When Kara Menning and Angela Lan started their small business, Beautiful Uprising, “the last thing we wanted to do was sacrifice our friendship,” Menning said.
“You want to go into business with someone that you trust so completely — it makes sense in that way,” Menning said this week. “It’s sort of like a marriage, right?”
Sure, the business partners disagreed from time to time. But as the business — a mobile boutique and online store selling ethically sourced clothing and housewares — comes to an end with a final clearance sale Saturday, the two say the friendship remains solid.
“If anything,” Menning said, “I think part of the sadness of closing up shop is that we won’t have the need to spend as much time together.”
Beautiful Uprising will end its run with a blowout sale on Saturday, March 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Menning and Lan will park their massive panel truck, dubbed Monique, at Alpha Coffee, 7260 Racquet Club Drive, Cottonwood Heights, near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
The idea for the business began with experiences Menning had while adopting her two daughters from Haiti. (Menning and her husband have six children, three of them adopted.)
During the adoption process, Menning saw the poverty in Haiti, and “I was really struck that people need jobs more than probably anything else. … I saw the business as a way to impact poverty around the world, and specifically keep families together.”
According to a 2019 study by New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, monthly wages for garment makers can be as low as $182 in Cambodia, $95 in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and $26 in Ethiopia. Many well-known clothing brands — including H&M, Calvin Klein, Izod and Tommy Hilfiger — make their goods in such countries, the NYU study noted.
Menning talked about creating an ethically sourced clothing store to Lan, who then was recently divorced and raising a toddler. “It was good timing, a good opportunity at the time to get it started,” Lan said.
“Working with businesses that provide fair wages was key, so they could have jobs and keep their kids,” Lan said, adding that a bigger goal became “educating other people in our community about the power we have in what we buy and how we buy.”
The partners, working through established fair-trade organizations, found goods from artisans from Haiti, Rwanda, India, Nepal, the United States and other countries.
Lan said they chose items that could puncture the stereotypes sometimes associated with ethically sourced goods.
“When people say ‘fair trade’ or ‘artisan-made,’ sometimes I feel people have an immediate visual of what that looks like — like wearing itchy hemp pants,” Lan said. “Buying that way doesn’t have to be a charity purchase. You can buy beautiful, amazing things that you can wear all the time, that are also doing a lot of good.”
Menning and Lan had a steep learning curve as rookie businesswomen. They learned fast how much merchandise to order, where they could legally park Monique, and how much weather affects foot traffic.
The truck is a mini-store, with shelves and racks for merchandise and a small changing room farthest away from the back doors. The partners bought the truck in North Carolina and drove it back to Utah. Through a contest with their online customers, they chose the name Monique — an ironic name, Lan said, because “she is so not a Monique.”
The reason the partners are closing the business now? “Life happened,” Lan said.
Running Beautiful Uprising took up time, and with day jobs — Lan works as office manager in a cybersecurity firm, and Menning works in education at a biotech company — and family responsibilities, that time became harder to squeeze out of the week.
“I need health insurance, that kind of stuff,” Lan said. “And I have a little girl, so I have to be a provider.”
As they prepare for Beautiful Uprising’s last clearance sale, the partners say they hope their customers spend a moment to think about the people who make their clothes.
“We don’t have to think about it until someone puts that in front of you. And it’s uncomfortable to be faced with that,” Menning said. “Our hope was to provide an answer to that, to empower you through purposeful shopping — that you can make different choices.”
AN ETHICALLY SOURCED SALE
Beautiful Uprising, a Utah mobile retailer of ethically sourced clothing and housewares, holds a final sale before going out of business.
When • Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where • Alpha Coffee, 7260 Racquet Club Dr., Cottonwood Heights, near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon.