VALDOSTA Ashley Cook has always had a passion for fashion. People would always compliment her style, but she never thought she would pursue this passion.
Cook has a degree in business administration, which led her to become a business management trainer at Wiregrass.
She said one of the classes she taught included a workshop on small business development, where she started nurturing the idea.
In 2020, Cook created her online store, Ohh She Fancee Boutique.
She stored all of her inventory in her garage and packed and shipped orders from home using an online storefront.
Her eldest daughter, Laila, 16, helped pack the orders.
Cook said: “She was a big part of the start-up. My daughters are the reason I became a business owner because it gives me the opportunity to leave something for them and lead by example. .”
In 2021, Cook planned to open its first storefront in Valdosta.
On the morning of her inauguration, she never imagined she would experience a house fire.
Cook said she remembers the day vividly.
She said: “We spent Thanksgiving Day at my mom’s and I left to set up the store for my grand opening on Black Friday. I got home from the store the next morning. I was only going to be home for a few hours. ; I dozed off around 2:30 a.m.
She continued, “The funny thing is my house had a split floor plan, which meant my bedroom was on the other side of my daughter’s bedroom. But when I walked in, I I lay down on the bed in the guest bedroom, which is near my daughter’s bedroom. I woke up to the sound of the smoke detector and the carbon monoxide detector, I jumped up and saw that the back porch was on fire.
Cook said she immediately ran to grab her daughters, Laila, Lauren, 13, and Landree, 8, and walked through the front door. After leaving the front door, she and her daughters realized their dog, Macy, had been trapped inside.
Cook said: “It was terrible as we sat in our neighbour’s yard and watched our house burn. I was heartbroken and in disbelief…there were so many feelings.”
Due to the fire, Cook had planned not to hold her grand opening the day after Black Friday, but she was greeted with encouraging words from her mother and support from friends and family.
Her mom and her best friend sprung into action to set up the store and get everything ready for the grand opening.
“Everyone stepped up and helped me. It was an outpouring of love from the community…lots of people prayed for me, donated and bought,” Cook said. . “It was destined. God really worked what the devil sent to destroy me for my good. I was able to get through…I don’t know how but I’m grateful.
“My shop is my ministry…I’ve created so many relationships from helping a client that I’m able to pour into her to help women feel beautiful.”
Last April, Ohh She Fancee Boutique made a donation to Beautiful Creations by Chanel to give a young woman the ball of her dreams. Through this opportunity, Cook found a way for her to do business and give back to the community.
“I want to let women know that you can be ‘fancy’ and still start your life over,” Cook said. “I want to teach women empowerment through credit, budgeting, interviewing and life skills.”
She ventures to start a non-profit organization, where she will partner with women’s shelters, churches, etc., to donate old stock and help women feel inspired.
“This fire had to happen,” Cook said. “It was meant and meant to show me how to be a vessel for others.”
Ohh She Fancee Botique is located at 1723 Norman Drive or online at www.ohhshefancee.com.