Curvy Chix Chariot, Washington DC’s first fashion truck for plus size women, has launched its unique concept with the recent unveiling of its new vehicle. Owner Donna Hundley knows too well about the obstacles plus size women face in finding fashions that are complementary and won’t break the bank.
Read what she has to say about becoming fearless and upgrading fashion for curvy women.
How is it being an African American-woman owned business?
Honestly, it’s a challenge. Opening a business as an African American woman triggered a lot of questions that I had to think about. The biggest was, “Should I show that I am an African American woman?” Although we are in 2014, it still seems to be a reality that African American businesses struggle with stereotypes. I’ve heard and seen individuals sway away from supporting a business because it is African American-owned. It seems that as a people, African Americans tend to feel more confident about the level of service they will be provided from a non-African American business. Therefore, initially, I was hiding who I was. I never put a picture of myself on any marketing materials or my website. Auspiciously, what I found was, my fear was not true. Since opening my doors, I’ve been greeted with open arms by mostly African American clients. When they see this innovative concept and then my extremely outgoing personality, my clients are excited to support me. I think as an African American woman, once I got over the fear of being me, I realized that is not where the focus should but what I can offer as a business owner. I have since proudly acknowledged that I am an African American woman business owner and I am looking forward to the many successes that come with it.
What inspired you to create this business?
Finding trendy plus size clothing that complements my curves and style for professional and social events has always been a mission of mine. After leaving a store in frustration at the box shaped dresses, I decided enough was enough. With experience in retail sales, people and project management and marketing, I made the decision to take my experience and build a business that will meet the needs of women like me.
I am so excited to focus on the plus size fashion industry, which is an estimated $22 billion market. Unfortunately, the epidemic of obesity in our society has created an increased need in this market. As a result, that need has increased the need to find trendy and fashionable clothing to fit a curvy woman’s style. For this reason, it is important for me to be able to deliver the goods and services that my customer’s demands.
How did you create your chariot?
Blood, sweat, and tears … and lots of it. I had the first step to starting a business complete, a vision and need, but making it a reality has been the work of many. I found an old FedEx truck that would be large enough to accommodate my clients and gutted it out, completely. I scrubbed and washed and scrubbed again to finally see a blank slate to work on. Since I am a lover of HGTV, I have a lot of decorating ideas in my head and was able to draft them into a plan for my store’s set-up. After several months of work, I am very pleased with the finished product. The Curvy Chix Chariot is fully fitted with a spacious dressing room, shelving units, slate walls, hardwood floors and love.
What type of clothing do you sell?
Curvy Chix Chariot fashion truck offers trendy fashions at affordable prices for curvy women sizes 14-24 that are not always available in the major retail markets. The typical price points for the clothing are $45-$200 and $10-$50 for accessories. We work closely with local designers and global plus size designers to provide unique designs that will complement our clients. Our knowledgeable staff will cater to our customer’s needs and wants whether it’s a comfortable seat in our relaxing environment or expert advice on clothing. In addition to the trendy plus size clothing, we sell accessories, handbags, jewelry and much more that fits the needs of plus size divas of today. We pride ourselves in being a chic cozy fashion truck that customers will be excited to enter to shop.
How difficult is it to secure merchandise?
Finding trendy and quality clothing for curvy women is not an easy accomplishment. Unlike boutiques that focus on traditional sizes (0-12), the plus size market is a new area for designers to create fashion that is of high quality at reasonable prices. Additionally, I’ve found that some designers for traditional sizes haven’t captured the importance of designing clothing that is for all shapes and therefore haven’t been as successful in the plus size market. Understanding that, especially since I am a plus sized woman, I am constantly searching for designers who understand how to create clothing and accessories that will complement our styles. The challenge is finding bulk items. I work with designers who are willing to work with me. We want to be the place to shop for plus size women in the Washington, DC and we can’t do that without the creative designs of plus size designers.
What type of experience should a client expect?
[It will be] an absolute divalicous shopping experience. Seriously, I want my clients to leave my mobile boutique with a bag on their arms and a story to tell their friends. We understand that this is a different shopping experience, however without giving my clients an “experience,” we are just another store. My mobile boutique is more than just a store; it’s a movement. Building self-esteem, creating smiles, and showing plus size women that sexy comes in every size.
What has been the reaction from the public?
Disbelief, excitement and curiosity. Disbelief … they can’t believe that the inside of this truck is an actual store. Curiosity … when I drive up and park at an event or they see me parked somewhere, they can’t help but be curious. It is a big truck with eyelashes and a sign on my chalkboard bumper written inviting them to come and shop with us! Excitement … the excitement from curvy women comes when they realize the entire truck is focusing just on them. No longer do they have to settle for the outfit they want in a size L or XL with spandex, they can actually have plenty of choices in their size.
Who is your ideal client?
Plus size women — sizes 14-24 are our clear target customers. However, we do realize that we will likely attract some women who wear the traditional sizes (0-12) with our peripheral products (handbags, scarves, etc.). Moreover, we expect a portion of our products to catch on with all sizes and generations of women. It’s important that we do not only offer products that are exclusive to the plus size audience. Our mobile boutique seeks to eliminate the obstacles plus size women face with finding clothes that complement their curves, style, and time.
Where do you see Curvy Chix Chariot in the next three years?
Our five-year goal is to have more than one plus size mobile boutique on the roads in multiple southern cities throughout the southeast. After five years of establishing our business and solidifying a footprint in the plus size clothing industry, we will look at expansion opportunities with other plus size markets.
Tell us about your education and professional experience.
I am a proud graduate of Hampton University. Over the years I’ve worked in retail sales and management, event planning, recruiting and consulting. I have gained a variety of skills and experiences that have lead me to my current career as a senior consultant for companies designing their recruitment strategy with a special focus on improving or increasing the diversity within the organization. Seeing how these companies operate and consulting them on how to be successful in meeting their goals, I’ve realized that I have a lot of knowledge and skills to bring to my own business.