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Texas Tech graduate

Not so Mainstream, Mainstream Boutique

Empower. Strengthen. Celebrate. These are the powerful words that drew in Kate and her husband, as they began on a new uncharted journey.

Kate Mitchell, a Texas Tech alum, graduated with a bachelor’s in agriculture communications and a master’s in retail & hospitality institutional management. Kate and her husband Michael have two beautiful daughters: 3-year-old Blakely Grace and 12-month-old Elise Faith.

“We just did what we had to do.”

Kate Mitchell

With Michael living in Lubbock almost all of his life, and Kate returning to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech, making the decision to open a business in hub city was an obvious one for these Lubbock locals.

Operating West Texas Lace, LLC, dba Mainstream Boutique, as a locally-owned franchise has allowed the Mitchells to run their business how they see fit while still operating under a proven business model and earning multiple high rankings. Mainstream Boutique is ranked #86 nationally and is #7 in Texas.

The same month the Mitchell’s decided to dive into the entrepreneur experience and had signed all the papers, Kate found out she was pregnant with her second daughter Elise. Although it was an exciting surprise, it created another challenging obstacle to get their business up and off the ground. Kate and her mother Carolyn took on the journey of traveling to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for training when Elise was just 3 months old. The trio spent a week there while Kate attended training seminars during the day, pumped on lunch and coffee breaks, then returned to the hotel at night to join her mother and newborn. It was a lot but having the support of her mother made the educational trip doable and an experience they’ll all remember for a lifetime.

Blakely loves the store as much as her momma.

“By the time Elise was 4 months old she had already flown across the country on 6 different flights. I’ve never felt more angry stares while boarding planes but overall people were nice and accommodating to us. We just did what we had to do,” Kate explained.

Once training was complete, it was time to start the storefront renovations back in Lubbock. Being that Mainstream offers a business model as opposed to a traditional cookie-cutter franchise, Michael and Kate were able to make many of the design choices themselves. Part of that customization process included finding a dream team. Kate chose to post the positions of part-time stylists on Indeed.com, then sorted through the applications, and started hosting interviews. Being that Elise was still too young to join big sister Blakely in their daycare academy, Kate often had to interview the applicants with a baby on her hip. It even turned out that three of the four girls she selected were also pursuing a degree in agriculture communications at Texas Tech University.

The next step in the process was to place orders on materials. Clothing, office supplies, interior/exterior signage, furniture, mannequins, technology equipment, etc. were all part of the supplies list that needed to be paid for and shipped. Once the dozens of boxes began to arrive at the store, then came the endless task of unboxing, steaming, hanging, sizing and tagging. The girls all quickly learned that when matching tags to the clothes, it is best to open the boxes one at a time as opposed to all at once.

“It’s a learning process for all of us!” Kate said.

Attention to detail is very important in the retail business and Kate is hard at work everyday assembling the perfect outfit.

The first couple of days Mainstream was open there was extreme icy weather which had reduced the store’s foot traffic dramatically. After the boutique had quite literally weathered the storm, the number of customers coming into the doors increased phenomenally. Much of that pedestrian success is due to the location in the Hub Shopping Center. The outdoor shopping strip is in a retail center that shares co-tenancy with other like-minded businesses, such as Odds & Ends, Hot Worx, CycleBar, Kadiza Hair Salon, The Lash Lounge, Tea2Go and many more.

In addition to Mainstream’s idyllic location, another essential business resource is the shop’s online presence. The Mainstream’s social media has rapidly grown bigger and bigger since the day that it was created. Setting a goal to reach 1,000 Facebook followers by their first year open, the Lubbock location was able to reach that goal within their first 2 months. In a world where online shopping is extremely popular, a big following and professional online presence is very important. There is a direct link in social media to how a business is able to promote and brings in potential customers.

During this time of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, the online presence has forcibly shifted to Mainstream’s only source of profit. Being that this hit before the shop had been open less than 7 weeks, it was clearly not what Kate and her team had in mind for the store. Michael and Kate are hopeful and positive that business will resume as normal and even possibly boom after this mandated time of closure passes.

Between a new baby, freezing temperatures, and an unforeseeable medical state of emergency, there have been many bumps in the road, to say the least. Kate is a very strong woman who is pursuing her dream. Despite the hard times and difficult situations, the Mitchell family has decided to once again pull-up their bootstraps and muster through the storm. Given their upbeat demeanor and support of the West Texas community, it is likely the business will survive and thrive in the upcoming months ahead.

Kate and her husband Michael, hopeful business will return to normal after this worldwide pandemic is over.

Planting Seeds, Producing Images

Chapman is shown pursuing his ultimate two passions: farming and photography.
A

s dusk approached and the water remained still in the tank, he watched the bird swoop down to get a refreshing sip of water. The sun began to set and the common nighthawk flew away to satisfy his appetite.

Steven Chapman prepared his camera as the bird returned to the brim of the stock tank to get another drink of water. Besides the sound of the crickets and the brush being blown by the West Texas wind, you hear the sound of a camera shutter as a one-of-a-kind moment is captured.

A camera is this farmer’s tool of choice. The man behind the camera is a farmer by trade and a photographer by passion.

