What a crazy past few weeks it's been. For those that aren't aware, a major hurricane hit Southwest Louisiana early August 27th. And, unfortunately, it hit our home-base, as well as surrounding areas, head on. As a result, our community— homes, businesses, complete cities, and more— have been destroyed, and it is so so devastating. With all of that being said, we are extremely hopeful because we know Who is in control— God is bigger than all of this and we WILL get through it because we have Him!
On a positive note, during all of the chaos, our owner was informed that she had been nominated as the Power Pump Girls Woman of the Week! How cool?! We are beyond thrilled to have had our owner, Courtney Benton, be the W(O)W! We are so honored and it is such an awesome, very unexpected honor + gift for Courtney! You can click here to read the article for yourself, written by Brianna Beck. We are sharing all the deets of the interview behind the Woman of the Week article below. Enjoy!
What is Mill and Gray?
Mill and Gray is a desert inspired boutique that offers a curated collection of modern eclectic styles of clothing, accessories, and home goods.
How would you describe yourself in three words and why?
Oh gosh, I don’t like answering questions about myself lol. Hmm I’ll let my husband answer this question..
1. Shy - not sure why she’s shy, but it’s crazy that it hasn’t stopped her from starting a business.
2. Hard working - because she figures things out on her own—like how to run her own business from the ground up on her own.
3. Creative - because she comes up with ideas that are unique and creative.
Personal Background (schooling, experience, interesting facts)..
Born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Growing up, I was a real tomboy, which is funny and ironic because I’m now a boutique owner— really girly interest, but absolutely love it! But, it wasn’t until the beginning of college (around 2012-2013) that I started gaining a strong passion and interest for clothing and styling. I attended McNeese State University and originally pursued a degree in nursing, but later realized I really wanted to open a women’s clothing boutique. While in nursing school, I fought with myself over what I really wanted in life and what others wanted for me. But, with one semester left in nursing school, I made the decision to pursue my dream of owning my own store and changed my major and ended up graduating with a general studies degree.
After changing my major, I started working at a local boutique with every intention to learn as much as I possibly could to run my own store one day. I met and worked with so many awesome people while working at that boutique. And, I literally learned everything I know now from working there. Well, I am always learning, and I still have so much to learn! But, I am forever grateful for that job and for the many people I met during my time working there and for all the knowledge gained because I am now able to pour it all into my business! It’s so crazy to reflect on all of these things and to see where I am today. It’s crazy to think I’ve had this dream for the last 7-8 years or so, and I’m finally living that dream. (Even with the hurricane that just passed causing damage and a pause on that dream). It’s still a dream I am forever grateful for and super excited to see what God has next!
When I'm not working you can find me...
Still working on all things Mill and Gray! Haha! No, really, I absolutely love my business and I just want to find a way to honor and glorify God through the business! I’m also constantly trying to think of what I can do through Mill and Gray to bring something different to Lake Charles. I have so many ideas and can’t wait to actually put them into effect! But, there's been so many things that have caused delays on getting those things started. (COVID, hurricane, etc.) But, no worries! God’s timing is perfect, so just have to be patient in the waiting.
How do you define "purpose?" What does purpose mean to you?
Purpose. I feel that purpose is so so important and also so hard for us to determine for ourselves. I know in my personal life, I’ve struggled with finding purpose. But, I truly believe and know that God has a purpose for each of us. And, I’m learning that you have to let everything go, literally hold onto everything with a loose grip, and hold on tight to God and follow Him to find the purpose that He has for you. Then, you will truly find your purpose!
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
When I first started my business, before opening it to the public, I thought I’d enjoy the shopping and styling aspect of owning my own clothing boutique the most. But, it wasn’t until I started pop-up shops and opened the storefront, that I realized it’s the people I enjoy most. It’s every single customer that comes in so loving, so kind, so welcoming. It’s every single smile, kind word, compliment, ounce of feedback, and reaction I see when people walk through the door. It’s meeting and connecting with other small business owners. It’s the community, sisterhood, and relationships being built. That’s the best part and that’s the goal and mission. It’s so humbling and so awesome to experience. Truly, it’s the absolute best thing ever!
How do you face challenges?
Bring it all to Jesus. He knows what’s best, and He is the only way to get through every challenge and obstacle that comes.
