January 7, 2016 • #GirlBoss, GOOD WORKS

#GirlBoss: Reese at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management

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Imogen Roberts, President, Women’s Business Association at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, in our Clementine Embellished Short Sleeve Collared Shirt and Collection Embellished Skirt. Reese in our Henrietta Bow Tie Top and Francis Solid Fluted Skirt. M. Eric Johnson, Ralph Owen Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. (Photo by Faith-Ann Young)

Reese’s Nashville homecoming this fall ran the gamut. In two days’ time, not only did she cut the proverbial ribbon on our flagship Draper James boutique (complete with a store opening party for 600) and launch our charity partnership with Girls Inc., but she also stopped by Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management for a Q&A with a group of the university’s executives in training.

Reese kicked off the session with the backstory behind Draper James: While doing a film in Atlanta several years ago, she was taken with the “cultural boom,” both there and throughout the South. Yet while there was so much happening in food, music, and art, Reese noticed there was nothing much with a uniquely Southern spin in the areas of fashion and retail.

After her husband Jim Toth dismissed Reese’s idea of a Southern lifestyle blog that would eventually “sell things,” Reese was convinced it would be smarter to cut to the chase. “The beginning of the dream,” she said, was her growing passion for launching an independent retail venture that would represent the unique home life and fashion of the American South.

Committed to having full control over a brand that she hoped would “become a family heirloom,” Reese shared how she eschewed the licensing route and chose to go it alone alongside her team. She talked about earning a real-time MBA over the past two years—from learning how to build a team to the importance of establishing company values from day one. She also emphasized how important it is to her to give back through her business, whether by supporting Southern artisans who craft Draper James merchandise or through the company’s charity partnership with Girls Inc.

“Look the part,” she advised MBA students in the audience who inquired about her advice for coming across well in a job interview. “That’s actually one of the tenets of Draper James. My grandmother always said, ‘you can pull yourself together and present your best self to the world.'”