Chapman is shown pursuing his ultimate two passions: farming and photography.

Where it All Began

As a student in a 1A high school, Chapman grew up playing every sport. He also had a passion for photography. His dad bought him a camera as a Christmas present which came in handy when he broke his arm at the end of his junior year playing basketball in offseason workouts. Although he was no longer able to participate in sports, he was able to take pictures for the yearbook.

His senior year approached and Chapman said he always knew he wanted to be a Red Raider. He graduated from Texas Tech University in 1985 with a degree in mechanized agriculture with an emphasis in agricultural economics. He said this degree allowed him to see the business aspect of agriculture and farming.

After college, Chapman ventured away from his roots and pursued a career in the hotel business. Almost ten years later, Chapman found his way back to Texas and began farming again.

 “From the time when I started farming on my own, which was about 1994, farming was my whole life,” Chapman said.

Cotton Connections

Chapman, a fifth generation farmer and a fourth generation West Texas farmer runs his operation in his hometown of Lorenzo, Texas. His farming career has allowed him a connection with the Lorenzo Cooperative Gin Manager, Bill Shields.

Shields is a Texas Tech graduate with an agronomy degree. He has held the manager position for the last 14 years. Chapman was on the board of directors that hired Shields and since then they have had a long-standing close relationship.

“If there’s an avenue in a conversation that allows for him to refer to a picture that he has taken, he’s probably carrying around his iPad around and will show you,” Shields said. “He likes to show you what he’s done. He’s proud of it and he should be. I’m proud for him.”

From being around him for the last 14 years, Shields said Chapman is very detail-oriented, analytical and takes a lot of pride in what he does, which is part of what makes him a well-respected farmer in the Lorenzo community.

In addition to their cotton connection, Chapman has done some projects for the co-op allowing Shields to get familiar with his photography. The projects have ranged from honoring customers to showcasing the West Texas cotton industry.

Besides completing jobs for the co-op, Chapman has done work for Citibank and said he wants the opportunity for more commercial photography jobs.

“Probably one of my biggest accomplishments is that Citibank bought seven of my pictures,” Chapman said with a smile on his face. “They’re all black and white, and they’re all landscapes. They wanted local art and it was such a neat deal to be able to do that and get my photos up in a situation like that.”

New Opportunities

As a self-taught photographer, he said his skills developed through trial and error. He said he was thankful to gain exposure from various styles of photography throughout his many years. A learning opportunity arose in 2015 when he was asked to shoot for Jarret Johnson, the publisher for Inside the Red Raiders. This opening allowed him to cover Texas Tech Athletics and revisit his childhood love for sports while progressing his photography.

“When you get someone like Steven Chapman who is so good at what he does, who captures the moment,” Johnson said excitedly, “that’s really what we’re talking about when it comes to the main objective of a photographer.”

Farmer, Photographer and Agriculture Advocate

Besides shooting sporting events, Chapman said he takes pride in using his passion to tell a story about agriculture in West Texas and to combat the negative misconceptions about farming.

“We hear about the negatives in agriculture every day,” Chapman said, “like how bad GMO crops are and how it’s not family farms, but it is out here. I’m out here trying to take care of the land the best I can, because if I’m not, the crops won’t produce, and I won’t make any money.”

Throughout the last couple of years, he said he has become quite the advocate and storyteller on his Facebook photography page, From Farm to Foto, Visions of a West Texas Farmer. His wife, Melinda, pushed him to start the page, but he said he never expected people to take interest in his photos. This page has become an outlet for him to showcase his work and document his adventures.

A Life-Saving Venture

Chapman has pursued photography off and on for the majority of his life, but he said his career in farming has always taken the front seat. He became really intent on farming, but after his dad died in 2009, he said the stress was almost too much. It was not until the stress in his life became overwhelming that he appreciated what photography did for him.

“I think having that hobby and that passion basically saved my life because of the amount of stress I was under,” Chapman said.

Chapman said having photography as an outlet allowed him to get the things in his life in focus. Besides thinking about the farm, he said there are only two things he has ever been able to do in the middle of a cotton field. The first is getting out of his tractor to take pictures of the wildlife or agriculture around him; and the other is praying.

“I’ve done it many a time,” Chapman said. “I get off the tractor, get on a knee and pray. But guess what? I can do both at the same time.”

He said doing those two activities simultaneously brings him comfort and clarity. He said his cotton fields are the perfect place for pictures because of the various creatures that call them home.

Chapman said he prefers photographing wildlife because of the uniqueness he can capture with every image. Chapman said he enjoys providing something new and different. He said the rewards seem higher because he invests more time trying to get those shots.

As he scrolled through some of his favorite images he recalled each story and retold them as if he had just taken the pictures. The story about the common nighthawk at the stock tank is one of his favorites. “I may not remember every piece of my life,” Chapman said, “but I can recollect the individual stories from every picture I have ever taken; I’m connected to them. I can only hope others connect with my pictures and stories, too.”

Chapman, a Texas Tech graduate and fifth generation farmer, utilizes photography to showcase agriculture in West Texas. Photo provided by Steven Chapman.
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