Entrepreneur program at Walsh goes fashion forward

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 11, 2015

 Julie Wardi, owner of 325BLVD Boutique, models the sweater and tutu apparel items she sells as part of her clothing line.

Julie Wardi, owner of 325BLVD Boutique, models the sweater and tutu apparel items she sells as part of her clothing line.

Walsh College grad and Warren resident Julie Wardi was so busy trying to build her women’s clothing and accessories business that she overlooked a resource available to Walsh grads and alumni that aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop and launch their businesses.

“I was invited to an alumni breakfast, and a director of the Blackstone LaunchPad program pushed me to go to Blackstone,” Wardi said.

According to the Walsh College website, the Walsh College Blackstone LaunchPad is funded by a program of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, in partnership with Automation Alley, a business technology association based in Troy; the University of Miami; Walsh College; and Wayne State University. The program aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs develop and launch their businesses. 

“I’m always trying to find unique things but that are still affordable,” she said.

The first thing her mentors at Blackstone LaunchPad advised her to do was to change the original name of her business because another business in Texas was operating under the same name and garnering bad reviews online.

“I was also getting their emails,” Wardi said. “I felt like I was starting out all over again after operating for six months, but I’m glad I listened. Bad reviews can kill a business, and they weren’t even my reviews.”

Wardi changed the name to 325BLVD Boutique. She explained that 325 is her birthday, March 25.

“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My dad owns his own business, and I chose to attend Walsh College knowing that someday I would start a boutique of my own,” said Wardi, a 2013 bachelor of business administration graduate.

Wardi maintains an active online presence through Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and a fashion blog, but said she does well when her customers can touch, see and try on the items at shopping shows and charity events. She is hoping to open a retail store soon.

Wardi’s fashion philosophy is, “What makes you different makes you beautiful.” Her mission at 325BLVD is to allow individuals to express themselves using their own style.

“My greatest belief is to always be yourself, and fashion really gives you an outlet to express who that person is,” said Wardi.

She planned to sell her items at Shipshewana on the Road at Macomb Community College Feb. 7-8.

Carol Glynn, director of Blackstone LaunchPad program at Walsh College, said the program, in its fifth year, has matured as more and more students and alumni have found success launching or expanding their businesses.

“LaunchPad provides a safe environment to explore ideas and go forward,” Glynn said. “The economy is better. We’re seeing more people. It’s very hard to get funding if you don’t exist and have a track record.”

“LaunchPad allows entrepreneurs to ask questions and explore what’s out there,” she said. She noted that students often come in with an idea that they think is different and learn through a simple online search that there are a number of similar businesses out there.

“The mentors help the entrepreneurs find out how they can be different and how to find their niche,” she said.

For information on Wardi’s business, visit 325blvd.com.

For information on Blackstone LaunchPad, visit www.walshcollege.edu. Click on “Entrepreneurial Services,” then Blackstone LaunchPad.