Britt Gooding built her business on heart — literally.
CLT Boutique, her female-forward shop, began five years ago after her mother had a life-changing heart surgery. When prompted about the humble beginnings of her side hustle that transformed into a full-time venture, Gooding led with an EE Cummings quote:
“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (Anywhere you go, I go, my dear)I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
The local entrepreneur, wife and mom answered five questions for CharlotteFive about her inspiration, success and rebuilding after tragedy.
(1) CLT Boutique has such an eclectic collection of female-forward clothing, accessories and gifts. What inspired you to start your own brand?
“It started with a heart transplant. I couldn’t find the right Mother’s Day gift for my mom after her surgery, so I made a bangle in memory of her donor with her donor’s initials, angel wings, and a hand-stamped charm with the E.E. Cummings quote. Since then, my fascination and passion for designing and creating has manifested into CLT Boutique, where I make jewelry, clothing, accessories and other goods.”
“What started out as a little side hustle turned into a full-time gig when I renovated a vintage camper and turned it into a mobile boutique. Now you can catch the ‘glamper’ popping up at events all over North and South Carolina!”
(2) How do you choose which vendors you partner with?
“I always look for products that I want to buy for myself. I have four local vendors that I’ve handpicked; each one is very unique and most importantly makes a great product. Outside of those four vendors, I make 80 percent of the items sold in the glamper. I am constantly on the lookout for new products because I want customers to discover new things every time they stop in.”
(3) What does a typical day look like for you as a small business owner?
“Ha! How many hats can I wear in one day might be an even better question.
“No two days are alike for me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. On weekdays I do all the things — make product, take inventory, fill orders, and pretty much everything else you could think of (all between my daughter’s naps and after bedtime). The weekends are spent at pop-up events with the glamper. One of my absolute favorite things is being at an event, getting to talk to customers, and helping them shop — it definitely re-energizes me.
“I’m sure most small business owners would agree with this, but don’t really talk about it: Our hectic schedules can affect friendships and personal relationships. Most people work Monday through Friday and have the weekends as leisure time, but a lot of times we are working on the weekends and miss out on free time with friends. I have a hard time maintaining a work/life balance because I enjoy it so much, and I don’t always look at what I’m doing as work. Luckily, my husband is a master at helping me find and maintain that balance.”
(4) The glamper is central to both your brand identity and your business. You shared news of a break-in with the Facebook community in July, where all the items were stolen just before your wedding. After taking a month off, you hosted a grand reopening in August. How did you cope with the stress of the break-in, and what steps did you take to reopen?
“I’m always a ‘glass half full’ kinda girl, but after two break-ins in three months, I felt completely defeated. The second one happened two days before our destination wedding, so I just had to put it out of my mind until we got back from our trip. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that complete strangers broke in, destroyed my shop, and stole everything. I know it’s just ‘stuff’ and can be replaced, but it’s more than that to me — it’s my heart and soul and sleepless nights I’ve stayed up creating things that I love.
“I took the month of July to rebuild and repair everything myself. I’m so glad I did because it turned into a cathartic experience. I slowly chipped away at rebuilding my stock of products and got the creative juices flowing again. Something that started out negative turned into a therapeutic project because I was able to put that energy into making upgrades and improvements, so things feel fresh for my repeat customers.”
(5) What advice would you give to fellow Charlotteans seeking to channel their own passions into small businesses?
“Be disciplined in your long-term vision, but be flexible with the details on how to get there. Don’t be afraid to take risks because that’s where the magic happens. At the same time, don’t take your life savings to Vegas and put it all on black. At the end of the day, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing and surround yourself with positive people, the odds are in your favor.”
Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.