Minding My Business: From Desperation to Delight
After hard times hit, Malaika Falla started her own boutique.
Success sometimes springs from disaster. Sometimes a leap of faith pays off.
Such is the case with Malaika Falla, owner of Oh La La, one of Burnsville's few independent retailers.
It's been a long road for Falla. Born of a French father and a mother from the west coast of Africa, Falla came to the U.S. seeking a top-notch education and entry into the business world.
Falla found what she sought. For 16 years, her job as a human resources and customer service consultant took her around the U.S. and to exotic locales all over the world. Then in 2008, with the fall of the U.S. economy, Falla found herself without a job. The future looked grim.
"I was desperate," Falla said.
It was during these dark times, as other local shops were cutting back or closing up for good, Falla found inspiration for her boutique. Though she had only a small amount of money, Falla asked her heroine, Mother Teresa, for a blessing and got to work.
She insisted on a location next to a coffee shop, which offered both high visibility and a ready source of walk-in customers. At last she found a good location in the strip mall at the intersection of Cliff Road and Highway 13 East, right next to a Caribou Coffee.
Oh La La opened in 2009. Inside, you will find no hint of economic gloom. Falla has given the bare space a European flair and plenty of flash. The store is packed to the gills with vibrant, glittering merchandise—rose brooches encrusted in ruby rhinestones, fluffy pink tutus, feathered bags and heaps of silver and gold jewelry.
"When you enter the boutique, you enter a different world," Falla said. "But it's a lot more work than you would ever know."
Over time, her business plan has changed. At first, Falla conceived it as a boutique and consignment store. She still consigns designer items—real Coach or Prada bags and jewelry—but soon found that straight retail was her strength. In the next few months, she hopes to debut a vintage collection made up of items she collects through her travels, from small-town flea markets to major ports.
"I enjoy it, though I enjoyed my old job too," Falla said. "But I can't change the course of time. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."