Planeta Venus spoke with Scott, the owner of Boutique 5, a small business shop on East Douglas that specializes in custom stationery products sourced from minority creatives and entrepreneurs.
Wichita Kansas.- February 5, 2023
By Stefania Lugli
Brick-and-mortar shop Boutique 5 bloomed from pen and paper — first in inspiration, then in commodification. The shop’s owner, Alexus Scott, is a businesswoman who prioritizes diverse talent. Her store sells stationery items (and other petite gifts) spun from local minds while also hosting an independent academy for students of creative design, literacy, and entrepreneurship — demonstrating how Scott is in the business of radical accessibility, too.
Planeta Venus interviewed Scott on how her passion for all things written resulted in Boutique 5, and how she uses her entrepreneurship to uplift minority creatives in Wichita. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose to venture into stationery?
Two reasons. One of them being it was actually a form of therapy for me. When I was growing up —like most adolescents— I was going through that little stage of hating life and hating everyone around me. Stationery was an outlet for me. I would write notes all the time. Journal all the time. That’s when I realized I have a love for this craft. It’s not just a pastime, it became a necessity.
So I started doodling my own designs when people show interest in it, and I was like ‘oh, wait a minute, this could be something serious.’ It was also a moment where I prayed about it. I asked The Lord: ‘is this something that you want me to do?’ A lot of times as entrepreneurs, the things we feel called to — there’s a reason for it. One of the things that He showed me was that there are creators who need a safe place where their art can be received without being ridiculed. I became that space.
How did the brick-and-mortar Boutique 5 come to life?
I always knew that I would still have an online presence. It’s been truly helpful because I’m still able to connect with all of our audiences that are across the country, while having the brick-and-mortar location to connect with local, minority artists. That’s something I knew I always wanted to do. This physical location connects us with folks who don’t necessarily want to take on overhead costs and allow them to share their products and things to the exposure they desire to.
How do you vet for what vendors or products to incorporate into your business, especially as a businesswoman prioritizing minority entrepreneurship?
This one has been very difficult. I actually have had several folks not necessarily representing minority backgrounds who claimed they were. It’s one of those kinds of things where it’s difficult, because I never want to exclude anyone — it’s kind of the opposite of what it is that we’re trying to do. I just let them know who our audiences are and that makes a difference.
A lot of people will try to cloak themselves as being a minority artist: women-owned, black-owned, brown-owned, even male-owned, because males in (the) stationery (industry) are actually very small in number. You’d be surprised. There’s not many designers that design for (men), quite frankly.
Our audience typically buys from us because they desire to know the story behind the artists. That’s how we’re successful.
And if a creator isn’t the right fit?
I let them know, ‘hey, this may not be the place for you” and that’s okay. I have some really great relationships with other stores that are like mine. They just serve different creators,’ and I’ll send them their way. I don’t mind that. But I definitely make it very clear upfront: here’s who we serve.
One of your popular artists is Paris Jane Creates, who customizes products by drawing customers onto their own stationery. How does she encapsulate the mission of your business?
Her designs are phenomenal. She’s making these one-of-a-kind gifts you truly wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. I get so excited talking about her because it’s so dope.
Paris drew a couple for a design and asked them if they would be okay using their image as stock art. It was an Asian male and a Hispanic woman. The day that (our boutique) posted it, we had several other couples come in looking for that exact card. It was magical because it was one of those moments where… (these couples) can’t go to Target. They can’t go to Hallmark, or Dollar Tree, to find a card that resembles their relationship like that. It was monumental. It resonated with so many people. Paris was overjoyed.
It reminded our staff that this is why we do what we do. So many people have never had that moment before where they felt as though a product was designed for them.
Note: Paris has limited spots for customized Valentine’s Day greeting cards, according to her Instagram account. You can order now at theparisjane.com or by visiting The Boutique 5 in downtown Wichita.
You created Grace Creators Academy, an educational extension of Boutique 5 that takes creatives and molds their ideas into reality. How did that happen? What courses do you offer?
I’ve had a lot of people who have creative ability but they’re not quite sure on what to do about it. So, I created three different components (of the academy) that focus on what developments a creator is pursuing.
There’s the art and design factor for those here in Wichita that want to create but don’t necessarily want to have an entire business. They don’t want to have an Etsy page. But they have a desire to make things. I get them connected with local businesses and folks who request custom stationery. I reach out to my artists and ask if anyone wants to work on a certain project, giving them the opportunity to tend to their creative abilities without making a lifelong commitment.
Our next component is literacy and education. I’m an author and have realized through my process of writing and publishing that there are a lot of people who have a lot to say but may not know how to write or how to publish. So, we educate folks on how to do so.
Finally, there’s our entrepreneurship and business courses. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I went from being a financial aid advisor to this. We have been very blessed to have a lot of recognition for the way we do business and the plans and desires we have. I know I’m not the only one that has an interest in this. At Grace Creators Academy, we build a framework for people and show them how we did it, especially for those that come in saying they don’t necessarily have the tools or capital to move forward with their ideas.
I get transparent. I tell them how I started this: through an avenue of pain, an avenue of depression and pencil and paper. At Grace Creators Academy we get all these different types of creators together and develop their skills. Some might take these courses and make a business. That’s fine, but they don’t have to! You still have the option to be creative in your own right and own nature without commodifying it.
You can shop Boutique 5 online or learn more about Grace Creators courses at www.theboutique5.com or by visiting their shop in-person at 612 E. Douglas Avenue, Suite 200, Wichita KS 67202.