Tailgating. The word, itself may conjure up a multitude of memories. The dress code is simple enough. Wear shorts or jeans and your team jersey. Until recently, ladies tried to find, shall we say, 'creative ways' to sizzle up that jersey look. Others simply focused on fashion trends and had to forgo their school colors. Now, two former executives have taken current women's fashion and made it available in some of the top team colors across the Southeast. But honestly, the clothes are just hot fashion. The bonus is you may just look amazing wearing your school colors. So, Alabama, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, NC State fans and more who think you have your school pride on for Saturday's game, consider checking out Bourbon & Grits Boutique. You may need to think again.
"The concept came to me about three years ago. At most Southern college football tailgates, women tend to wear team-branded apparel less, and dress up more. At Appalachian State University, that culture is strong. I always had difficulty combing through clothes while shopping, trying to find that perfect black and gold outfit. And we had it easy. Other schools have colors that are much more difficult to find," says Bourbon & Grits Boutique co-owner, Shannon Koontz.
Koontz says her best friend, Missy Durkin played an essential role in starting Bourbon & Grits Boutique.
"I had shared the idea with her over the years and had asked if she wanted to go into business with me. At this time last year, she started noticing the number of women who were commenting on social media about how excited they were for college football season to start. She called me and said she was all in. If she hadn't agreed to go into business with me, I may never have pulled the trigger. I think it's important to love your job every day, and being in business with your best friend takes it to a whole new level of fun," says Koontz.
According to Koontz, the name of the boutique came out of a road trip she and Durkin took back to their college alma mater, Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
"We sat down at a booth in Macado's Restaurant with a notepad, and had an old-fashioned brainstorming session. Since dressing up for tailgate is prominent in the Southern culture, we threw out some ideas that are also deeply Southern. Bourbon & Grits stuck. We also like the juxtaposition of "bourbon" (upscale) vs. 'grits' (simple). There's that same juxtaposition with Southern women. They have class but aren't afraid to throw on a pair of cowboy boots," says Koontz.
Koontz has a background in news and in media relations. She says she understands what will resonate with a certain audience and applies that concept with the Bourbon and Grits audience. Durkin has a background in professional recruiting which, Koontz says helps them both analyze individuals and build relationships.
"This industry is all about building relationships, whether it's with designers and vendors or with our customers. She and I make a great team," says Koontz.
Another connection Koontz utilized was that of her husband, Hoyle, who is a partner with Greensboro, North Carolina-based, Frogman Interactive. The agency developed the boutique's brand identity, developed the website and helped broaden their reach adding social media platforms. Koontz says her husband has been instrumental in lending his photography talents to Bourbon & Grits from photo shoots to editing many of the images. But both Koontz and Durkin say they know it is crucial to find a balance of work and family time.
"My husband, Hoyle, comes from a similar professional background and we both enjoy our work, so it's fun for us to bounce off ideas with each other. We can also seamlessly transition the conversation from work to conversation about the kids, vacation planning, etc. As a mother, it's a little more difficult. I've learned that while I am able to multi-task, it's not always executed most efficiently. I try to designate work hours and 'play' hours. But my children are 5 and 9 so they can entertain themselves. My business partner, Missy, has a little more difficulty with a 5-year-old and 2-year-old twins, along with a professional golfer for a husband who has to travel frequently. But her husband, Kevin, is very supportive and Missy is a hard worker, so they are managing it well," says Koontz.
As one would imagine, family is important to both owners and their husbands. This includes helping the littlest ones understand the meaning of 'work.'
"We talk with our son about work ethic. He understands that, but our daughter is a little young to comprehend that concept. But she's already talked about working with mommy at Bourbon and Grits Boutique. We want them to also understand that work doesn't have to be work. If you have a passion for something, and it's fun, work isn't very hard to do and it's something you look forward to doing," says Shannon's husband, Holye Koontz.
As it turns out, it took Durkin some time to commit to this business. The passion was there. The belief in its success was there, too. What held her back was fear.