Not in her wildest dreams did RaeShanda Johnson think that she’d be a successful boutique owner with customers making purchases from all across the globe. In fact, the Vicksburg, Mississippi native never even imagined that she’d one day call Louisville home, given the fact that she’d never heard of the city prior to attending college in Frankfort, KY in 2006.
Throughout her college career, all she knew about Louisville was that it was the closest city to Frankfort with a Popeye’s Chicken restaurant. Today, she’s not only a Louisville resident – but one of the city’s fastest rising boutique owners. Things are going great for Johnson now but life hasn’t always treated her this graciously.
Johnson’s story is one of heartache, perseverance, spontaneity and eventually success. The 36 year Army veteran and mother of four – gave birth to her first child at just 13 years-old. Being a child herself – her path in life has never been easy but Johnson isn’t a quitter – she is a survivor.
The young mom would later join the U.S. Army and leave Vicksburg, with plans to see the world. Her journey would lead her to marriage and divorce, where should be left to pick up the pieces of what she considered to be another roadblock in her traumatic young life.
However, the universe wasn’t done dealing her lemons yet. Johnson would leave the military and return to Mississippi, with hopes of putting her life back together, but Hurricane Katrina had other plans. The category 5 storm tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005, with 170 mph winds followed by massive flooding. It was time for Johnson to relocate once again.
A friend of hers was living in Frankfort, KY and suggested that she and her kids move there for a while. Johnson was apprehensive at first. She’d never been to Kentucky and wasn’t sure about starting a new life so far away from Mississippi . After considering all her options, Johnson would ultimately decide to make the move and enroll in school at Kentucky State University (K-State).
Life was going well for Johnson and her children in Frankfort. K- State was the only HBCU (Historically Black College and Universities) in the state of Kentucky at the time and the city was vastly populated with alumni who made Frankfort their home after college.
Johnson attended classes at K-State for nearly six years, worked as a Financial Aid Counselor for most of that time – and earned her BA in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit in 2011.
Her goal was to return to Mississippi and start a non-profit organization for teen mom’s, since she became a mother at such a young age. She became even more passionate about the idea after discovering that a friend of hers back home had become a grandmother at 30.
Johnson would leave Frankfort on her 30th birthday, heading back to Mississippi – but within a few short months she would hit one of those infamous roadblocks once again. At this point, tragedy seemed to be the only constant recurring theme throughout her life.
Shortly before Christmas 2011, Johnson would have the $30,000 she saved from her military benefits, stolen from her bank account. She was dead broke and didn’t know what to do. She had no money to start her non-profit – nor to live on.
She had no choice but to return to Frankfort and hopefully get her job back. This was the last thing that she wanted to do because she left there with such high hopes and dreams and didn’t want to return as a failure. But she had to do what she had to do.
This particular trip back to Kentucky would seem to be the longest 10 hour trip of Johnson’s life. On the drive back, her pride was beginning to get the better of her. As she approached Louisville, she decided to stop in the city and look around, since she’d only previously just passed through.
Sporadically, she made the spur of the moment decision to check-in an InTown Suites motel on Preston Hwy and make Louisville her new home. She was now operating strictly on faith and had no idea how long she would remain in the Derby City. Johnson and her four children would share a one-room hotel room for the next several months.
It didn’t take long for the family of five to realize that the Extended Stay was a haven for drug dealers, drug users and all sorts of other unsavory characters – but the Johnson’s had no choice but to stay there. They were broke, homeless and out of options.
“I said God, you are going to have to fix it. I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve been through it everything I can in life, so far up until this point, as far as being a teen mom, domestic violence and rape… I’ve been through that but I’ve never struggled financially. So here I am with zero dollars, starting over again and I got me a temp job and created a vision board of what I wanted my life to look like.” -RaeShanda Johnson
Shortly after that prayer for help, Johnson started a Facebook page that would eventually go viral and change her life forever. She began posting collages of women’s clothing on her page and got an overwhelming response from her online community.
