To the St. Louis-area women of Olin, if you’re in the market for professional clothing, accessories and holiday gifts—and would like to support two Olin alumnae entrepreneurs—have we got a pop-up shop for you.
KaLeena Thomas, MBA ’12, and Daphne Benzaquen, MBA ’17, are teaming up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 4, to host a local pop-up shop at The Vault, 2325 S. Brentwood Blvd., in the St. Louis suburb of Brentwood.
Thomas is president and CEO of J. Margaret Weaver, and she designs all the company’s clothing, which is ethically produced in Kansas City using small-batch production techniques.
Benzaquen is the creative designer and founder of daph., a St. Louis-based fashion and lifestyle brand inspired by her Peruvian heritage.
On Saturday, Thomas will offer blouses, dresses, jewelry and gift items such as headbands and paper products from her startup. Benzaquen will offer leather, handmade accessories, handbags and an alpaca fleece sweater alongside pima cotton and alpaca fleece loungewear.
“This is our first pop-up event together,” Thomas said. “We thought it would be fun to bring together each of our communities. We both serve a similar demographic and prioritize building real relationships with our customers.”
Thomas and Benzaquen also said they’re both committed to slow, sustainable fashion and ethical production.
An Olin introduction
The Weston Career Center’s Allison Dietz, employer relations industry lead, introduced the women last year. Thomas was getting ready to launch J. Margaret Weaver, and Dietz thought Benzaquen would be a good point of contact for her to learn from as someone with an established brand.
On Saturday, the women will provide branded cookies at the pop-up, along with drinks people can sip while shopping. They also plan a giveaway that will include gift cards and accessories from both brands.
While we had them, we asked the entrepreneurs about their top takeaways from their time at Olin.
Thomas: “You cannot be all things to all people. You have to decide who you are and who you serve, communicate with them often and be comfortable with the tradeoffs you’re making when it supports your overall brand.”
Benzaquen: “I learned how important it is to think outside the box when it comes to marketing efforts while staying true to your brand mission and values. The importance and comfort with experimenting with different communication styles, use of technology and even product launches were also essential skills I learned while at Olin.”
Photo: Daphne Benzaquen, MBA ’17, and KaLeena Thomas, MBA ’12