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Midwestern Girl Meets High-End Fashion Designers

Valerie Linenberger

Posted on July 08 2017

People who know me, know that I am a WYSIWYG person (what-you-see-is-what-you-get.)  So when I decided to open True Betty Boutique, I knew I had to go to the fashion market in Las Vegas to meet designers and vendors, network, and establish relationships and connections.  Whoa!  Kansas girl vs. Michael Kors.  Not being one to back down from a challenge, (shimmying over a lethally spiked wrought-iron fence to get a workout in at 44 years old and 5'1'' because the cute, young college boys could do it), I approached the trip with my usual gusto...bring it on.  So, I arrive in Vegas by myself, everyone else had REAL jobs to go to, and finally arrived at my cheap Groupon hotel, Circus Circus.  I had envisioned much worse, to be honest, for $29/night.  We stayed at Hooters the previous summer and it was an absolute DIVE!  But, I wanted to be close the the Las Vegas Convention Center where the show I was interested in was being held.  There were 12 fashion market shows going on all at once.  Six shows were being held at the LV Convention Center and 6 were being held at Mandalay Bay.  For you other Kansans, each show was like the size of Wichita's Century II.  Now, imagine 6 Century II's!  We are talking MASSIVE!  So all the while I'm walking around like I know what I'm doing when in reality I'm thinking 'what the heck are you doing here?'  I try to check in at registration on the MANY kiosks set up.  Of course, my registration isn't found.  They look at me like I'm an uninvited guest at the governor's ball.  I quickly prove my credentials, only retailers are allowed, and they get me fixed up with my badge.  To make my anxiety even higher, I learn there is a device imbedded in my name badge that will send off alarms if I try to go anywhere I'm not supposed to.  I'm thinking, 'where the heck is Putin?  Are the Russians behind this, too???'  So, I walk through the VERY heavily secured gate and as I come face-to-face and REALLY close to the security guy, he scans my name badge and it lights up green.  Thank goodness because my face is turning blue from inadvertently holding my breath and I'm flashing back to the old Ziplock commercials where they taught me yellow and blue make green.  The guard steps back and grandly swoops his arm back in an 'after you, madam' way, and all my senses start firing on all receptors.  All of a sudden, I think I have ADHD and I can't focus because there is SO MUCH going on in front of me!  There are literally THOUSANDS of vendors in front of me, dance music playing, elaborate booth displays and people everywhere.  Where do I begin???  I decide to play spy and watch other people to see what they do.  I quickly realize that even though this convention center is big, it may not be able to accommodate ALL the egos and big heads!  Confidence, Valerie, use your confidence!  I stride up to the first interesting booth that catches my eye and engage one of their sales people on the floor.  "Hi, can you direct me to your plus size offerings?"  The young, early 20's fellow literally laughs at me and replies, "Uh, we don't carry THOSE sizes."  At which I smile widely and retort, "Great!  I'll find somewhere else to spend my money!"  I wish I could say this type of interaction only happened once, but that wouldn't be truthful.  However, being a short, plus-size woman for many years, I'm used to ignorant comments.  They just helped fuel my desire to open my store and provide great offerings to MY people.  I attended some great business seminars and participated in fashion outlook discussions with the industry's most notable icons.  I saw REAL runway models (they are SO tall!) and discovered through experience that taxis, Ubers and Lyft drivers all charged about the same!  After three and a half days, tired feet, great new vendors and orders to take me through to fall, I arrived back home in Salina, Kansas with a fire to make True Betty Boutique a great experience for curvy women.  I also enjoyed getting back to dill pickles, pulled pork, iced tea and dirt roads!

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