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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Follow your dreams

From an episode of Small Business Today, we discover a high-end women's dress shop which is named after the founder, Yvonne La Fleur. Yvonne has us consider six key ideas (right column). Each key idea has a key question. Cursor over the question and click. Sometimes it opens up more answers!

Key Question:


Retailing is particularly relentless. If you post your hours of operation, you or someone must be there. In other kinds of businesses, voice mail can put you in touch with your customers without actually being in an office.

Yvonne said, "The world shops on Saturdays." If you think that you can be successful starting a business from scratch and not being present when most customers are present, you are suffering from delusions.

A true shop keeper loves Saturdays and is excited by the idea that her place of business will be full of customers. It's almost like having a party every week. At Yvonne's shop you find refreshments in a lovely bar area which is a great place for men to have a cup of coffee, a beer or a cocktail while the women shop.  

Questions for this clip: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Think about it

Why do so many business owners advise not to worry about the money and to simply focus on your dream or what you love?

Clip from: Yvonne LaFleur

New Orleans:  Yvonnne LaFleur remembers wanting to own a women's dress shop since she was four years old. She started her business in 1969, yet she transformed her first store -- strictly blue jeans -- to a very special women's boutique.

Located just off of historic St. Charles Street where the "Streetcar named Desire" runs, Yvonnne LaFleur, the store, draws customers from all over the world because her clothing and services are so unique.

Yvonne has actualized a dream where beauty and elegance abound. Yet, she would not deny that it has required long hours and hard work. Thus, you should know that this segment is called, In the Trenches.

More stories about the American Dream...

Yvonnne LaFleur

Yvonnne LaFleur, Founder, owner

8131 Hampson Street
New Orleans, LA 70118

Visit our web site:

Office: 504.866.9666

Business Classification:
Clothing, Personal accessories

Year Founded:

Follow your dreams

HATTIE: You can probably tell we're in New Orleans. We've come to a one-of-a-kind city to find a one-of-a-kind business.

Where can you buy gold-plated anything, drink hurricanes and listen to jazz within a three-block radius? What makes New Orleans New Orleans? The French Quarter, St. Charles Avenue and Yvonne LaFleur.

I've worn her clothes for years.

I sleep in her nightshirt, I conduct business in her suits and I go to formal events in her eveningwear. I don't just buy clothing from Yvonne, I buy an experience.

We customers are ushered gracefully through rows of luscious fabrics and, while sipping a tall glass of iced tea, we try on what Yvonne thinks will make women look like women. When she was four years old, Yvonne LaFleur decided to be a merchant, and 18 years later, she opened her first shop. 

She started with blue jeans and now has one of the most exclusive shops in the South. Brides come from hundreds of miles away to be properly attired by Yvonne.

YVONNE LaFLEUR: And I would suggest she starts with white or ivory for the first night, then moves to black for the second night and then red the third night, all getting very small as we go along in size, the pieces, and by the fourth night, bring him into reality. Wear your T-shirt.

HATTIE: Now I want to know if you wear these things that you sell.

YVONNE: Absolutely. How do you think I got seven children?

HATTIE: (Voiceover) In fact, it's been said this must have been the store Rhett took Scarlett to when they went to New Orleans to shop. In the early days, Yvonne would arrive two hours early to do all of the alterations. She designed much of the clothing and lingerie she sells.

YVONNE: And there's everything in there from lingerie to linen suits to silk dresses.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) She now creates custom hats for customers and filmmakers. This is no ordinary shopkeeper.

YVONNE: And American women tend to wear the trim in the front. See how outrageous? And European women wear the trim in the back.

Don't Wait for Customer to Come to You

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Today she has just under 50 employees and admits to constantly looking for the right people to work with her to build the business. Her staff doesn't wait for customers to come in. They call them. The future is full of fragrance and telemarketing, shipping and 800 numbers. Yvonne simply doesn't stand still.

OK, Yvonne, you have just under 50 employees, seven children, you don't drive a car, your husband commutes to New York. How do you get everything done?

YVONNE: I like to get up, really, around four and kind of get my day started because I have a great husband who is a partner with the children.

HATTIE: If a young person came to you right now for advice, what kind of advice would you give them?

Follow Your Dreams

YVONNE: I rather followed my dreams. It was something I always wanted to do. I think the true gift of life, of God, is knowing what you want to do at a very early age, and when I was four years old, I really became in love with retail. I think you have to be willing to do it all. And also, for a female to do a business, you almost have to put the family on the back burner, to start. When I started my business, I only had $10,000, and I knew that I couldn't do anything fabulous with $10,000, but I knew if I stuck with it, I could build it. And my motto, in the back of my head, was to think best and be best.

When you're doing something, really, the importance of doing anything is to be focused, to get from A to Z. So all these little paths you kind of seek other interests in, they really take your energy away from the focus of developing your business. And at times, I opened other stores, and I had a factory business in New York where I sold about 400 stores throughout the United States, which was something I really wanted to do. But that--all those little activities really took away from this. And having seven children has taken a lot of time, but yet, I wouldn't do it any other way because it's added so much richness to my life.

Reinvest your profits

In building a business, you have to think that the money you're earning is really the business' money. It's its operating capital, and the more you can invest back into it, the sounder you will make it. If you're going to be in retail, you need to work every Saturday of your life because the world shops on Saturday.

HATTIE: Here's what I learned from Yvonne LaFleur: Follow your dreams, reinvest your profits and, in retail, even when you're rich and famous, you work Saturdays for the rest of your life.

YVONNE: So I'm still following my dream.

"Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders."

-Frederick Buechner

"Armed with high-tech information tools, small businesses are seizing the edge from bigger companies."    -Business Week

"Life is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything it calls for confidence in oneself."  Virginia Woolf

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