Pink leather blazers and emerald frilly dresses, along with other women’s clothing items, line the side wall of Marem, a new 1,470-square-foot clothing boutique that opened Friday, Sept. 16 in Baton Rouge.
The name Marem is a combination of the two owners’ first names, Marlo Rodrigue and Emily Rodrigue. Though not sisters or cousins, the childhood friends renovated a tanning salon into a trendy, colorful clothing store in three weeks with the help of their friends and family.
Marem, located at 4250 Burbank Drive, started as an online boutique in July 2020 — the peak of the coronavirus, but a time when most people spent much of their time online shopping. After bursting at the seams of their storage unit and getting repeated questions of 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 are defying the stigma of age and gender in business. Marlo, 22, graduated from LSU with a marketing degree in August, and Emily, 21, is finishing her last year at LSU, on track to graduate in May with a marketing degree.
“Technically, [opening a store] was not even on the radar for us,” Marlo added. “We were, that no one was going to take a chance on us.”
The two worked at a boutique in their hometown of Thibodaux and attended modeling school in New Orleans together in high school, which caused their friendship to form around fashion.
During their two-year stint with an online-only boutique, Marlo and Emily were in school, going to pop-ups, sorority events and markets in their free time. Marlo remembers the duo having to force each other to sit down and go to class, since it was online.
“If you would’ve asked us in January if this would be our reality, we would’ve laughed at you,” Marlo said.
The women also explained that, because of their age, some brands and professionals at apparel markets would dismiss them.
“We do look very young, and we are very young, but we do have a legitimate business. People didn’t understand that and see that,” Emily said.
Marlo explained that, in the beginning, figuring out the business was a learning process, but now many of the same people who doubted them have grown to respect them. Through the trials and tribulations, the young women rose above, gained confidence, learned and persevered.
“I think we’ve had to have our own confidence. You know who you are, and don’t let anyone put you down. If you can’t be confident in yourself, then you can’t expect anyone else to respect you,” Marlo said.
The catalyst to opening their physical location was interactions with customers. Emily said they’d leave pop-up events feeling exhausted, but also exhilarated. Then, customers started to ask, “Where’s the store?” This got them thinking.
Marlo’s dad, who serves as their financial adviser, saw that the women sold much more when in person. However, Emily explained that it took a while for them to get comfortable and confident at events, but that attitude shift made a world of a 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’re styling Baton Rouge’s college women for gamedays, birthday parties, sorority events and everyday athleisure. Though college is their niche, they’ve been working to provide items that those beyond their original demographic can love and wear — whether that’s a pair of shoes or a headband.
Marlo and Emily’s different personal styles are reflected through the clothes offered in the store. There’s sparkly, sequin statement pieces (Emily’s favorite) but also neutral and sophisticated items (Marlo’s go-to).
“If I put on a cute outfit, my day instantly gets better. You get that confidence where you can walk in a room and feel like everyone’s looking at you, but in a good way,” Emily said. “I feel like I can take on the world in what I’m wearing.”
Through the process of opening a store, they’ve learned that it takes a village to get things done. Both of the young entrepreneurs explained that they would be nowhere without their support system of family and friends.
For now, they’re learning how to get their groove, balancing online sales and storefront presence, and in the future they want to start hiring employees and expanding to different college towns.
“It’s crazy what you can do, how much you can exert yourself, when you have this adrenaline and excitement about something,” Marlo said.
Visit Marem at 4250 Burbank Drive, or shop online at shopmarem.com