This article was written by a student of ENGL 3330: Writing for the News Media, which is taught by Mike Pulley.
A recent Clemson graduate is paving a path as a young entrepreneur with her improvements to an outdated clothing boutique in downtown Clemson.
Allie Miles graduated a semester early in December of 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and minor in business.
In the spring of 2019, Miles took over ownership of the former Razzberry Fizz at 104 Keith Street and began renovating it under a more abbreviated name, The Fizz. Miles’ business plan is to offer the latest trends at affordable prices to fill a much-needed niche in Clemson’s retail landscape.
“Just being able to have that unique mix of gifts, décor and clothes is something that I feel is not in the market,” said Miles. She feels that similar stores are too pricey for college students, or not within walking distance from downtown.
“Many of the retail options in Clemson are overpriced,” said Alexandra Mehallis, a junior business major and art minor. “A place like The Fizz is exactly what we need.”
Miles remained in the Clemson area following graduation while she was looking for employment. She always had a passion for retail. Miles’ experience in the field began in high school when she was a sales associate at a local boutique.
When Razzberry Fizz’s Kathryn Tompkins needed help, Miles answered her call.
“I saw on Instagram that they were in need of a manager so I applied, got a call back the same day, and I started as soon as possible,” said Miles.
Four months later, Miles wanted a change. “I was kind of using it as an in-between job,” she said. “It was part-time and I needed a full-time salary.”
She started looking for other jobs and was offered a position managing a chain boutique. When Miles announced her departure from Razzberry Fizz, Tompkins gave her the opportunity to buy the business. The chance to become a successful entrepreneur fell into Miles’ lap and she took it.
It has not been easy though, Miles acknowledged. She had been putting in 80-hour work weeks to turn her dream into a reality.
“They definitely don’t teach you everything about running a business in college,” Miles said.
Taking on this new industry has come with its own learning curve. She knew some of the basics but also taught herself some things along the way. Clemson helped prepare her for the financial difficulties that come with owning a business.
“When I go and talk to my accountant, I am not totally blind,” Miles remarked. “I think there are so many little things that Clemson taught me that I was able to remember.”
“For (Allie) to appreciate the value of her accounting classes at such an early stage of her entrepreneurial career will stand her in good stead,” said Sally Widener, Clemson’s Trevillian Distinguished Professor and Director of the School of Accountancy. “With entrepreneurial activities, understanding accounting is especially critical since the entrepreneur must understand the business' current financial state and closely manage and monitor cash flow in order to ensure operating needs can be met without taking on too much debt. They also need to create budgets, projections, and predictions, and use accounting information to make strategic decisions such as assessing the viability of investing in new products or capital outlays.”
Other students at Clemson also think the university’s business classes help students become successful entrepreneurs.
“I would say the classes I have taken so far have greatly prepared me for the financial aspects of running a business, as well as the laws and ethics surrounding owning and operating a business,” said Alex Arakelian, a junior finance major.
Miles had some advice for current Clemson students looking to start their own business. “Start from the bottom,” she said. “If it’s the field of what you want to do, take whatever job you can get.” Experience is everything.
She has a great deal of plans for turning her boutique into a hot spot for fashion, gifts and home décor. She is planning a more cohesive design that eliminates the confusion that some customers had of the old store’s entranceway that appeared to separate two different stores rather than the same boutique on both sides. In the new design, clothes, gifts and home goods will be evenly mixed on both sides of the boutique.
“It’s comfortable, it’s homey, and you know where you are,” Miles commented about the environment she pictures for the new store.
A wider variety of merchandise is also key. Miles recalled having to go to Dollar Tree or Wal-Mart for party supplies when she was a student. “I want you to be able to go to the store and get a gift for your friend’s 21st birthday, some party supplies, and your outfit all in one place,” she said.
Miles will rely on in-person, physical marketing strategies in order to promote The Fizz. Some of her ideas included going on campus to hand out items imprinted with her business logo and setting up pop-up shops in Carillon Gardens.
The Fizz had its grand reopening on Feb. 22, 2020. Following the reopening, the store planned to host trunk shows every day of the week, featuring known brands such as Lululemon as well as local products.
For news and updates regarding the opening of The Fizz, follow @shopthefizz on Instagram and Facebook.