Dress for Less 

Students run discount boutique inside middle school.

For those who would like to flaunt clothing by Ralph Lauren, bebe, or Michael Kors but can't foot the bill, the teens who run 2Unique Boutique have you covered.

Located in Room 103 of Lanier Middle School in Whitehaven, 2Unique Boutique is selling name-brand apparel for less than $25 per garment. The boutique is operated by students 14 to 18 years old.

The brainchild of Memphian Roshunda Buchanan, the clothing store is designed to provide youth with the chance to develop retail job skills and avoid getting into trouble. Employment at the store is open to students from any middle or high school in the Shelby County Schools system.

"I wanted to create a program where kids could be hands-on," said Buchanan, founder of 2Unique Community Salvation Foundation. "I wanted them to learn how to operate their own store as an entrepreneurship venture. Teenagers can get work-ethic experience, because by the time they reach 16 years old, they're going to be seeking jobs."

Students learn marketing, inventory, and business management skills as they fill the roles of store inventory clerk, marketing specialist, cashier, and website administrator.

2Unique Boutique features donated, mostly name-brand clothing at discount prices. But Buchanan said the boutique differs from other thrift shops, because the clothing has been refurbished back to its original state.

"People like to give away things they don't use anymore or that may not look good to them, so we will take their clothing, clean it, press it back to its former state, and make it look brand-new," Buchanan said.

Although the boutique is already open to the public, an official launch will take place around Thanksgiving. The store features clothing for kids and adults, as well as purses, books, toys, and shoes.

Seventeen-year-old Lyric Edwards works the cash register and steams and hangs up clothes in the boutique. She was also instrumental in building the boutique's website.

Edwards said the program has been beneficial for her, and she thinks other kids who participate can benefit as well.

"It'll help them become enriched in helping customers," said Edwards, a student at Central High School. "It will give them some guidance for the real world in the future. I just think it's a great [program] for young people to use."

Participating with 2Unique Community Salvation Foundation helped Edwards discover her interest in communications, which she plans to major in when she gets to college. The foundation also helped Edwards secure an internship with The Teen Appeal, a citywide high school newspaper produced by students of Shelby County Schools.

The only potential downside to working at 2Unique Boutique is that students aren't financially compensated for their labor. But Buchanan said they can use the experience for resume building, securing internships, and community service credit.

Buchanan said she hopes to generate enough funds from the boutique's sales to provide future volunteers with scholarships.

"[I want] to be able to pay kids stipends for working in the boutique," Buchanan said. "Right now, we just have to do it on a volunteer basis, because I don't have the funding to pay individuals to come in and work, but it would be nice if we could make it a paid internship."

The boutique is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. For information on how to visit or donate to 2Unique Boutique, go to 2uboutique.com.

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