industry, she noted.
It was her last corporate job at Wrangler when she discovered how sustainable of a product leather was. Leather, she noted, is the only byproduct that is also a renewable source. Products made with leather are made to last forever.
Then that entrepreneurial spirit kicked in when things went bad during the 2009 recession. Wrangler closed the plant there and put about 400 people out of work. But Guidry and others who worked there pooled their resources — they came out swinging, you might say — and bought some of the equipment to start Los Angeles Leathercraft, where she is head of leather goods development.
And as the business grew and younger workers came on board, she picked up on something.
“I started having these conversations with them a few years back and became fascinated with their genuine interest in the environment, climate change and how that was affecting their buying habits,” Guidry said. “I just started to dig deeper into that and discovered that the second-hand fashion market was growing at a rate like 21 times faster than traditional retailers in the last three years. I thought that was very interesting.”
Guidry moved back to Louisiana in last year after almost 20 years in Los Angeles but still holds her position with Los Angeles Leathercraft. In June she signed a lease for a small spot in downtown Lafayette at 535 Jefferson St. to open Lilou, a concept thrift shop.
It’s a shoebox of a space, just 14 feet wide and 55 feet deep, but it works. She can be creative as an entrepreneur and maybe catch a trend of second-hand clothing or just catering to anyone who is looking to save money on clothing.
“In times like this everybody is just trying to be more mindful about spending and just making their dollar stretch a little bit more than ever before,” Guidry said. “The environmental piece of (thrifting) is always something to consider. In terms of where money might be a little tight, I think thrifted clothing is an awesome option.”