At 24, Knox native Irelynd Fornelli is already following her dream. She is the owner of Irelynd Alexis Boutique in her hometown, which represents the culmination of many years of working hard and saving money.
“I worked several jobs to save to start my boutique,” Fornelli says. “I worked at Knox High School as a paraprofessional, helped out at my grandparents’ store, Preferred Flooring, waitressed at Harbour House at Bass Lake, coached middle school cheer, did personal training, dog sat, and did many other side jobs.”
Fornelli says she first thought about opening a boutique when she was in the ninth grade at Knox High School, but did not think it was something she could accomplish. That’s when she started doing research, and studied how to begin the process and establish a business. It wasn’t until she was 20 that her business came to fruition.
Like many small-business owners, Fornelli started selling online, testing market appeal through Facebook Live, and progressing to setting up a website and relying on social media to get the word out.
“The true dream was always a storefront though, and when the opportunity came in my hometown, I jumped at it,” she says. “There is no shop like mine, to my knowledge, within 40 minutes of Knox. I knew locals would love the convenience.”
Setting up shop in Knox comes with geographic challenges, but Fornelli says she wouldn’t have wanted to do it anywhere else.
“Being in a rural area definitely makes my storefront a little slower than I’d like it to be at times, but the website does help,” she says. “I wanted this store to be something locals talk about, and I wanted the support to come from the community that I have been a part of for 24 years now.”
Irelynd Alexis Boutique offers clothing and accessories for women, ranging in size from small to XL, and a plus-size section. She has a small men’s section with sizes ranging from small to 2XL.
A section of the boutique is also set aside for babies, with blankets, bibs, toys, beanies, pacifier straps and other items. She is offering customers a preorder arrangement for children’s clothes online, to evaluate the market before incorporating this niche into the store.
Brands such as Kancan jeans, VERVET by Flying Monkey, Risen Jeans, Blowfish shoes, Candy Club, Duke Cannon, and Itzy Ritzy are also part of the boutique’s inventory.
“I personally have a more boho or western-style taste myself,” Fornelli says. “I know not everyone is into that. I offer several different styles, and sell several different brands of jeans, shoes, and lots of accessories that range from western to more basic. I definitely try to stick to the more trendy styles.”
In October, Fornelli entered the 2022 Starke Tank Countywide Business Pitch Competition and was named the overall winner. In addition to a cash prize, it also helped get her recognition in the community and brought in customers from the community.
“I am super outgoing and I feel like presenting the pitch the way I did definitely showed that,” she says. “I also took the time to break down individual costs, and how certain things I would want to potentially add to the boutique would benefit the community.”
Opening a business comes with challenges. It takes time and dedication, and relies on the ability to plan and strategize to get through slower times.
“One challenge that I still face today is trying to keep up with the market,” she says. “Everything is going up in price in today’s society but I try to keep my boutique as affordable as I can.”
Fornelli, who worked a number of jobs to raise the money to start her business, works only at her boutique now. She is pursuing an online bachelor’s degree in business marketing, with her graduation expected to occur in May.
“My boutique is kind of a hidden gem, but when people from out of town do stumble upon me or find me on social media, it is very exciting to know that they took the time to drive to my little shop,” she says.
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