WOMEN IN BUSINESS

Counting her blessings

Community outreach is a mission for fab’rik founder Dana Spinola

Devon McKenna/Photosynthesis Studio
fab’rik founder Dana Spinola.
Devon McKenna/Photosynthesis Studio
Devon McKenna/Photosynthesis Studio
Devon McKenna/Photosynthesis Studio
Photo
By CANDY WAYLOCK
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Even at an early age, Dana Spinola was all about fashion...papering her wall floor to ceiling with pages pulled from fashion magazines, then doing it again the next month when the new issues came out.

Today, as the founder of fab’rik boutique, Spinola’s office walls often reflect her childhood passion with images of inspirations and obsessions surrounding her.

“I was always, always, always in love with fashion...I just didn’t know it could be a career,” said Spinola, who now oversees more than 40 fab’rik stores in a dozen states.

The boutique concept has since expanded to include the charity arm of fab’rik, free fab’rik, which provides mobile shopping sprees to young women living in shelters, foster homes, safe houses and other locations.

“With our mobile boutique we can meet them right where they are,” said Spinola. “Our goal is to remind them just how beautiful they are and that we are here to cheer them on.”

The Roswell High School and University of Georgia grad put fashion on the side burner after college, taking a job on the opposite spectrum as a computer consultant for Deloitte Consulting. The upside was the traveling that took her from coast to coast, but her heart kept pulling her in another direction.

Spinola grew up the child of entrepreneurial parents involved in art and interior design, so the creative genes ran deep. A difficult end to a relationship also gave her the push she needed to go in a new direction.

“I loved my job, [but] I was going through a breakup, which I guess made it the perfect time to really think about what I wanted for my life,” said Spinola. “When your heart is broken, you are searching for something that will make it beat and bring excitement and energy back into your life.”

She reached back to her roots of fashion design, researched her options, bounced ideas off friends and came to the conclusion that opening her own boutique was what felt right. But it wasn’t just any boutique in the long line of cookie cutter options; Spinola wanted to offer something unique.

“Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money and I could never afford name brand clothing,” she noted. “My mom made my clothes, so I always thought it was a luxury to be able to pick out the fabric and watch her make it tailored to me.”

As she developed her business plan, fab’rik’s concept emerged, mirrored on her mother’s mantra that you don’t have to have a million dollars to be treated like a million bucks.

She opened her first fab’rik boutique in Midtown in 2002, in a space that was perfect for a boutique on the inside, but in an area of transition on the outside. Her deep faith in God was tested on opening day.

After a day filled with fashion shows, big sales, celebrations that lasted well in the evening (and meeting the man who would eventually become her husband), Spinola received a phone call early the next morning that shook her foundation.

“They took everything,” Spinola said of the thieves that broke into her store in the early morning hours. “Literally everything...the clothing, the cash register, sound system, even the champagne we had been celebrating with.”

She became a business woman that morning, re-opening the store in three days, when it took more than a year to do the first time.

“What a gift to give me that strength so early in my career,” said Spinola.

The concept of high fashion without the sticker shock took off immediately, with several more boutiques opening in the Atlanta area. A few years later, Spinola was approached about franchising her concept, and fab’rik began quickly expanding across the country.

She approached franchising carefully, laughing “I thought franchising was for restaurants or smoothies” and not boutiques. But she soon embraced the idea that she could empower other women to follow their dream of business ownership, without the headaches and heartbreaks she had gone through.

Five years ago, Spinola added a new mission to her business, focusing on how she could give back to the community. She wanted fab’rik to “mean something” outside the store.

“If we build a fashionable company, with great people and great prices but there isn’t a big purpose behind it, then what’s the point?” she asked herself. “What are we doing for the community and the world?”

Free fab’rik was born out of conversations with a friend on how to best donate the mounds of new and gently used clothing that the two had in both the boutiques as well as their closets.

“Instead of just putting the clothes in a bin [somewhere] we created a boutique-like shopping experience with a personal stylist volunteer for each girl to shop with them, hear their story and remind them how incredible they are,” she explained.

Her sense of “giving back” has always been part of her core, and even more so now that she counts so many blessings in her life.

“I started fab’rik for very selfish reasons – I wanted to create something. But along the way, it all changed for me,” she said. “On a bus in Africa on a mission trip it struck me that if we don’t use this company to serve our community we are missing the point.”

She and her husband recently adopted a little girl from Ethiopia who joins her three big brothers (all under the age of 10) along with chickens, frogs, hamsters and the other moving parts in her “chaotic loving family.”

It is through the eyes of her daughter that Spinola said she finds true inspiration.

“[Proverbs 31 says] do for one what you wish you could do for all,” she explains. “The light in [my daughter’s] eyes reminds me of why we do so much...to help those that maybe wouldn’t have had a shot to be who God planned for them to be.”  ■

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