Interview by Kimberly Davis Guerra
Age: 43 • Birthplace: Lafayette, La • Currently live: Katy, TX • Education: Bachelors in Public Relations, University of Louisiana • Favorite travel destination: I love to travel in general – any location, any destination, any adventure • Favorite local shopping: I spend all day around clothing and accessories so don’t get out to shop very much. I’d say at the moment H-E-B is my favorite place to shop. Ha! Cooking and baking for my family is special to me and I value that time for us.
This month’s Mom.Me column focuses on Houston entrepreneur and mom, Gina Babineaux. She runs the successful online clothing boutique AsherKate.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born & raised? How long have you been in Houston?
I’ve been in the Houston area for 6 years now – it has gone by SO quick. I’m from Lafayette, Louisiana and relocated here for my husband’s job in oil & gas. I live in Katy and have two awesome sons, Noah (14) and Cooper (11).
So AsherKate?? How did you come up with the name and tell us exactly what you do?
Being a mom of two boys, I’ve had the name Asher Kate on standby for years for whenever a girl finally joined our family. When it came time to name the business and knowing that we were done having kids, it felt right to name it AsherKate since it was in many ways my “new baby”. To date, we still use inspiration from friends, their children, our Stylists and a book of baby names to create an identity and name for each new style of clothing we launch.
AsherKate is an online boutique for women’s clothing and accessories in sizes SM-3X. We curate frequent collections from over 40 various designers with a focus on ease of wear, affordability and casual trends. We sell online and ship from our warehouse in Katy.
Most importantly, we are a company rooted in creating opportunities for women to succeed in the fashion industry in whatever way that looks for them. We have a rapidly growing Stylist program where women from all walks of life can rep our brand and earn commission in a flexible way. Among our tribe of 200 amazing women, we’ve built a community of support and peer-to-peer learning that has been both empowering and motivating – especially for me. Having a group of women who believe in what we are trying to create and want to help drive our mission fuels me every single day.
We are also vehicle for impacting others – we donate 5% of every sale to worthwhile causes that benefit women, children and communities everywhere. We introduce new featured recipients every 60 days and our customers have the opportunity to choose from 3 organizations at checkout. We’re proud to have donated 5% from over 17,000 customer purchases to 30 different organizations in our first year of business. It’s important to me that we continue to impact others as a company for no reason other than it’s simply just the right thing to do. I believe that we are all here for a greater purpose and success for me is living that out as best I can.
You feature models of all shapes, sizes, creeds & colors on your website. How important is it for you to be diverse?
It’s extremely important to me. Being an authentic brand that represents all women is deep within our core. Our models are my personal friends, our AK staffers, our local Stylists and our customers. We love featuring real women and real beauty. It’s important that women feel comfortable in their own skin and that they clearly see that reflected out in the world. If AsherKate can be some small part of creating that kind of confidence then I’ve succeeded in my mission.
What has been your scariest entrepreneur moment?
Prior to moving to Katy, I owned brick & mortar boutiques in Lafayette and Lake Charles for over a decade. Moving to Houston meant closing my business and starting over in a new place. At the time, this was the scariest thing for me because I associated who I was as a person with what I did for a living. I had a really hard time during the transition.
Through that process of essentially starting over, I learned so much about myself and what truly made me “me”. I realized over time that what you do for a living isn’t all you have to give to the world, it’s simply a means to do so.
I spent some time afterwards working for other companies in the industry before finding my way back to entrepreneurship. With AsherKate, I’ve been able to really let go of those fears and lead a journey that’s a reflection of my beliefs and what legacy I want to leave. I don’t get caught up any more in P&L statements or scaling stores. My goal is to go to bed at night and feel like I’ve poured my heart into doing good work.
Why do you feel Houston is the perfect market for your business?
In many ways, Houston reminds me of a larger version of my hometown. There is a great vibe here, a strong sense of community and the kind of welcoming camaraderie that makes this area feel like a small town and a big city all at the same time. Any time I’ve had the chance to share about my business with strangers, they’ve been so supportive and encouraging. People genuinely want to see you succeed here and are quick to lift you up. We’ve also made some really great friends here – without their encouragement and helping hands I wouldn’t have been able to launch AsherKate. We can ship product anywhere and be successful, but it’s important to me that we’re rooted in a place that we connect with, a place that embraces us, my family and our goals. We’ve found that here.
Why did you choose to go online only instead of brick & mortar?
I owned brick & mortar boutiques for a long time in a prior company and while I loved the experience, it wasn’t the model that was most important to me for AsherKate. I still feel that brick & mortar stores are valuable and important to the industry but for what I wanted to specifically build, there were so many more things I felt I could accomplish online. By running our business primarily online, I’ve been able to essentially create 200 micro-businesses through our Stylists and impact their entrepreneurial journey. That was a big piece of our model and really important to me. So many women fear entrepreneurship – I wanted to create something that would make it more accessible and less scary for them.
Retail stores aren’t entirely out of the question for us in the future, but for now I really love the relationships and opportunities we’re creating through eCommerce. We do offer private trunk shows around the Houston area and participate in events every now and then. We also host small groups by appointment at our warehouse for private shopping which is really fun.
Do you have any plans for expansion or changes in 2020?
2020 promises to be a big year for us. We just celebrated a year in business and we’ve already grown out of our first warehouse. We’re currently looking for a larger space and planning to hire additional staff. We have a growth plan in place for doubling our product assortment next year and expanding into new categories we think our shoppers will love. We currently have a waitlist for Stylist positions but plan to open up 300 additional spots in the first half of the year.
We’re also furthering our mission of living in purpose in 2020. In addition to donating 5% of sales to non-profits, we’re launching our first national day of AKtion where our Stylists & customers nationwide will get out in their communities and serve others.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
I love all of it. But, I think my favorite is be able to work every day on something that makes my soul proud. I’ve spent so much time worrying about the wrong things – starting over in my 40’s has given me a new perspective on what success looks like. It’s not easy, it’s still a ton of hard work and we still depend on every single sale to reach our goals. But I really hope in some way my journey encourages someone else who might feel like they’re searching for something more to know that it’s never too late to find your purpose.
Learn More About AsherKate