Hustle and Heart: An Interview with Lori Lickliter from Leigh Nants
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Lori Lickliter from Milan, Tennessee. Lori and I were introduced a few years ago, and I admire her for her creativity, sweet spirit, fashion sense, and so much more! After she participated in our City Farmhouse Pop-Up Fair a few weeks ago, I asked Lori if I could interview her because she has so much to share. She has so much hustle and heart, and I knew her story would inspire so many of y'all.
Stephanie: Did you always know you wanted to be involved with fashion?
Lori: Yes. From very early on, I loved all things fashion. My sister and I actually started a tie-dye t-shirt business when I was in the 3rd grade. That same year, I also started making splatter painted hair bows and shoes for some of my teacher’s children. In 6th grade, I remember turning a pair of blue jeans into a maxi skirt by adding a piece of fun fabric in the middle. One time I made my mom go all over Memphis looking for a pair of shoes that actually didn’t exist. I had only seen them in my mind.
Stephanie: What was your first job?
Lori: When I was 14, I worked as a gymnastics instructor at the Milan YMCA.
Stephanie: What was your first job in fashion?
Lori: Besides the jobs I created as a child selling to neighbors and teachers, It would be right after college when I worked at the Children’s Place. I had worked several local gift shops and I wanted to see how the corporate fashion world did things. I also had a child at this time so the discounts came in handy.
Stephanie: Tell me about how you started Leigh Nants? What’s the history behind it, when did you start it, how did it gets the name? (For those that aren't local, Leigh Nants was a retail clothing store that has now morphed into Pop-Up Shows).
Lori: A dream that began in childhood between my sister and me, followed us to our grandmother’s coffee table discussions as adults. As we were sitting around the table, one of us said, “Let’s just do it, let’s open a store!” I was already hand making my own jewelry and had a rather faithful following. This was the fuel for our fire of an idea. So we researched all that was needed to start our own business, such as: business license, tax id numbers, market requirements, etc. Once all these preliminaries were in place, we headed off to our first market to place clothing orders. The funny part is, we didn’t even have our store location at this point. That was in October of 2009 and it was February 2010 before we leased our storefront building. We opened our doors the next month in March 2010. The name Leigh Nants comes from both mine and my sister’s middle names. She is Kristi Leigh and I am Lori Nants.
Stephanie: You no longer have your retail store-can you share any lessons to my readers on things you learned with your retail store?
Lori: Oh gosh! That’s a loaded question that may take years to answer. I have learned SO much. I guess I can just sum it up with this: Don’t base the future of your business off of your first year. The first year of business is your grace year. This is when you can kind of wing it, but after that you must operate from clearly defined goals, roles and have a good accountant.
Stephanie: Tell me about Pink Egg and your apparel line?
Lori: Pink Egg was my clothing line that I designed from the ground up. It started with an idea, then a drawing on a piece of paper, then a computer drawing and finally it turned it into an actual product. This passion for design was actually born before the retail store was a thing. This is currently all in my garage and on hold lol. Basically, I just ran out of money and had to table this business. I learned that in order to really design your own clothing line, you need A LOT of start-up capital. However, I am not sad this is the state of Pink Egg. I actually am very thankful. Things have a way of leading you to find a better path. When I laid this down, I shifted to a very fulfilled place.
Stephanie: Let’s chat about Business Boutique. You and I “officially” met at the conference during a break. You had Leigh Nants as part of the “Boutique” at the entrance to that conference. Were you able to sit in on any of the conference and listen to any of the speakers? If so, any key takeaways you had?
Lori: Funny how small the world really is and that a Nashville conference is where we first met. Our meeting each other was probably, for me, the greatest take away from that event. Honestly, that was a very stressful time in my business. During this time, I was faced with a lot of mixed emotions and decisions about the future of my business. I was able to sit in on a few of the conferences and every speaker had valuable truths for any business owner. For me though, I was very confused and barely hanging on. I have shared in detail more about this in my book.
Stephanie: Yes....your book. Rumor has it that you have written a book...can you share any details about the book with us?
Lori: Haha! Yes that is true, I have written a book. I had a hard time in college just writing papers. My husband would often help me, so I find it somewhat funny that I have written a book. God does have a sense of humor. What’s it about? I do share more in depth details from the full Leigh Nants story, but it is basically revealing my journey of really surrendering to God. The tentative title is From Striving to Surrender. I get raw and real. I have spent most of my career trying to meet the marks of life and trying to please God, but I have come to realize that we often continue on this Christian walk not understanding who we were created to be. My book is really about Identity and coming into an understanding of who we were created to be.
Stephanie: That sounds amazing. When can we expect to get our hands on it?
Lori: I am in the process of reaching out to publishers right now, so I am not real sure about a timeline just yet.
Stephanie: What is something that would be surprising for people to learn about you?
Lori: I am terrified of wasps, bees, etc. I act a fool if I see one close by!
Stephanie: What’s the best place you’ve gotten to travel for work?
Lori: LA! Hands down! I love California. I think I could almost move there!
Stephanie: Did anyone give you advice that still sticks with you?
Lori: Yes, My mom has always told me a quote that I try to live by daily, “Start out the way you intend to finish”
Stephanie: If you weren’t in fashion, what would you be doing?
Lori: 2o years ago, I would have probably answered something in the medical field, but today I would probably say doing hair or in church ministry.
Stephanie: What’s one thing you can’t live without (besides your family)?
Lori: Jesus. I know this is a very southern cliche answer, but the older I get, the more I realize I honestly can’t live without Him. A few days without talking to Him and I just don’t feel myself. Oh, and also coffee!
Stephanie: How do you balance being a wife, mom, and working?
Lori: A lot of coffee and prayer. In all seriousness, I could write a book in itself about this. I might be more passionate about the family unit and the home than I am about fashion. Time is a great teacher and I have learned a lot in my 19 years of marriage. First things first, I really try to keep the right order. God first, then my husband, then my children, then work. It is very easy to put children or work before our spouses, but I have learned this only causes disconnect in marriage which brings insecurity to the kids. Second, I try to be really present with whatever relationship has my attention at the moment. Thirdly, I say a lot of no’s so that I can say yes to the important things. Fourthly, I don’t cook elaborately, but rather easy meals and I give my kids age appropriate responsibilities to help out in the home. (for example, my 9 year old does his own laundry)
Stephanie: What advice would you have for someone that wants to pursue his/her passions?
Lori: Go for it! Don’t give a place to fear, but do your research and surround yourself with people that believe in you and are more experienced than you.
Stephanie: What’s one thing they absolutely must do?