MANSFIELD — Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Dakota Warfield is emerging from the pandemic as a new business owner. Launching the business this past September has also helped the single mother from Chicago, who has been on her own since she was 12, face and overcome some of her deepest fears about providing for her family and herself.
“I don’t know what a pandemic feels like. I don’t know if that is a blessing or what, when I was in my glory and having $1,000 dinners, big businesses were taking hits and then they started closing up a lot of locations and a lot of them filed for bankruptcy,” Warfield, who has lived in Mansfield for the past 12 years, said.
“And then you have a lot of small business owners like myself, that’s when we came up. We were able to make a significant amount of money to reinvest into ventures like we’re looking into getting some real estate here in Mansfield,” she added.
On a somewhat slow Monday evening before the holiday rush, where she had been unpacking and trying on clothes, Warfield changed into another one of the fashionable jackets she had selected (from among the many additional eye-catching pieces she sells) and sat down and further explained how she became addicted (to fashion).
Addicted Boutique, housed at suite 702, inside of the Richland Mall, also known as She Addicted Boutique on the Internet, is literally the name of the specialty shop with a strong online presence (which is by design as Warfield has a degree in Business Marketing as well.
With a welcoming demeanor and a warm smile, she detailed how her enterprise started from very humble beginnings. An origin story, which included commuting back and forth to her hometown of Chicago and selling Christmas onesies and other items of clothing out of the trunk of her car.
The experience further evolved into bigger aspirations of working for herself and finally morphed into brick-and-mortar business with a chic and an urban edge.
In 2019, a baby kind of fell on her lap, Warfield explained. “And when I say fell on my lap, Children Services had separated the two (mother and child) and they were going to take like this five-week-old baby (from the parent) and I was like, no, I will care for her,” she said.
“And my work schedule was so demanding my kids are already big,” she said referring to her two sons Jaden and Jakarri, who attend middle school. “I didn’t know what it was like to have to get a babysitter so everything was really crazy,“ she explained.
Warfield found another job in hopes of securing a more convenient schedule that would allow her to care for the infant which had been placed in her care.
Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly work out as planned and she was terminated from that job in less than a month’s time. As a result, she thought her world was coming to an end.
While she didn’t mention the name of the employer who let her go, she did explain the firing caught her by surprise because she wasn’t given any notice nor had ever been written up for anything.
“She fired me right before Thanksgiving,” Warfield said
“My parents are deceased, so my kids don’t have grandparents. I had about $1,000 in my checking account. Mind you, I still got this little baby.”
She hadn’t told Children Services about the termination either.
Warfield said she didn’t know what to do, but she knew she had to make some adjustments in order to continue to provide for the children because she couldn’t just sit there and risk the baby being shipped out of her care. She also felt her older children would be fine with the changes because they were used to being well provided for.
“So long story short,” she said, “I went and invested in a lot of these Christmas onesies,” which she pointed out on a rack in the store.
“I didn’t pay any of my December bills and I took every dollar I had in my checking account and then, I reinvested the rest of the profit,” she said. She also caught her bills up.
“So once I reinvested the profit, we’re rolling into 2020. So as you know, we roll into 2020 and the pandemic hits. I took my entire income tax refund check and put that with all of the profit money because after the onesies, I had done just New Year’s Eve outfits.”
Warfield said she had gotten the concept to buy the clothing geared for New Year Eve’s from her time spent working in retail at TJ Maxx.
She said the retailer ordered their items by the season and “they ordered by holiday, whatever is coming up is what they catered to,” she said.
Warfield said all of the dresses and additional items she had purchased sold out. So she took that money along with her income tax refund and invested it all into the business.
Then closures from the pandemic began to hit.
“The world ends up closing, you know they shut everything down. Once they shut everything down, I got scared once again because I am a hard worker and I have always worked since I was old enough to work,” she said.
“I was terrified. I have a degree in Business Marketing, but I have no experience in the field. So it’s hard to get a job doing someone else’s marketing from home,” she added.
Having said that, the young mother, who had also helped to raise her younger sister, got a source of inspiration for a possible money making venture while she was at home watching television during the closures.
“I was just watching the news one day and saw that everybody was outside in my hometown. Everybody was still outside in Chicago, like they never (had) actually abided by the rules. I packed up my car. I packed up my car because I have to feed my kids,” she said.
“Like, I’m risking my life, but I needed to make sure they were taken care of. So I went to Chicago and sold clothes out of my car,“ she said, adding she did pretty well on the weekends.
“I was clearing at least $1,000 a day. So, I did amazing there, I constantly saved,” she said.
Nonetheless, Warfield began to tire of the grind.
“The problem I was having though I found that I was chasing the money. You know, I was waking up, I was barely seeing my kids because I was always in Chicago. And that was constantly just chasing and chasing the sales,” she said.
“So, I decided in February of this year that I didn’t want to do that anymore, that I needed to re-brand my business and figure out how to present my business in front of the customers that wanted to see my business. The customers are chasing me instead of me chasing customers,” she said.
Warfield began analyzing her analytics and checking for the best days and times to maximize posting online. As a result, she was able to determine which days of the week to get the most sales in her region.
“So if I know that I am getting the most sales in this region of the world on a Friday, I am going to pay for ads for that section of the world,” she added.
She went from struggling to garner $700 in a month to making about $6,000 a month online after she had tried it.
“I didn’t leave my house, I was with my kids, I was like life is good. Let me see if I can double this next month. I did about $8,000 in May and $11,000 in June. By August, I was doing about $20,000. And once I started doing $20,000, I obviously outgrew my house,” she said.
The entire other side of her duplex was filled with inventory. At that point, she began to question her next steps. Either way I am going to have to pay for storage. Or should I just open a store? Either way I am a monthly expense,” she said.
Warfield started scouting locations in Ontario and then contacted and spoke with the manager at the Richland Mall, who showed her the current suite the business occupies.
“I did like the mirrors. I did like the space,” she said, calling it unique.
For mall goers, who may feel like they’re experiencing a bit of deja vu when they pop in to see what’s going on at the boutique, the business is housed in the original space that was formerly held by the retailer Bath and Body Works.
While there aren’t any signs of the former retailer which has moved to the other side of the mall, there are reminders of Warfield, who is also the face of the business. An area of a wall on the right hand side of the store literally features a sign with a picture of her smiling face. Her likeness also graces her stunning business cards.
Upon entry, customers are greeted by walls lined with jackets and coats. There are also racks filled with merchandise. Plus, an area featuring shoes and boots. Warfield also sells accessories as well as eyelashes in addition to the onesies that first helped to get her business aspirations off the ground.
Customers can also purchase swimsuits and sunglasses and a myriad of additional clothing items for men and women online. The site also features a catalog. Click here to visit her Facebook page, in the past Warfield has offered drawings for her new subscribers.