Pink leather blazers and emerald ruffled dresses, along with other womenswear, line the side wall of Marem, a new 1,470-square-foot clothing store that opened Friday, Sept. 16 in Baton Rouge .
The name Marem is a combination of the first names of the two owners, Marlo Rodrigue and Emily Rodrigue. Although they are neither sisters nor cousins, the childhood friends transformed a tanning salon into a trendy and colorful clothing store in three weeks with the help of their friends and family.
Marem, located at 4250 Burbank Drive, started out as an online store in July 2020 — the peak of the coronavirus, but a time when most people spent much of their time shopping online. After breaking into the seams of their storage unit and receiving repeated questions about a physical location from their customers, the young women decided to open their first location.
“When we opened online, we thought, ‘We’re never going to have a storefront,'” Emily said.
These women challenge age and gender stigma in business. Marlo, 22, graduated with a marketing degree from LSU in August, and Emily, 21, is finishing her senior year at LSU, on track to earn her marketing degree in May.
“Technically, [opening a store] wasn’t even on the radar for us,” Marlo added. “We were terrified that no one would take a chance with us.”
The two worked at a boutique in their hometown of Thibodaux and attended modeling school together in New Orleans in high school, which sparked the formation of their friendship around fashion.
During their two-year stint with an online-only store, Marlo and Emily were in school, going to pop-ups, sorority events and markets in their spare time. Marlo recalls the duo having to force themselves to sit down and go to class because it was online.
“If you had asked us in January if this would be our reality, we would have laughed at you,” Marlo said.
The women also explained that because of their age, some brands and professionals in the clothing markets would turn them away.
“We look very young, and we are very young, but we have a legitimate business. People didn’t understand that and didn’t see that,” Emily said.
Marlo explained that in the beginning, understanding the business was a learning process, but now many of the same people who doubted it have learned to respect it. Through trials and tribulations, young women rose, gained confidence, learned, and persevered.
“I think we had to have our own confidence. You know who you are and don’t let anyone put you down. If you can’t trust yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to respect you,” Marlo said.
The catalyst for opening their physical location was customer interactions. Emily said they would leave the pop-up events exhausted, but also elated. Then customers started asking, “Where’s the store?” It made them think.
Marlo’s father, who serves as their financial advisor, found that the women sold a lot more when they were in person. However, Emily explained that it took them a while to feel comfortable and confident at events, but this change in attitude made all the difference.
Marlo and Emily quit their separate day jobs on the same day. Two weeks after Marlo graduated in August, they received the keys to their storefront.
Now they style Baton Rouge coeds for game days, birthday parties, sorority events and everyday sports recreation. Although college is their niche, they strive to provide items that those beyond their home demographic can love and wear, whether it’s a pair of shoes or clothes. ‘a headband.
The different personal styles of Marlo and Emily are reflected through the clothing offered in the store. There are shimmery sequined pieces (Emily’s favourite) but also neutral and sophisticated pieces (Marlo’s favourite).
“If I put on a nice outfit, my day instantly improves. You get that confidence where you can walk into a room and feel like everyone is looking at you, but in a good way,” Emily said. I feel like I can take on the world in what I’m wearing.”
During the process of opening a store, they learned that it takes a whole village to get things done. The two young entrepreneurs explained that they would be nowhere without their support system of family and friends.
For now, they’re learning to find their groove, balancing online sales and in-store presence, and in the future, they want to start hiring employees and expanding into different college towns.
“It’s crazy what you can do, how hard you can burn out, when you have that adrenaline and excitement about something,” Marlo said.
Visit Marem at 4250 Burbank Drive, or shop online at shopmarem.com