Laura Lanier is a SPIA alumna (AB ’00) who owns and operates two boutiques in Statesboro, Georgia. The UGA Alumni Association recognized her boutiques, Dish and Sole, as part of the 2020 Bulldog 100, celebrating the top 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni each year.

Tell me a little about your story. How did you end up starting your boutiques?

Growing up, I was drawn to the idea of working on a political campaign, and I never imagined I would work in any sector other than politics or government. I graduated from UGA in 2000 with a degree in political science and spent the next three years working as campaign manager for Congressman Charlie Norwood. I transitioned to state government in 2005. I was working for Governor Sonny Perdue as Director of Executive Board Appointments when marriage to my husband Joe necessitated a move from Atlanta to Statesboro. I continued commuting to my job at the Capitol but knew that I would have to make a career change in the long run. I always had an interest in fashion, and in 2007 Statesboro only had a few boutiques and none catered directly to the college market. I saw an opportunity and – thanks to a very supportive husband and family – and bought an existing store that was preparing to close. I rebranded that store, and I opened additional boutiques in Statesboro in 2010 and 2014. Currently I operate two boutiques in Statesboro, Sole and Dish. I’ve continued working on political campaigns over the years, but the two stores are my main focus.

What has been the most surprising part of owning your own business? 

How much I enjoy it, even after twelve years. I still enjoy working the floor at the stores. I still get a thrill out of unpacking new inventory, and I still really love helping customers pick out something that makes them feel amazing. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details (and there are LOTS of details), but at the end of the day this is a really fun job.

How did your time at UGA prepare you for what you’re doing now? 

My time studying political science at UGA gave me a foundation in data analysis that is incredibly useful as a business owner. In addition, all of my courses (not just those in political science) were crucial to the development of my critical thinking and writing skills.

What are some of the values that have made you successful or that you prioritize as a company? 

First, hard work. There is no substitute. Do the work, put in the time, and don’t give up. Second, an open mind and a willingness to make changes. Over the years I have reworked everything from store design to inventory focus to logos in order to keep things feeling fresh. Retail definitely isn’t easy; consumer attitudes and behaviors change quickly. The ability to adapt is crucial. 

Do you have any advice for future Bulldog entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurs come in all different stripes. There is no magic personality or skill formula that will guarantee success. Some entrepreneurs are visionaries – I am not. My strength lies in planning and execution. It takes big ideas AND hard work to bring a business concept to fruition. Don’t get discouraged because you think you don’t have what it takes. Hard work and a strong will to succeed will take you far. Most of all, don’t be afraid to go in a different direction than what you originally planned for yourself. There are opportunities all around us, if we are open to them. My career went in a direction I never imagined!