Entrepreneur Spotlight: Kristi Walstra of Starlet
After living in the small town of West Lafayette, Indiana during her time at Purdue University, Kristi Walstra ended up finding her way to several major US cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, and of course, Denver. Her experiences formed the foundation of who she is today. She gained her initial understanding of the fashion industry through her education, and continued to develop through real life involvement. Kristi’s ambitions to open an affordable clothing store began to ignite the moment she came upon the storefront that would soon become Starlet.
Denver Style Magazine: How long have you known that you would like to open your own store/could you tell me about the process?
Kristi Walstra: “I lived and worked for quite a few years in California before moving to Denver. When I was there, I worked for a purse manufacturer and a corporate retailer in their buying department. I was exposed to so many different sides of the retail world. I loved going to market, helping buyers choose items for their store, and being a part of forecasting the latest trends [seeing how things changed from season to season]. When I lived in California, I had dreams of one day opening my own store. Shortly after moving here, I was able to rent a small space on 32nd Ave. in the Highlands. Ten years later I am still in the same space and opened another location five years later on Broadway. The process is/was definitely a learning curve. You have to be willing to change things that aren't working, take risks and have the patience and persistence to make it work.”
DSM: Could you tell me about the styles you carry, and how you go about choosing inventory?
KW: “I definitely carry the trends, but I don't go over the top with it. I've found that my customers love the newest trend, but in a more subtle way. If I'm on a buying trip and don't see a whole lot of a trend, I tend to steer clear of it. It usually means the vendor is testing it to see if they should move forward with it, or stores that are super trendy tend to buy those styles. Years of experience and listening to that gut feeling also helps a lot.”
The beautiful displays of Starlet make it quite difficult to pass by without taking a peek inside. If you simply can’t find the time to make it in, their online store is just a click away. You can’t beat the convenience of a boutique you can shop at while lounging in your pajamas!
DSM: What is the meaning behind the name?
KW: “The name sounded old school Hollywood to me. When I first opened the inventory definitely had more of a vintage flair to it. Fortunately, it is still relevant today as styles are constantly going back in time and reinventing themselves. To me, the word Starlet has a positive connotation about feeling good about yourself and wearing something that makes you feel special.”
DSM: Could you tell me a little bit about your passion for the fashion industry?
KW: “When I graduated from college, I moved to Chicago and worked in different industries to figure out what it really was I wanted to do for a career. I worked for an advertising agency, waitressed and planned conferences. I didn't find the answers there and moved out to California and decided I wanted to go to the Fashion Institute of Design & Marketing. FIDM helped me get a job with a purse manufacturer when I graduated and things blossomed from there. I have always been passionate about fashion and was lucky enough to start a career in that field.”
DSM: How has your business developed over the years?
KW: “When I first started out I was carrying a little bit of everything at Starlet. I discovered that what my customers were buying the most of were fashion related items. I got rid of the categories that weren't really selling and focused on clothing and accessories. What I have learned is that every business is different and you have to do what is right for your business, not what you think it should be.”
DSM: What motivates and inspires you?
KW: “I feel extremely lucky to have my own business and be my own boss. Just that fact alone keeps me motivated. I also love to go to market and see the latest trends. There are so many different facets to owning a business that keep me motivated on a daily basis. You basically become the everything person from the problem solver to the employee manager to the buyer to the marketing guru to the maintenance man to the payroll person etc...”
We asked Kristi to tell us about herself outside of work. Here is little summary of her personal life!
KW: “If I am not working, you can find me at the gym, snuggled up with a book, traveling to new places, spending time with my husband and two fur babies or out with my camera trying to capture extraordinary and ordinary moments.
If you haven’t opened a tab for Starlet’s online store, or planned your in-person visit, now is the time! Not only could you learn from the woman behind the storefront, but you could find your new favorite outfit in the process.