Clothes hang neatly on racks, grouped by style and size. A mannequin stands in the corner, ready for an outfit to be styled and displayed. From the inside, this looks like the beginnings of a steadily growing boutique. From the outside, looks can be deceiving. This shop is found in an unlikely place: a men’s dorm.
Natalia James, wife of Hospers Resident Director Bobby James, has transformed a dorm room into a LuLaRoe boutique. Founded in 2012, LuLaRoe is a company “where fashion meets comfort,” offering ethically made clothing for women, men and children. With only 5,000 prints of a design made per style before it is retired, the company is able to consistently offer fresh options for shoppers.
“Everything is made by LuLaRoe,” James said. “They own all of the prints and the styles. It’s not like you can find it at Kohl’s; it’s very unique.”
James found the fun prints appealing and was hooked on the idea of being a consultant. After visiting friends this past summer who were connected to LuLaRoe, she reached out to a fashion consultant in Sioux Center.
Through conversations and learning about the history of the company, James discovered commonalities with the owner, DeAnne Stidham.
When James was almost two years old she was adopted from Romania. Part of her reasoning in becoming a LuLaRoe consultant was the opportunity to stay home with her six-and-a-half-month old daughter, Harper.
“Something I’ve always wanted was a kind of biological connection, and for me, Harper is,” James said. “It’s been fun to have people say, ‘she looks like you,’ and being 27 and not hearing that at all until now has been really special. This gives me the opportunity to watch her grow up and cherish that time I have with her.”
Stidham, she found out, also holds ties to Romania. She adopted five of her children from the country, and this personal connection led to James feeling even more confident in her decision to become a part of LuLaRoe.
The company name itself holds family value. Stidham combined parts of her grandchildren’s names Lucy, Lola and Monroe to create the name. Each style of clothing is named after a family member as well.
These family ties and the outfits may have attracted James’s attention, but the message behind it all motivates her every day: confidence.
“I can help people feel confident in the way their body is,” James said. “I think that’s even helpful for myself after having Harper. I held onto my old clothes for the longest time hoping I could still fit into everything. I had a hard time feeling comfortable with this new body I had, so when I purchased some of this clothing, it just made me feel way more comfortable.”
Flattering cuts and soft material are not the only ways James promotes confidence. After winning a giveaway, a customer asked James to donate her free pair of leggings to a woman who recently found out she had terminal cancer. James immediately agreed and put together an outfit she could wear to build her up as she went through chemotherapy.
“That was the second day I had my clothing,” James said. “It was a really cool moment for me. This is more than just selling clothing; it’s also blessing other people. I love the ability to decide what I want to do with my clothes, and if that means giving some of that away to make someone’s day, I love that.”
This joy of making others happy has not gone unnoticed. Her husband, Bobby James, has seen her excitement in starting the business.
“She is really good at bringing joy out of herself and others and connecting that way,” Bobby James said.
He has also seen her determination to grow her boutique.
“She is stubborn in the best of ways,” James said. “When she gets her mind set on doing something, she’s going to do it to the best of her abilities and she’s going to put all of her time and effort into it.”
Her creativity has proven to him just how successful she can be when putting together outfits to inspire customers.
“She can see pieces of clothing that maybe I would see do not work together by any means, but she can see, ‘Oh this totally works and I’m gonna show you how.’” James said. “It’s inspiring to see her personality taking on and being able to do well.”
He has been lending a helping hand to his wife as she builds the new business, whether it means assisting her during Facebook Live sales or watching Harper.
“It’s been a new way to support her as a husband,” James said, “and to be excited about things she’s excited about.”
He has also been amazed by the amount of local support shown to her through purchases by students and staff and encouraging Facebook posts.
“It’s those kinds of things that are needed,” James said, “because this isn’t easy. Natalia is constantly putting herself out there and in front of people, so getting those encouragements gives her the confidence to do this.”
NW senior Ashley Doran and Stegenga RD Celeste Ryan are just a few women on campus who have encouraged James through purchasing some clothing.
“I really like buying things for a good cause,” Doran said. “If buying clothes from Natalia means my money is going directly toward her and her shop rather than huge corporations, then I wouldn’t put a second thought toward buying from her. When I bought clothing she was encouraging and has
an awesome fashion sense.”
Ryan has shown her support as well and found the idea of having a home clothing boutique fascinating.
“I love it,” Ryan said. “Like, everyone loves clothes, right? She’s such an entrepreneur, so it’s fun to see her doing something she enjoys, especially while being a stay-at-home mom.”
Balancing the life of an RD’s wife, stay-at-home mom and small business owner comes with its struggles, but with encouraging experiences and a passion for fashion, James is eager to build her business and continue pursuing her dream. The “LuLaRoe Natalia James Facebook” group is as great place to start for anyone interested in purchasing clothing or learning more about her steadily growing boutique.