Fresh, clean, sleek, fun, contemporary, and trendy – these are the words that define the brand Silk N Honey, downtown Memphis’ delightful fashion boutique. Owner Tessa Blakney carefully cultivates a welcoming atmosphere to accompany her beautiful clothing lines and accessories.
“My goal is for customers to feel more confident walking out of my store than when they walked in,” she says. With a long-standing passion for putting together outfits that please and empower the wearer, Tessa knew that fashion was her calling from a young age. Opening her own brick-and-mortar boutique is the realization of her dreams. Meet our newest FACE of Memphis, the charming and stylish Tessa Blakney!
Tell us a little about your career trajectory – what was your first job, and what did you learn from it? Where did you go from there?
I’ve always worked in retail. I was working at Kohl’s when I decided I wanted to open my own business. I already knew I didn’t want to work for someone else for the rest of my life, and that knowledge motivated me to learn as much as I could.
What I learned from Kohl’s was very important – how to interact with customers and how to merchandise, for example. I paid close attention to how they kept customers coming into the store. I learned a lot about marketing, too.
Of course, what I really wanted was to open a storefront, but that wasn’t ideal for me at the time since I was also earning my degree from Northwest Community College. I started Silk N Honey as an online business. I was working part-time at Kohl’s and running my business when the pandemic began.
You ended up opening a storefront during the pandemic in 2022. How did that come about?
The shutdown gave me time to focus on my business, and I realized, hey, I can really do this! When I focused 100% on Silk N Honey, I was making more money than at my part-time job. I decided to make it my full-time job, and I never went back to Kohl’s. Life doesn’t stop for anything, and I wasn’t going to let the pandemic stop me from doing what I wanted to do!
How did you come up with the name Silk N Honey?
My boyfriend and I came up with the name. We wrote down a bunch of adjectives and nouns — just random words — and started putting them together to see what we could come up with. I saw the words “silk” and “honey” spread out in front of me, and I thought it was catchy. My boyfriend agreed, and that became the name. I wanted something fun and fresh that people would remember easily.
What drew you to entrepreneurship?
Freedom! The freedom of not having to ask anyone else for time off; I can come and go as I please. And the freedom to do whatever I want. I wanted to be different, be in charge of my own life, and be in control of my own business.
What drew you to fashion?
Even as a little girl growing up in Mississippi, I loved fashion. Cowboy boots were a big thing in my hometown of Hattiesburg, and my mom had a pair. I would dress up in those boots and walk around the house like I was on a runway.
As I got older, in middle school and high school, my friends loved my outfits and the way I used color. They would ask me for advice about what to wear. I had an eye for fashion, and it has always been my dream and inspiration.
What do you love most about it?
I love to see an outfit come together. When my customers come in for an outfit, I love talking with them to find out their style. Are you a fan of colors, or do you prefer neutrals? What type of event are you attending? I love when they leave the store feeling more confident than when they walk in.
What have been your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?
I would definitely say marketing. I wish I’d focused more on marketing when I started or taken a class. Same with finance. Managing money has been a big challenge.
I figured out some of it along the way, and I did take some classes. I’ve also hired help for marketing and social media and an accountant. Another help was a book called Profit First. It’s an excellent book on finance. It breaks things down in a way that is easy for someone who is just starting out to understand.
What is your favorite part about owning your own business?
Buying the clothes, helping my customers, and photoshoots. Photoshoots are very therapeutic for me, especially editing — seeing the before and after. I do all of the photography.
How would you describe your own style?
Right now, I’d say basic and comfortable, using neutral colors. You can style pieces in so many different ways if you are working with neutrals.
This summer, I’m going to play a bit more with colors, which are trending for the warmer months. Bright colors are coming back!
What is one accessory or item of clothing you feel all women should have in their closets?
A good pair of jeans. You can throw them on with anything and just go. But you can also style them with heels or boots and a dressy top. Everyone loves the jeans at Silk N Honey.
What is your best piece of advice?
Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t let people discourage you. Stay on the path that is right for you. Don’t let someone steer you in a different direction because at the end of the day, it’s your life, and you have to live it.
Other than friends, family, and faith, what are three things you can’t live without?
Macaroni and cheese, my cell phone, and my animals (two cats and two dogs; I love my fur babies!).
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