The collages would feature clothing outfits with shoes, in the same frame, so that viewers could visualize how the items looked as a set. Johnson’s fashion sense was a hit and Facebook went wild.
” I was up late one night and I said ‘I’m going to do this.’ I saw another lady, I don’t know if it was a foreign country or somewhere they were doing this, and I was like, I’m going to do this in the U.S.”…
“I was putting together style ideas for women where they could go into their closets and recreate looks on their own… I wasn’t actually selling anything… The reason why everybody fell in love with it was because, when you don’t have a person or a mannequin in the picture with it – anybody can visualize themselves in the outfit.” -RaeShanda Johnson
Johnson’s page quickly reached 20,000 followers and eventually became so popular that a Chinese clothing distributor reached out to her and offered to pay her to post their clothing items on her Facebook page.
“They were paying me $500 just to post, So I got up to around $11,000 a month just to posting stuff for them.” -RaeShanda Johnson
One of Johnson’s followers was an out-of-state boutique owner and wanted to hire her as a buyer for the boutique’s clothing purchases. The two began conversing over the phone – but within a month the owner realized that Johnson’s following was larger than hers and suggested that she open her own boutique.
Johnson was apprehensive because she had never been a business owner before but the boutique owner helped her every step of the way. She explained the boutique business to her in great detail. She educated Johnson on how to price, shop and tax. In addition, she also gave Johnson the connections to her clothing distributors and manufacturers.
Johnson began her own online boutique in March 2013, and in September 2015, All is Fair in Love and Fashion” opened the doors to its first brick & mortar location in the Heyburn Bldg, in downtown Louisville.
“That’s why I tell people that you can’t say it’s all me. There’s always somebody and she changed my life. She said that you’re going to do better than me.” -RaeShanda Johnson
Johnson says that within six months, she was doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales and since 98% of customers are online, it allows her to open the physical boutique location “By Appointment Only”. Her customer base ranges from Singapore to California and many of her followers drive from places like Chicago and St. Louis just to shop at from her boutique in person.
All is Fair in Love and Fashion carries sizes 0-28 and specializes is carrying exclusive and limited items. Most clothing items in this boutique cannot be found on the racks of the local malls or department stores. Johnson still enjoys using her creativity to put together ensembles for women who prefer to trust her fashion sense over their own.
In the midst of being a mom and running a successful business, Johnson manages to give back to the community as much as possible. Every year she holds a “Scholarship Brunch”, which provides college scholarships to teen mom’s who attend the Westport TAPP school in Louisville.
According to their website, Westport TAPP is an alternative school serving parenting and pregnant teenagers from surrounding high schools and middle schools. Students are given the option to come to Westport TAPP where they can take advantage of special programs designed to meet the unique needs of parenting and pregnant young women. The available programs include child care, medical care, college preparatory, mentoring and many others.
Johnson’s latest act of philanthropy is a direct correlation to her humble beginnings in Louisville. She has started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising enough money to provide 50 homeless women with 50 new purses filled with three months worth of feminine hygiene products. Access the GoFundMe campaign at http://www.gofundme.com/Allisfair.
Additionally, Johnson has started a new chapter for the National Congress of Black Women in Louisville. It is the first chapter of its kind in the state of Kentucky. Johnson says that within 14 days, 70 women signed up to the non-profit organization.
“This organization puts more women and young girls in the political arena to focus on social issues that we’re having in our community. I live in the West End, so when I first moved there people were like, ‘You live in the West End?’ You’re talking to somebody who was homeless – I don’t care where I am.” -RaeShanda Johnson
Johnson says that she loves living in Louisville’s Historically Black West End and loves giving back to the community. She promises that this non-profit will do just that.
Visit All is Fair In Love And Fashion at 332 West Broadway suite 1601, Louisville, KY 40203 in the Heyburn Bldg or online at allisfairinloveandfashion.com.bigcartel.com Follow Allisfairinloveandfashion on Facebook and @aifilaf on Instagram.
Raeshonda Johnson hangs out with the crew on the Urban Voices Radio Show. Interview begins at 38:04