Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Sarah Lawrence - Forward Thinking in Fashion and Business
High school grad? Accomplished at 16 years old. Business owner? Crossed off the list in her early 20’s. Sarah Lawrence was never big on rules or norms or fitting into a mold. The 2010 Jenks grad is proof of what can happen when passion is directed at achieving a goal. The journey wasn’t easy, but today, Lawrence is the proud owner and operator of Black Sheep Boutique, a clothing store that dares to be different and happens to be a direct reflection of Lawrence’s personality.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks High School?
Lawrence: I may not have the typical high school student memories because I was pretty shy and a bit of a loner at times, which is the core of the Black Sheep concept. My favorite things are an eclectic assortment: getting a free pass on a few dress code violations, Friday deliveries of freshly baked Home Ec. cookies, pulling into teacher parking with my mom’s faculty pass from time to time, and watching the Gold Ball Dancers at the annual championship game pep rally.
Was there one particular teacher or principal who inspired you or made a lasting impact in your life?
Lawrence: My mom, Mrs. Lawrence. Although she wasn’t technically my teacher, it felt like she was always in the room. I had a drive to succeed and do well because all of the teachers I had were friends with my mom. She taught me to do my best and be myself. I had many great teachers and I know that I was privileged to attend not just Jenks High School but to be a Jenks Lifer.
Is it true you graduated when you were 16? If so, how were you able to get through high school so quickly and why was it important for you to do so?
Lawrence: Yes! I was supposed to graduate in 2011, but I opted to take online classes through OU and double up on English during my senior year to graduate early. My sister also graduated in 2010, so it was nice to be able to go through that process together. It was important to me to graduate early because I had a pretty clear idea of my path and was anxious to get started.
What sparked your interest in fashion and design?
Lawrence: From my earliest memories of getting dressed for everyday activities as well as for special occasions, I enjoyed expressing myself through what I was wearing. During my elementary school years, I started drawing outfits. At the Freshman Academy, I took a Home Economics class and had my first experience with choosing fabrics and assembling a piece of clothing. From there I was hooked. I wasn’t particularly social, so I spent more time shopping and experimenting with fashion.
Why did you choose to forego college to start your own business and who were your biggest supporters?
Lawrence: I did get an associates degree—that was part of the deal that I made with my parents. I also completed the Esthetician program through Clary Sage College, and worked as a lash stylist while saving money to invest in my business. For me, a four-year degree seemed like an unnecessary loss of time impeding my goals. My family has been a key part of my success. My parents, having recently taken early retirement to run their own rental property business, functioned as the general contractors and everyday laborers on the renovation of my retail space, and they continue to lend a hand or offer advice as my business grows and changes. My sister, Emily, was my first employee and my right hand--she put her heart and soul into the launch of Black Sheep.
How did your dream become a reality?
Lawrence: My first step was to work hard and save enough money to make the initial investment needed to get the business off the ground. During that time, I spent countless hours brainstorming, researching, and planning. By the time I was ready to get my parents involved with the physical space, I had a vision for the store design and key aspects of my business plan in mind. They helped me put together a written business plan and bought me a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Business. It served as a great reference and reminder for many of the big picture issues for a retail entrepreneur. Philosophically, the biggest issue was overcoming any doubts that came my way, and learning to press forward and find solutions when faced with each new hurdle rather than abandoning my goals.
Owning and operating a small business involves a lot of risk. How do you stick to your business plan and ensure that your business will succeed while so many others fail?
Lawrence: I learn something new every day, and one of my most important lessons has been to learn to change and adapt to the exterior forces that affect my business – the economy fluctuates, social media marketing opportunities evolve, and, of course, trends in the fashion industry are constantly changing.
What advice would you give to students and teenagers who want to follow your career path?
Lawrence: Work hard, plan, do it! Dreams don’t happen overnight. Invest the time and do it right. On my first visit to Dallas Market, one of the designers gave me some words of wisdom, and although I can’t remember his exact words, the essence of his message stuck with me: “Be passionate, be personal, and be persistent.”
Do you design and create the clothes in your shop?
Lawrence: Not currently. Although that is something I would love to do in the future, I knew it was important to establish my retail business first.
How would you describe your personal style?
Lawrence: Forrest Gump has me pegged—my style is a like box of chocolates; you never know which Sarah you will see.
What is next for you both personally and professionally?
Lawrence: Right now, my professional life is my personal life. My mid-range goals are to open additional locations and to eventually design my own brand.