We had the good fortune of connecting with Clarrissa Ross and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Clarrissa, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I definitely thank my Mom for being a visionary—she’s a seamstress, designer, and interior decorator. The earliest innovative memory I have is creating and selling these bags to store our track shoes so they would not only be easy to carry around when needed but so we wouldn’t scratch our hands against the spikes as we rummaged through our track bags for other things. Fast forward to my 30s where I begin to feel uncomfortable in my body due to my weight. I feel like every woman relates to a time in their life where their confidence dissipated due to being unhappy with their physical appearance. I really enjoyed fashion my entire life – even working in retail in my 20s –but it was beginning to feel like a chore because who wants to spend hours trying on things in the fitting room only to walk out with a couple of things that they really loved. I felt like there had to be a better way. That’s when a friend introduced me to an MLM clothing line. Everything just fit and I began to fall in love with clothes again. I remember spending a lot of money on new clothes that made me feel more like myself and then finally decided that it made sense for me to become an independent consultant of the clothing line. This was my gateway into the boutique world. It was more than selling clothes – it was about helping women feel more confident and comfortable in their own skin, the same way I felt when I was introduced to the brand. At the end of 2017, I began to feel frustrated as an independent consultant. I felt that my style was changing and thought there was more I could do to serve the women who, over the last 16 months had trusted me to help them get dressed every day. I began to research the steps to launch a clothing boutique on my own and in June 2018 I founded Cadence + Kinley as an online destination where women of all sizes, body types, and backgrounds could come to shop fashionable styles they would actually love.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In addition to being a boutique owner and recently starting a fragrance company, I also have a career as an IT consultant. I really love what I do and having diversity in my endeavors but getting to this point has been a very long road. Prior to getting my master’s in information systems management, I did a lot of freelance technical and marketing work, from building websites to graphic design. To get into the technology field I took a pay cut in an unrelated position at a company where I knew I could grow. Within nine months I was working in the IT Department as a business analyst. I grew my skill set to include marketing, email campaigns, email development, website optimization, analytics, product management, and so much more. I realized I was most interested in skills that could translate to other areas of my life and I enjoyed increasing my expertise in these areas.
Year after year during my annual review I was told that the company was happy with my contributions but that was never followed up with any type of promotion, which is what I was really striving for. In year five with this company, I began to receive feedback that was very stereotypical to black women. This frustrated me immensely but not enough to actually take the steps to move on. After seven years, my position was eliminated and at the time I perceive this as another setback. But God has a sense of humor. I began looking for work and stumbled upon the company that I work for today. After five interviews I was told that the company would love to hire me, but their portfolio had changed, and there wasn’t a role for me at that time. I was devastated because I knew that this was the company where I belonged.
After four weeks of follow up, I decided that I needed to move on. I thought about focusing on the boutique full time but Cadence + Kinley was still young and I had been putting a lot of my money into the startup of the business and still wasn’t at a point where I could be financially stable. I found a position in my field but as soon as I arrived, I knew it wasn’t the place for me. I struggled with getting up and going to work every day as the story that I was told during the interview process was very different from reality. I remember going on lunch one day, getting in my car, and seeing a notification on LinkedIn. It was from the recruiting director at the company I had interviewed with who saw my employment update. He was wishing me the best of luck in my new position and said that they would still be interested if I were to become available in the future. I, then, did something I had never done. I messaged him back asking if we could set up a time to talk and he agreed. That conversation turned into an in-person interview and a couple of days later I had secured the position at the company I knew I was supposed to work for. Fast forward a few years later I am grateful to have employment with the company that preserved all of their employees during the pandemic.
Over this experience with my career, I have learned that what’s best for me might not look like how everyone else imagines it. I have learned to trust my instincts and to bet on myself any day. I’ve learned to remain positive and that regardless of how some people see you, others will see you for who you truly are. Never stop being true to yourself. I’ve taken all of that into my life as a boutique owner and it has helped me come up with ideas that will allow me to continue to provide the best experience to the women who shop with me. But more so, it has helped me connect with other women in such a way that they have become more than clients – they’ve become friends.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Being that we are still somewhat in the midst of the pandemic and safety is a top priority, I’d recommend as many outdoor activities as possible, in addition to restaurants that have amazing patio options.
Lylo Swim Club at Arrive is an amazing Japanese Hawaiian-themed spot for drinks and apps. I also love Brunch and Sip which has an outdoor patio option and the food and drink are amazing. I recommend the Shrimp and Grits and a Truffle Wagon to drink. Another of my favs is Lux Cafe. It’s a hipster eatery that’s perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth, especially their chocolate chip cookies and tropical iced tea.
For activities, there are so many great hiking spots and trails for all fitness levels. I’d also recommend a weekend road trip to visit a few of Arizona’s wineries. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, thank you to my mom for passing down my entrepreneurial spirit and encouraging me to go after the things I love. Thank you to one of my best friends, Brittany Sario for introducing me to the first clothing brand that helped me build confidence and set the foundation for Cadence + Kinley. Thank you to my sorority, Omega Phi Chi Multicultural Sorority, Inc, for building me up and giving me the confidence in business I have today. And last, but certainly not least, thank you to Keosha Griffiths who has continued to support my business and actively continues to be a part of the village that it takes to uplift black women in business.
Other: Facebook VIP Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ffsck