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Photographer: Obi Grant

In 2012, Kemetria Lilly found herself in a state of uncertainty about her future. Being a recent college graduate, she struggled to find her purpose in the world and didn’t know how to step out of her comfort zone. Always being in love with fashion, Lilly found it difficult to picture herself a part of the industry due to a lack of women of color representing in the field. When a position she wanted didn’t go through, Lilly decided to save her tip money as a bartender and invest in her dream. Fast-forward to 2017, Lilly’s Kloset has grossed over $3M in sales and she’s just getting started.

How would you describe your career and how did you get there?
I am the founder and director-creator of Lilly’s Kloset and Learn With Lilly. With Lilly’s Kloset, I do the buying of merchandise, photoshoots, lookbooks, styling of the models and creating looks for the website. My other venture, Learn With Lilly, I create courses and ebooks to help woman entrepreneurs create their vision and help their professional dreams come true.

When I think about how I got to where I am today, I’d have to say staying consistent and working hard got me here. Coming up with a vision and creating a plan, then putting it into action was my first step. Everything you do must have a plan and action and you must believe in your vision. My career happened by accident because I always wanted to manage others businesses; I never thought I would be running my own. Living in Texas, there wasn’t much an opportunity in fashion and I didn’t have the money to move to NYC or L.A., so I had to create my own business. I worked at a bar and saved my tip money for a few months and started putting my savings into my business. Prior to that, I graduated from college and worked at a mortgage firm who promised me a manager position within six months. When that didn’t happen,  I realized it was time for me to do my own thing.

As a new entrepreneur, how did you fund your vision?
Honestly, I saved for two months because I started my business with $2,500 and five years later I have created a business with over $3M in revenue.

How does social media help your business make money?
I think social media helps because it puts my business in front of eyes who would never see it without sites like Instagram. Especially internationally. I don’t think I would have been able to start my brand without social media when I think about it. I believe that in this age we share so much so that my personal page and business page pictures are constantly being liked and reposted so it gets to people faster and on a more personal level opposed to in the ways traditional marketing does. This also helps bring awareness to my brand and creates new customers for me. 

What was a difficult time in your life that you overcame and how did you do so?
I would say my most difficult time was when I graduated college because of the uncertainty in my future. I had given up on my dream to work in fashion because I would look at media and didn’t see girls who looked like me. I gave up for eight months, and when I  was denied the manager position at my job at the time, it lit a fire in me. Contrary to popular belief, things didn’t take off right away; I didn’t get many orders. What helped me was staying consistent even when the sales weren’t that great and within six months I was able to quit both my jobs and focus on my business.

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Photographer: Obi Grant

Where would you like to see yourself and your brand in the next year?
I would like to see myself personally hearing more about myself in the industry. I’m very private and me being on social media for my company, people only see my face and style. I’m working on launching a YouTube channel to give my audience a look into my personality and also to inspire women professionally. Business wise, I want to have my own shoe line, that has always been a dream of mine.

What sets your company apart from other online boutiques?
I don’t just sell clothes; I sell the vision. When you get dressed in the morning you have a vision and when you go to my site you can buy an entire look opposed to just grabbing a top or shoes. The look and feel of our site is always consistent and you can see a product picture from my site and even without the logo you know it’s going to be a piece from my company because of the style in which I shoot.

How does your personal brand help your business?
I think it helps a lot because our supporters know who is behind the brand. People always wonder if a company is legit because they don’t know who’s running it, this way you definitely know that I am Lily’s Kloset. Anyone can also see if our clothes look exactly how they look on the model on my body type. 

What’s something you want your supporters to know about you that they can’t learn from your social media?
I would say I love the outdoors! I like to ride bikes through the city and I love traveling and trying new things like restaurants and sightseeing. I’m not sure if they would care or not but that is something I’m also very passionate about.

When you decided to become an entrepreneur, what was the most difficult aspect of becoming your own boss?  
There isn’t anyone over you telling you what to do or how to do it. Put in the work with no one is watching. Building an amazing company on limited funds may seem possible but thousands of companies have done the same. In the beginning, I couldn’t create amazing content but this forced me to become creative with what I did have at the time.

What are a few tips to help entrepreneurs interested in starting their own business?

  • Study your market- fashion is saturated because anyone can start a website but finding a way to make yourself unique will pay off in the long run.
  • Never stop learning- Social media trends and what people like are constantly changing so make sure to learn new things and apply it.
  • Take classes and research- YouTube and Googlingares very helpful because there are people out there who want to help you not make the same mistakes they have, just like I do with “Learn With Lilly.”

What do you want our readers to learn from this interview?
I want people to know that you don’t have to have a huge fan base or a lot of money to start your business. Have a vision, strong work ethic and great product to be successful.

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