THE 3-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Ben Wegdam of Lou Lou Boutiques

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People,Brian Hughes,3-Minute Interview

Wegdam is co-founder of Lou Lou Boutiques, a women's accessories and clothing company with stores throughout the Washington area.

How did you get into women's fashion? Well, it wasn't my original plan. I'm from Holland, where I worked for a food retailer. I've been working in retail all of my life; I just had the entrepreneurial bug in me. When I was younger, I was stuffing shells in a grocery store in Holland. If you asked me, "Will you be selling earrings at age 43?" I don't think that would be the case. We started in Middleburg. That went well, and now we're up to 12 stores.

Why the focus on D.C.? We just have to be in the best locations. Real estate is really important for us. We're trying to create a family-oriented specialty retailer. I spend more than half of my time in the stores. I hate to be in the office. You're trying to create what the big retailers can't -- this tight niche. It's just a very vibrant, young customer base that moves all the time. That's good for us -- they move before they get sick of us. I looked in Philadelphia and Baltimore but I just couldn't find the same amount of young professionals.

Do you find yourself more aware now of recent fashion trends? We're always following fashion. We've got two buyers in New York -- they're breathing it. They buy the stuff a couple months in advance. You see their shopping bags on the street; you see things at dinner. It's like a drug. You're always trying to figure out angles. That's why I spend so much time on the real estate. Once you sign that lease, you're hooked -- you better know that location.

Would you ever sell men's clothing? No, we're not good at that. And men don't want to spend anything on clothing. They buy it all at a discount.

- Brian Hughes

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