Advice to female entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs in the making?
Just start!! I never thought I’d have my business right now. Actually, I didn’t think I’d have my business for at least another five years or so. It wasn’t until a friend asked me, “what’s stopping you from starting your business?” That I realized, I’m the one stopping me from starting my business. Literally, me. I was getting in the way of my own dream. I’d make excuses, such as “oh, well I don’t have the money to start” or “I’m not financially ready yet.” The truth is/was, I was afraid. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid no one would like what I had to offer. I was afraid people would judge me. I was afraid of failing. But, honestly, none of those things matter.
At the end of the day, you have one life. You should definitely choose to chase your dream. Don’t let others tell you what to do. Don’t let others talk you out of it. I had plenty of people who didn’t believe in me. People that were super close to me, who weren’t supportive of my dream. And, them being unsupportive wasn’t intentional, they just didn’t get it. They just didn’t think I could do it I guess— which then made me think I couldn’t do it. But, you can! Literally, you can do anything you want if you are willing to put in the work and time to do it! I’m getting a little carried away now, but bottom line is, you can absolutely do it. You just have to believe that you can and then just go for it! No matter what people think or say or how scared you are. Just go for it! Start!
Most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur or creative?
It’s so cool to create something and not know the response it’s going to get. But, when you finally get the response, it’s so loving and positive and so unexpected. Like people actually love what you are doing and what you’re about and that’s been so rewarding. It’s funny because I never used to see myself as creative. Like, I didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body, but God has shown me that I do and it all comes from Him! Which isn’t shocking because He is the Creator. But, yeah, I’d say that’s the most rewarding thing being a business owner/creative— seeing reactions or getting compliments on things I’ve created or an idea I’ve had and it being such a loving and unexpected response. So so humbling and rewarding! We are all creatives by the way. You just have to dig deep and connect with the Creator Himself.
Oh and also, I’ve touched on this, but it’s also super rewarding to see women support women and to just connect with each other. To see relationships being built between customers and between other small businesses, it’s so awesome/special/rewarding to be apart of! And, it’s one of my biggest goals with my business to create a community of women supporting one another to eliminate competition! Man, it’s such a wonderful, beautiful thing to have women come together and cheer each other on!
Proudest accomplishment to date?
I’d have to say, starting my business and opening up a storefront! It’s a literal dream come true, and all credit goes to the One and Only, God!
Goals/Dreams for the future?
Oh, I have so many goals and dreams for the future!! Not sure there’s room to type it all out, but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet! I may be a little repetitive throughout these questions, but the first goal is to honor and glorify God through it all. Second goal is to bring women together to create a community of women supporting women. To create a sisterhood-community-friendship amongst our customers and fellow small business owners! We plan to do this by hosting events, workshops, and more! We have more goals, but we will leave those as surprises! All in all, we just really want to create a space where women can come together and cheer each other on. And, we hope to inspire women to express themselves in ways that allow them to create their own personal style.
Fave pair of pumps & why?
My favorite pair of pumps—they’re actually not pumps—but they are my basic black and white pair of Old Skool Vans because they are comfy, for everyday use, and I can dress them up or down! Also, I just wear them the most!
What are you passionate about? What gets you up in the morning?
I’m really passionate about growing my business. I’m so grateful to be able to have the opportunity to have my business and grow it, and I’m super excited to see where it goes! And, I really want people to know that they can do the same!
Anything else you'd like us to share?
Started my business a little over a year ago and started only online and did pop-up shops in the Lake Charles area. Then, opened my storefront only a little over a month ago (July 18, 2020). The storefront took a bit of a hit from the recent hurricane, so hoping to get it all restored as soon as possible. Can’t wait to reopen! Can’t wait to see my customers!
Well, there ya have it folks! That concludes the interview between our owner and the Power Pump Girls organization. Hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about our brand and how we got started. Once again, we are truly so grateful for this opportunity and loved being apart of it! Be sure to check out the Power Pump Girls
and what they're all about! Hope to see some familiar faces in the following Woman of the Week features!
Hoping you guys are all safe and doing well! Can't wait to reopen our store and see every single one of you! We will share more with you soon. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We'd love to help out in any way we can! Love you guys!
The Mill + Gray Team