Caspian Group had the honor of meeting with local business, Les Sol, a women-owned, sustainable forward boutique located in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis*.
Caspian Group: Tell me about yourself and how Les Sol became the Uptown chic boutique it is today?
Mikaela: The idea first came from my sister, Megan Harrod, who co-founded Les Sol with me. Megan has been working in Marketing for 15+ years and throughout her experience has had the opportunity to travel all over the world. While Megan was living and working in Prague, she had the opportunity to work for a smaller boutique business and loved it.
Mikaela shares similar passions with her sister as she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Apparel Design. While studying fashion in college, Mikaela took part in London’s study abroad fashion program, marrying her passions of travel and fashion. Post-graduation, you could find Mikaela working multiple retail jobs and her most recent stint, as the Marketing and Brand Manager at a local boutique. The idea of opening their own boutique had come up in conversation with the sisters, but it wasn’t until Mikaela was encouraged by a close friend to open up a store that things got serious.
Mikaela called her sister Megan, who currently lives in Park City, Utah where she manages PR + Digital Marketing for the US Alpine Ski team and ran the idea by her. Megan and Mikaela, sharing similar passions for travel and fashion, quickly came to the conclusion that they should give it a go. Les Sol was officially born!
CG: What inspired the name ‘Les Sol’?
Mikaela: There are multiple origins of ‘Les Sol’, drawing inspiration from the French, Spanish and Polish iterations of the word. All meanings translating to elements of the earth, from salt, sun, and ground. One could infer the elements elicit a Cali/surfer vibe. We were also inspired from our global travels and the various cultures we’ve experienced. Les Sol marries the elements and cultures together from these experiences.
CG: When did you and Megan begin bringing the Les Sol boutique idea to fruition.
Mikaela: We started planning in late 2018 and learned A LOT of what it means to be a business owner during that time. I’ve always approached new endeavors with a ‘we’ll figure it out’ mindset, but there were some instances where certain steps needed to be taken before we could move forward.
CG: What did you quickly learn in your path to becoming business owners?
Mikaela: Well for one, that we need to put in more equity than initially thought before the bank will sign off on a loan for the business. We were blessed with an unexpected check that ended up funding our business and allowed us to move forward. We found a location in the Linden Hills neighborhood and had plans to open our store front in April of 2020. We all know how that went…
CG: You are first time business owners amid the COVID-19 pandemic. How did your business strategy pivot?
Mikaela: We were unable to open our store front location, so we shifted to a solely online business. I was sewing masks out of my apartment and selling them online and we were actually doing quite well. After a few months of the business being online only, we finally opened the store front in September of 2020.
CG: What was that like?
Mikaela: Liberating, the shop was officially opened! We participated in a few local pop-ups with other vendors to continue to get our name out there, but despite having our store located in an established, highly trafficked neighborhood, we were not experiencing the foot traffic we thought we would. Our store was on the side of a building, making the location difficult to notice, let alone un-findable on Google Maps.
CG: How did this impact the business?
Mikaela: Less foot traffic means less sales, and on top of it, the cost of renting our store location was increasing. This was not ideal and we knew we couldn’t maintain our business in these conditions. Luckily, we had amazing support from our landlord and simultaneously, through these challenging times, we came across an opportunity to move our store location to Uptown, where the rates were more within our preferred range. There were a handful of other retailers in the new Uptown location, apparel businesses and beyond, that were experiencing success, which only solidified our decision to make the move.
CG: What was the time frame to move locations from Linden Hills to your current Uptown location?
Mikaela: After ironing out all of the details, we signed for our Uptown location near the end of June 2022 and had plans to open in the new Uptown location one week later… We did it, but it was non-stop work that entire week. I remember my conversation with the electrician when he asked when the anticipated open date was and I said “in one week”. He looked at me like I was crazy, but we made it happen, thanks to the great support from friends and family. A special shout out to our family friend that just so happens to be a muralist. She painted the design on our interior store wall and designed the exterior signage, a true talent.
CG: Okay, so the store is re-opened, let’s talk more about the fun stuff, actually running the store and sourcing the products! How do you go about finding the variety of clothing and accessories that you carry at Les Sol?
Mikeala: We partner with brands that are sustainable, ethical, and pay their workers livable wages among other things. These tend to be smaller/indie brands and a handful of women owned businesses too. A few of our current brands include: Acacia – an eco-friendly swimwear company, Dazey LA – an art apparel, sustainable forward company based out of LA, Romi Apothecary – a local Minneapolis apothecary creating “sustainably cultivated in the Great Lakes bioregion” skin care products. I’m a big fan of her sunrise oil and elderflower toner, they are AMAZING. We also draw inspiration from tradeshows we’ve attended in the past in cities such as New York and Las Vegas.
CG: We noticed you have a pretty epic social media platform. A little bird told us you are the creator behind your TikTok channel and a few of your videos have gone viral. Tell us more!
Mikeala: (modestly laughs ?) Ah yes, Megan does all things Instagram because that is her forte and that leaves me with TikTok. You have to be extremely dedicated when it comes to posting content on TikTok. I post 2-3 times per day. The content itself is my personal twist on whatever is trending, and there is always something trending on TikTok. My Gen Z cousin provides a decent amount of direction too. I’m thankful for her expertise in the space!
CG: Speaking of Megan, tell us about your working dynamic with her based out of Park City, Utah.
Mikeala: Yes, Megan lives in Park City where she works full time as the Communications Manager for the US Alpine Ski team and at night or whenever she finds free time, as the voice behind Les Sol’s Instagram account. We both wear many hats and stay in close contact daily! One day we hope to have a location in Park City that allows Megan to be closer to the business.
CG: ooh exciting! We look forward to that news in the future!
CG: As we close, we’d love to run through some rapid-fire questions with you.
CG: What is a favorite product of yours at Les Sol right now?
Mikeala: Romi Apothecary! I mentioned this earlier, but I am loving their Sunrise Oil and Elderflower toner, highly recommend!
CG: Any upcoming brands that the shop will be featuring that you’re excited about?
CG: Any closing thoughts or exciting news to share?
Mikeala: Yes! Join us for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to enjoy specials at our shop and neighboring businesses.
You can find Les Sol at their new Uptown address: 1614 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408, on social @shoplessol or online at https://shoplessol.com/
*Caspian Group’s agent, Angie N. Frandrup, was influential in locating Les Sol’s new store front in the Uptown neighborhood as the Landlord rep.