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."
"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