You’ve seen it parked around town, and hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to shop inside the fabulous Rack + Clutch fashion truck. There’s a beautiful “boss lady” behind the wheel of this mobile boutique: Emily Ponath. Emily graduated from the Textile and Apparel Management program at Mizzou, and she’s been a buyer for three different St. Louis companies. She dreamed up and created the truck after the boutique where she was a buyer closed in 2012. Rack + Clutch became the first fashion truck in St. Louis.
At Revive, we’re inspired by her creativity, pioneering spirit, and perseverance, and it just so happens she’s a big fan of Revive and MIssion: St. Louis too!
Who would you say Rack + Clutch is for? Rack + Clutch was created for a busy woman who doesn't really like the mall. She wants a personal shopping experience and she likes that it comes to her. She doesn't want to spend a lot of money on her wardrobe, but she doesn't mind to spend a little more to have a unique shopping experience and find special pieces she won't see everyone else wearing. She wants to feel like she is supporting her local community by shopping and she is!
What's the biggest challenge in starting your own business? I think our biggest challenge was getting our mobile retail permit for the city of St. Louis and figuring out if our business was legal or not and where we would be allowed to operate. We had a very rough start because we were the first fashion truck to hit the streets and the city kept shutting us down, but we eventually figured out where we could park legally and who we could partner with to make our business happen!
Do you feel like the business aspect of your job takes away from the creative aspect? Yes. Only because I spend most of my time setting up the truck for business each day, fixing things that are broken, checking out customers, being a retail salesperson, booking our schedule each day and ordering inventory. Being creative gets put on the back burner most of the time because we don't have employees and we must do everything we can to keep the business running, but my creativity re-emerges when I take time off in January and February and I take that time to come up with new ideas to keep things fresh.
What is one of the most difficult things about the work you do? The hardest thing for me is being the person who makes most of the important decisions about the business and who is responsible for doing the things that keep the business running on a daily basis. My mind is constantly spinning, going over what I can do to make it better and if I should do this or do that instead. It can be very stressful at times, knowing I'm the one who is responsible for our success or failure.
What are some of your favorite activities in St. Louis? We love trying new restaurants that open up and getting ice cream at every ice cream spot on a regular basis. We also go to different local parks on our days off each week and enjoy taking our dog for long walks in different neighborhoods. We just like being outside anywhere when it's not hot or freezing.
What is the best thing about living in St. Louis? I think the best thing about living in St. Louis is how supportive and generous people are. When I had some surgeries in 2015, people constantly asked my husband how I was doing and offered to help us run our business when I couldn't work. They also came out and bought stuff just because they knew we needed extra support at that time. By building this business, we've also built a little system of support and have people who care about us as friends. I tell people when they stop by sometimes that I don't care if they come to buy stuff. I'm just happy that they stopped in to say ‘hello.’
We are encouraged by Emily’s work ethic and commitment to the St. Louis community (and especially her devotion to every ice cream shop). Keep your eyes open for her hot pink and orange truck around STL, and check out her website and social media to see where she’ll be parked next.