Montclair State University - Family Studies
Keena Williams came by the nickname “excessive” for her bold and exaggerated use of bangles and layered necklaces. The name stuck, eventually becoming her philosophy, business and brand.
Keena is the owner of So Excessive Boutique in Newark, N.J., where she puts her against-the-grain fashion philosophy to practice: accessorize first and let your outfits compliment your shoes and jewels. Whatever a customer's personal style, Keena take pride in having something for them and offering personalized advice on how to best accessorize. And she believes her service has its own transformative effects: empowering women through fashion confidence.
While Keena's job often involves shopping all day for jewelry (a definite perk), she warns others interested in her line of work that they better be passionate about it before they take the plunge. "…Only about 10 percent of what I do is pretty," she says. "Everything is extremely hard work, so loving what you do becomes extremely important."
Whatever you do, do it to the highest level.
What prompted you to start your own boutique?
Starting my own jewelry business was always the plan; it was just a matter of timing and getting started.
What is your typical day like, and what types of things do you do in your job?
A typical day for me depends on what's left on my to do list from yesterday, to be honest. I spend my day reviewing emails, checking samples, getting quotes and tons of blog surfing to see what people are wearing!
What aspect of your job do you love the most?
I'm not sure what aspect I love the most, because I honestly love what I do. It's kind of different when you're a entrepreneur; all of the hard work and stressful days are for your own success. But if I had to pick one aspect, it'd definitely be the buying part. Who wouldn't love to shop for jewelry all day?
What challenges keep you awake at night?
What challenges keep me awake at night? All of them! I think I get enjoyment from stressing, so if I have an upcoming event, then I'm awake wondering if people will show up; if I have a new product, then I'm awake wondering if people will like it. I'm learning to just take a deep breath and go to bed!
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
The biggest personal sacrifice has definitely been adjusting my lifestyle. Shopping, vacations with friends and things like that have all been moved to the "not-too-often" column while my business is in its early stages. But I chose this path, so I won't complain.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
The one lesson I've learned is to trust my first instincts. Every time I haven't, I've regretted not doing so.
Do you feel fashion empowers women? If so, why?
Yes, I definitely think fashion empowers women. When a woman has on a great outfit, shoes or accessories, she feels confident -- and confidence rules the world.
Who are your role models?
My role models are people who made it in spite of difficult circumstances. People like my mom, who was able to raise my sister and I in spite of being a single mother; my cousin Alnisa, who's been a successful hair salon owner for 18+ years in spite of being a teen mom; and of course Oprah, for just being everything that she is to women in spite of what she came from.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Some of the rules I live by are: hard work pays off, never give up on yourself and be consistent!
What advice do you have for women who want to be in your industry?
Advice I would give to anyone who wanted to get into this industry is to make sure you're passionate about what you want to do, because only about 10 percent of what I do is pretty. Everything is extremely hard work, so loving what you do becomes extremely important.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
In five years, I see my brand well on its way to becoming a household name.
What are three things you love aside from your job?
Three things I love to do aside from my job: dancing, eating and reading.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I always end every email or statement with, "And remember, keep it Excessive!" And that's not only about my brand, it's also about life -- whatever you do, do it to the highest level.