A Rooted Passion

In 2019, after a 27-year hiatus, I set a goal for myself – to get back into the modeling industry. Fueled by the rise of more mature-aged models showing up in mainstream ad campaigns and on major fashion runways, I started plotting my course. After a year of introspection, lots of meditation, some really dark days, and gradually, finally, listening to my authentic self, the pieces fell into place and I signed a modeling contract in March of 2020, at age 45. 

Passion is a funny thing. I believe it’s always inside us. From the moment we are born, we have an innate desire to do the thing that lights us up, that makes us feel like we’re doing what we were created to do.

But understanding passion’s direction, and hearing its message, can be tricky business. Sometimes, it takes years to dig out. Other times, our passions take us by the hand and give us no choice but to follow.

That’s what happened with Emily Vollmar, a Holstein, Iowa, native who made the decision to start her own retail clothing store in 2016, Rooted Boutique. The name Rooted comes from two places: her strong ties to the local Holstein community, and to her ongoing process of self-discovery. 

It was during that process of self-discovery that Emily realized her own personal fulfillment came from helping women find their own roots through self-confidence and inner happiness expressed through fashion. That’s what fuels her ongoing commitment to her store and to her clients. 

“Rooted is about relationships,” reiterated Emily as we chatted in her chic-yet-cozy retail store, located at the corner of S Main St. and Elm in Holstein. She has many stories about personal connections she’s developed with clients across the Midwest. They return to her store time and time again for style advice, to pick out clothing for special occasions, or when they need a boost of retail therapy. 

 “I saw a bunch of my friends, educated women, who were moving back to more rural areas like Holstein, and realized they needed a place to shop. Many were ordering clothes from services like Stitch Fix and keeping whatever they got, not because they loved the pieces, but because they just needed clothes! I thought we needed to fix that,” said Emily.

At first, Emily sold clothes out of the attic of her home. Then she moved her business to a refurbished mobile snowmobile trailer that she could take anywhere. Now her business has moved to a permanent storefront. Emily said the business unfolded at its own pace – whether or not she was ready for it. 

“The momentum of this business really pulled me along faster than I planned,” she said. Although she thought she’d wait till her youngest daughter was in kindergarten before diving in full-time, Emily said her store was filling a need that had been lacking. The path continued to unveil itself as Emily figured out how to fund her newly created business.

Starting with one interest-free credit card and a limit of $10,000, Emily started building up her inventory. A small business loan from a local bank ensured she’d be able to put down a stable foundation for a long-term investment. 

“In the beginning, every time I made a payment on my small business loan, I felt relief. Like I would be OK. I had to learn it’s good to accept help from people. You really can’t be too proud to let others help you,” shared Emily.

Emily stated that each time she learned something new, she felt empowered. “The first time I went to the STYLEMAX market in Chicago, I had no idea what I was doing!” But she knew this was where she was meant to be. It was her passion! She had no doubt it would work. 

Now, 4 years later, Rooted Boutique continues to grow and evolve. 

Partnering with Galva jewelry designer, Rae Soellner, Emily is able to offer unique stone earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets to her clients. “Rae sources stones directly from craftspeople in Brazil, where she regularly visits, and is able to make just about any piece a client might want,” said Emily.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily is trying new ways of doing business to continue to give her customers the service they’ve come to rely on from her. 

“During Mother’s Day weekend, we sold style boxes for the first time. We talked to clients to find out what they needed, what colors they liked, and then we would put together five looks, package them up, and either deliver the boxes or provide curbside pick-up service,” said Emily. The idea was a huge hit, and something she’s considered doing again.  

For the 2020 holiday shopping season, Emily took part in a pop-up store campaign in downtown Sioux City. She experimented with a storefront in a community outside of Holstein, where she enjoyed meeting a whole new batch of customers, sure to become future Rooted fans.

“The best compliment I’ve received came from a client. She told me, ‘shopping at Rooted is like going to my best friend’s house and shopping in her closet.’ I need to figure out how to turn that into a tagline,” said Emily. 

By, Erika Hanson, a professional model, influencer, and lifelong lover of fashion. She combines her passion for trend spotting with her desire to support women in their own personal style journeys.

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