This month in our retailer blog series, we're featuring the Minneapolis shop Les Sól - a proudly female-owned and operated lifestyle boutique for sustainable, ethical women's clothes and accessories. Their goal is to curate an eclectic, endless summer vibe made possible by independent artists, designers, and small brands. It's funky and colorful. It's classic and refined. In the process of creating and opening Les Sól, co-owners (and sisters) Megan and Mikaela Harrod have managed to meld different parts of the fashion world together to create a trendy, stylish space. In our interview with Megan, we asked her to tell us a little bit about what drives and inspires her, future goals for the business, and what it's like to open a retail store during a global pandemic. Spoiler- they're still crushing it.
Did you grow up thinking you wanted to own a retail store with your sister? What brought you two to this current life/place/business venture?
My sister, Mikaela, is 12 years younger than me. I remember being so psyched when she was born, because I had always wanted a sister (we have a brother, Zach, who is three years older than me), and - in a way - I was like a second mother to her. We were always very close, and it was a special relationship. Mikaela started sketching at a very young age...I remember she'd sketch clothing designs when she was only seven. Our brother, who is an American football coach and Christian missionary in Prague, was also very artistically talented and a visual artist...he was always drawing and creating. My sister got that from him. I myself was not so visually artistic, but I loved writing and storytelling, and communication was my art. I went to school at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and created my major: Gender and Media in Contemporary Sport. Entrepreneurially driven to the core...I always wanted to own something of my own - whether it was a boutique, coffee shop, hostel...the list goes on. My sister went to school for fashion design, and we always had a dream to open a boutique together. I currently manage all of the PR and media for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, but my sister was in a job crossroads last year after having worked at another Minneapolis boutique... trying to figure out what she wanted to do. Our dear grandmother unexpectedly passed away in October of 2019, and she left us a small amount of money, so my sister and I started to talk about using that and creating something together. That's when the notion of Les Sól was born. We wouldn't have been able to do it without our grandmother, family, and each other...as well as all of our friends who supported us and helped us tirelessly to open our doors, including our mentors Greg Heinemann and Pierce McNally.
What motivates you to run a small business like Les Sól? What’s the most satisfying part about running it?
We absolutely adore the notion of slow fashion - sustainability is important to us, and it's so fulfilling to work with so many small brands and makers and amplify the message of small businesses. That, and the connection with our customers, is what drives us. We love working with women of all shapes and sizes, and helping them to feel empowered and beautiful, inside and out. We're all about babes supporting babes!
What has been the hardest part about running your business during this past year?
Well, the hardest part is what has affected everyone: COVID. We were supposed to open our doors In April, but we had to pivot and open online first, in July. Then our brick-and-mortar location came later...in September. In a weird way, it was a blessing in disguise...because it forced us to be thrifty and creative, and to dial in our e-commerce strategy before opening our physical store. It made it that much sweeter when we were finally able to open our doors and reconnect, in a safe environment, with our community!
What’s your vision for Les Sól? How do you see it evolving over the next three years? Any particular goals you're aspiring to reach?
We are constantly talking about how to be and do better for our community. A big goal of ours in year two is to work with more BIPOC-owned brands. Also, one thing our neighborhood is currently missing is a dedicated coffee shop, so we'd love to create a coffee corner in the shop in the future. Eve Martin, our amazing GM, used to work at her father's coffee shop and she's super knowledgeable in that realm. Plus, I'm a passionate espresso drinker and lover of small, indie coffee shops - and have always wanted to open one! Beyond that, it's our dream to have more private label offerings in the store...Mikaela creates beautiful designs/clothing, but right now she's so consumed with running the physical location that there's not much time for designing. Someday! And, last but not least, we'd love to expand into another market - likely Park City, Utah, where I currently reside.
Do you have any advice for other creatives/visionaries who are wanting to take a leap into owning their own business/shop?
Absolutely...I'd just say that it is extremely challenging and scary, but the most fulfilling thing we've done in our professional careers. It's scary to take the leap anytime, but was even more scary to open during a global pandemic...but it has been so, so worth it. We are humbled by the support of our community and are honored to work with all of the incredible artists and small businesses that we are able to work with day in and day out.
What’s a typical day look like for you two in Minneapolis?
As I mentioned, I manage PR and media for the U.S. Ski Team, so I manage all marketing, strategy, and PR/media for Les Sól from afar. Mikaela and I talk every day, twice daily, and Mikaela and Eve split time in the shop. Their passion is working with customers, so for them it's a lot of ideating, merchandising, buying, dreaming up new TikTok ideas (thanks to Eve), and various other elements. My sis and I kind of go 24/7, which is tiring, but we love it. We also started doing Instagram Lives this summer prior to opening our brick-and-mortar, where we talk about new products, etc...branded "TGI(F)F" and we're still doing them every Friday evening. It has kind of become our thing, and our community seems to be at least slightly entertained by it, so we'll keep that going.
Tell us a little about the neighborhood Les Sól is in and your space? Any interesting back history?
Linden Hills is a stunning neighborhood in Minneapolis, and we're so thrilled we found the location we did, next to our favorite ice cream shop, Sebastian Joe's. It's a short walk from one of the many lakes in Minneapolis, called Lake Harriet. It's an up-and-coming neighborhood with some awesome small shops and restaurants, including Martina - one of our favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities. When I lived in Minneapolis, I lived near the Uptown location of Sebastian Joe's, and went frequently for my morning espresso. The owner of Sebastian Joe's also owns the building (a new build) that we're located in...and we were so thankful to have connected with him to find this perfect space. There were other places we looked - 50th and France, and Uptown...but none felt quite right. The progressive vibe of our neighborhood is perfect for our store, and we feel like we hit the jackpot with our space. It has a minimalist look and feel with concrete floors that we love, but the timber ceilings provide a warmth that fits our brand perfectly.
What are some ways you incorporate creativity into your free time?
Free time...ha ha! But honestly, TikTok dances...lots of 'em! Also, we love dreaming up fun events for the future, in a post-COVID era. We do heaps of things creatively...including writing, running an all-female rollerblading girl gang (MPLS and PC Bladies), and so much more. I can't stress this enough...we can't wait until COVID is in our rear-view mirror so we can connect with our community more, host events in our space, and just hang with our gal pals!
If Les Sól were a vibe/place what would it be?
Les Sól is a merging of elements and cultures. The name itself is derived from a few languages. In Polish, “sól” means “salt”—as in saltwater, or the ocean. In Spanish, “sol” translates to “sun,” while in French, meaning “ground.” Thus, earth, water, and fire—our three favorite elements. If Les Sól were a place, it might be Palm Springs, California—deep in the desert, but not far from the beach.
And last but not least, where’s your next great adventure going to be?
Every day is a big adventure when you own a business...which is what we love so much about it! Like I mentioned, we have a lot of goals for the future, but maybe our next big adventure is making it through the COVID winter. And then, getting the vaccine and hopefully being able to travel to Maui together on a sister adventure next spring!! Our mermaid souls have been craving the sun and surf for the last year and a half!