With big plans to open a cutting-edge fashion boutique the likes of which Richmond had never seen, Casey Longyear and her business partner, Marshe Wyche, were on their way to pick up an $8,000 check from a small-business support agency when Longyear's cell phone rang.
It was the loan agency, she says: “They called to tell us they'd decided not to give us the money after all because they said we were too much of a risk.”
It was a crushing moment that might have squelched the dreams of any pair of 22-year-olds. Instead, Longyear did what she's done so many times since: She turned the car around and found another route.
Scraping together savings and holding down a parade of part-time jobs, Longyear and Wyche took the risk others wouldn't. They opened Rumors Boutique, a hip mix of youthful clothes by designers from around the world, presented in a relaxed hipster atmosphere with occasional live music, gallery-style art shows and guerrilla-style, online marketing.
Turns out the loan agency was right about the boutique — and city officials took exception to the live music. But Longyear barely paused, shifting to boutique-style thrift and consignment clothes. They “just had to adapt to what Richmond wanted,” she says.
Longyear's also worked to integrate her business into the community, helping with Dress for Success and Camp Diva, donating clothing to fire victims and foster families, offering fundraising assistance to nonprofits and co-founding the Richmond Women's Collective. She also serves as fashion editor for RVA magazine.
And in a snub to those lenders who doubted, she's turning a healthy profit and providing textbook chapters for Virginia Commonwealth University's school of fashion design, where Longyear is a graduate, lecturer and small-business success story.