A new life, a new business and a new start have put Brooke Autry of Pinehurst on the road to success in more ways than one. This busy mom of three has launched KallyGrace3 Boutique, an internet-based business for selling her handmade dresses for girls. The business is named for Autry’s three daughters, Kaylie, Ally and Savannah.
“When my third daughter was born with rare medical conditions, I needed to become an at-home mom, especially because of her many hospitalizations,” Autry says. “I started making custom dresses to fit her special needs and wondered if I could sell all kinds of custom dresses for babies, toddlers and girls.”
The answer was yes. Autry started using the popular Etsy.com website to sell her dresses, available in sizes from newborn to age 12. Etsy is an online marketplace along the lines of an open crafts fair where sellers have a personal storefront and place their items for sale.
Autry soon realized her lack of business savvy was limiting her ability to grow the business. Her mom, Kym Nixon, learned about help available at the Small Business Center (SBC) at Sandhills Community College. “No one in our family had ever started a business so we had no idea how to help Brooke,” Nixon reports.
Nixon thought a good place to start would be to attend a couple of the many seminars the SBC offers in conjunction with SCORE. She offered to attend the seminars for busy Autry and passed along what she learned.
Next, Autry met with SBC Director Lori Williams to learn even more about running a successful small business.
“Since then my business has skyrocketed,” states Autry. “I got such sound advice and tips for success at the SBC. Lori and I discussed everything from getting a logo to adjusting my pricing. I am so grateful for the help I’m getting, including how to file paperwork with the right agencies.”
Autry’s ultimate dream is to open a store in the area. In the meantime, she’s busy filling orders coming in through Etsy.
A Life Changed
Autry has had some very rough patches in her life, including being a victim of human trafficking when she lived in the Chicago area. She kept this frightening portion of her life secret until after moving North Carolina to be closer to her parents. It was when, in an incredible coincidence, her mother began a faith-based human trafficking awareness nonprofit organization called Changing Destinies that Autry told her mother about the period she had been trafficked.
“My life was really a mess with some very dark times,” Autry said. “Two years ago, things were pretty hopeless. But I am proof that despite your history, you can change your life.”
She is grateful for the help, influence and support from Grace Church in Southern Pines, her new husband Jesse Autry, and her mother.
“I am filled with pride on how Brooke has turned her life around,” says Nixon, who is investing in her daughter’s business. “Many people don’t come out alive after being a victim of human trafficking. It took Brooke years to change the path she was on. Now she’s a terrific wife and mother — and a successful businesswoman, thanks to her perseverance and the help she’s receiving at the Sandhills’ Small Business Center. What a joy to see her achieve!”
The SCC Small Business Center
The SBC at Sandhills is part of the statewide Small Business Center network. “In 2013-14, North Carolina small business centers across the state created 650 jobs and helped to retain over 3,000 jobs.
“We exist to help “Main Street” in our rural communities, accounting for 68% of job creation and retention,” Williams says. “Our job is to help startups and Brooke’s story is certainly one of encouragement to those who are trying to decide whether or not to go in the direction of entrepreneurship that, with hard work, determination and perseverance, it can be done even under the most challenging of circumstances.”
For questions or more information about the SBC at Sandhills Community College, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (910) 695-3938.