Deneka Vallius is the owner of online boutique, KoKo Kouture, which prides itself on bringing quality fashion to women at affordable prices. Vallius is a native of New Orleans, LA and first generation Haitian- American, who opened her boutique almost a year ago as of now. She and I spoke a little prior to Hurricane Irma this year. Learn more about this Wonder Woman below.
Fancy: How would you describe your swagher? What makes Deneka, Deneka?
Deneka: Deneka is Deneka because she tries to stay true to herself, and she fits inside of her own bubble, so I stay inside of my own lane. I do what works for me, and by doing that I am able to advance at different things that I want to do, like I don’t try to be in someone else’s lane or measure up to someone else’s standards. I stick to doing me and that is Deneka.
Fancy: So what inspired Koko Kouture?
Deneka: I love fashion. It’s always been something that stuck to me, but I have more of a vintage approach to it, and I taught myself how to sew. Being a self-taught seamstress and learning different things, I was like, “oh, this works for me, and this works for me”, “I like seeing this on me…” I always played with fashion in that sense, but one Sunday after church, the pastor told me, “Thursday, you should get your own clothing store since you are always so fashionable”, and it was just something I listened to. He always called me Thursday as an inside joke, but I was like “Ok, yea, I like fashion….” But I never put the action behind the words until last year, I decided let’s do it.
Fancy: What does fashion mean to you?
Deneka: To me fashion is expressing you at the moment. You know, as women, we go through many different emotional stages in our lives. Monday morning you might wakeup with so much energy and tell yourself, “Girl I am going to put on my cute black pants with a white ruffle top.” By Wednesday, you’re feeling a little down you may want to put on your lounge dress. So I think that fashion is really how you feel at that moment and how you want to express yourself. It’s constantly evolving. It’s like life. No two things will remain the same. Evolution has cometh.
Fancy: Do you have an ideal customer?
Deneka: I don’t have an ideal customer, but the customer has to want to wear women’s clothing. I’m not going to put them into a certain gender or a certain genre. I have something for everyone whether you are trying to find something to go to lunch with your friends, date night with your boyfriend, or you just want to hang out. I try to find things that fit every situation that life brings.
Fancy: As a fairly new business owner what has been your biggest obstacle?
Deneka: I think my biggest obstacle is having a support system that understands what I want, and how I want it, and being able to deliver. So what I normally do is- I’m always rechecking something. I am my worst critic. If I see something that I have done or that someone else has done, and it just is not fitting like what I want it to be, then I am going back over it, and getting it done myself. That might mean staying up late hours fixing something or sending 20-30 emails and text messages. As a business owner I want them to capture my goal or my vision of what I want to be displayed. That’s my biggest obstacle, having what I want come to life the way I want to see it.
Fancy: Now you have a professional career as well, right?
Deneka: I do. I have about six years as a licensed realtor, and I have been doing property management with my father for about 20 years. I have a degree in Public Relations. I minored in Accounting & Finance at Tulane University. I worked for Sabiston Consultants which is a governmental relations firm. I took that job, because I didn’t want real estate to be my only source of income, and I wanted to get back into public relations and dealing with issues at a higher level. My real estate license is with Coldwell Banker, but I also want to get commercial backing, because many of the people that we do work with Sabiston, they’re developers, contractors, engineers, and looking for properties and other things to help them. I saw that as a way to bring real estate to public relations.
Fancy: When we first met, you told me about your five- year plan. Do you mind sharing a little about that here?
Deneka: So for my five-year plan, I plan to live in Haiti-well both in Haiti and America, but probably more time in Haiti. That’s actually how Koko Kouture came into action. I wanted to have another source of residual income while I was gone abroad, and I just woke up one day I decided that I needed to do something that works for me. I decided that I needed to be free, and free being that I am still to able to connect with America and still have my connection with Haiti, being a Haitian American, and I want to be able to help Haiti. That is another the reason why I am in governmental relations right now, because if possible I want to be able to secure employment with Haiti to bring infrastructure to Haiti. Right now I am a student at UNO University getting my Masters Degree in Urban & Regional Planning.
My five- year plan came about, because I want to be able to make an impact on this world with people that I love that are suffering and still be able to have funds while doing it. Right? So that’s the five year plan, take Koko Kouture and make it something where not only is it bringing residual funds to me, but where it is helping others in their lives. So I offer affordable clothing to women, and that’s KoKo Kouture, but also I want to be build infrastructure.
My last trip back to Haiti and almost every time when I go there, you can see the pain of the people and the lack of understanding from the people. If you want change to occur, you have to be that change. You have to do something different. My boyfriend and I were talking one day when he got home from work. He has a major in agricultural economics. So we are taking a walk, and he tells me, “Baby look at the people. Look at how when they finish with something, they throw the trash on the ground, and it’s fine. Right? But if you look at the people, they live in that filth, because they don’t know better.
So then we argued. You know, I’m like, “what do you mean they don’t know better? I mean you see the trash on the ground, and you know after a while you have to do something with it.” But he explained that you have to teach the people. You have to re-educate them that leaving trash outside, or putting it outside, or urinating outside, or eating with dogs or- however it goes, it’s just not right! Right? Seeing that, it always brings me back to how I want to be the voice. I want to be the one whereas someone else may not have the voice to speak up and say this is my problem, I want to be the voice to say I will help them, and I think that is the job of ministers.
Follow Deneka and view her boutique, Koko Kouture below.