wild cactus boutique
Leann DiPaola is the owner of Wild Cactus Boutique. After attending college at Arizona State University and living in Lake Tahoe, California, she saw an opportunity to bring West Coast styles home to Cleveland. She opened Wild Cactus in June, 2017 and has been growing steadily since. YLGG Founder Maria sat down with Leann in her shop to hear her story.
You are the owner of Wild Cactus. Tell us about the business and when the idea first came to you.
So I started Wild Cactus out of my house in Lake Tahoe, California, selling vintage clothes. I had a knack for going into thrift stores and finding cool pieces and incorporating them into my everyday style. Then I thought “I could turn this into a business!” So I started with an Etsy account and people responded really well. I was getting a ton of orders, while I was working three jobs. I was just trying to do it as a part time hobby. And then I started doing pop-ups and street festivals, and getting invited to more things like that. Then I started selling at a boutique, and then I started managing that boutique. That was the point where I thought “I want to open up my own store.”
From there, I was visiting Cleveland, because I grew up here. I told my family about my goal to eventually open up my own store, and that I wanted to do a vintage store in Tahoe, because they didn’t have one. But it was insanely expensive out there and there were no spaces available.
So my uncle called me from Cleveland one day and said “There's a space available in Ohio City if you want to come take a look!” So I booked a ticket and flew home and checked it out and said “This is awesome, I’m just going to do it.” So I signed a lease, packed my car up, and drove home. I worked on getting the store open for 2 months, and then opened it up on June 1st, 2017. We’re coming up on a year now. It’s been a wild ride. A lot of learning, growing, and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. It’s been awesome.
You’re one of the few stores, possibly the only store, bringing West Coast styles to Cleveland. So how do you decide what you’re going to carry in the shop?
I am still learning all the time. I try to bring stuff that I know will be easy for girls here to incorporate into their wardrobe without being too much. Just like the added touch of that fun style that you can incorporate every day that aren’t too “out there.” I really love the West Coast style--the beachy, colorful, easy-going styles rather than more urban styles, which is a lot of gray and black.
Were you ever worried that Cleveland wasn’t going to be ready for styles like these?
At first when I started, I hadn’t lived here in 10 years, so I didn’t know. I went into it blind, but I was so gung-ho and passionate and set on my vibe. I knew there was nothing like this in Cleveland so I thought that people would respond to it well. And they have really responded well. It’s definitely a learning experience with what styles to bring in. It’s scary still, but people are really stoked on the store, and I’ve met a lot of really awesome, inspiring women doing this. People have been really supportive.
What tips do you have for managing your time? Because I’m sure this is a job you could do 24/7.
It is! I am here 6 days a week. To manage your time, it's really important to set goals. Each week, I make goals to accomplish, and say “this has to be done by this time.” That has been the biggest thing for me. Setting goals that aren’t crazy or far out- just the little things that make it all work together. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Just set goals, and take care of yourself.
What piece of advice would you give to a woman that wants to start her own business?
It takes a lot of time and lot of effort. Sometimes things might get you down, but you’ve gotta kick your ass back into gear and not let things bum you out. Whether it’s money or someone telling you that you can’t do it, things get better, and then they get bad, and then they get better. Just keep on working toward your goals because if you’re a strong woman and you want to own your own business, the world will help you do that if you’re passionate. You always have people asking you “Are you sure this is going to work? What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s a bad idea?” And I had to tell them “I’m not thinking like that.” If I know and I believe that it will work out, and put all my effort into making it work, it’ll work out. You can’t think negatively. If you feel like you want to do something, just do it. You’ll always regret if you don’t do it. If you do it, and it doesn’t work out, at least you’ve tried.
"You don’t have to do everything all at once. Just set goals, and take care of yourself."
What has been your greatest success since starting your own business?
My greatest success has been just seeing the overall growth from where I started 3 years ago, in my house with an Etsy shop, to this. Working with my employees, and having people bring new additions to the business. Just seeing it grow as a business overall has been the best success for me. Another great accomplishment was recently finding out that the shop won Best Boutique in Cleveland Scene's "Best Of Cleveland 2018." I was really overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all of our customers and supporters who voted for Wild Cactus to win, it makes me so grateful to have my store here in Cleveland.
What was your favorite part of getting to design your own shop as you transitioned from an online shop to a brick and mortar?
Well, this space was a dream space for me because it was a blank canvas- wood floors, tall, white walls, and white ceilings, natural light. The store has evolved so much in such a positive way since I first opened it. It was a dream being able to design it and have it reflect what I love and what inspires me.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
That’s a hard one to answer, because there have been a lot of challenges. It’s just trying to manage everything. It’s really. really hard trying to be the one who is doing everything. Getting people to come and shop in the winter too was really hard. It was really slow in January and February, which is to be expected. The winter was tough. But I have a really hopeful outlook for summer.
When you were growing up, what did you see yourself doing?
To be honest, I didn’t study fashion or anything like that. I’ve always been fashion-oriented, and I loved to express myself through fashion. I never wanted to dress like all my friends. So when I was younger I didn’t really see myself doing this, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to do something that made me happy and inspired me. I didn’t know that owning my own business was going to be it, but now I feel like I was made to do this.
What is something that you couldn’t go a day without?
Coffee. Coffee and my dog. Having him in the store has been awesome. He’s here every day. He makes me feel safe, and he makes life more fun.
Wild Cactus recently launched their online vintage shop. Check it out here.