Connect: More than a business plan

Melissa Troutman ’13 G’15 relied on a business plan she developed in class to open Simply Oak Boutique in downtown Elon in 2017.

Melissa Troutman ’13 G’15 wrote a business plan for a boutique in an entrepreneurship elective she took while earning her MBA at Elon. At the time, she was merely fulfilling a final project requirement. “It was one of those things that I kind of joked about but was never serious about opening a boutique,” Troutman says. Besides, her life was in flux. Her now husband, Lucas Troutman ’14, whom she met while earning undergraduate degrees in finance and accounting at Elon, was playing basketball overseas. She didn’t know if they would stay local or if she’d eventually join him.

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His decision to retire from basketball in 2016 gave Troutman the opportunity to bring that business plan to life in downtown Elon. “I said, ‘Oh, this is actually something that I do want to do.’” She opened Simply Oak Boutique in January 2017 on West Lebanon Avenue, and that business plan made all the difference. “I’d say it was very instrumental, especially when going to banks and asking for loans,” Troutman says. “They definitely wanted to see something concrete.”

Appealing to students was a big part of Troutman’s vision, but she was also interested in connecting with the community. “I wanted a place where everyone could come and feel like they could find something,” she says. “I really try to get clothes that fit all ages, all body shapes and all sizes.”

Simply Oak Boutique is part of the Elon Partners Program, which gives local business owners the opportunity to be connected with the university. It also serves as a way for customers and patrons to become more familiar with the role the university plays in the regional economy. “I absolutely love it,” Troutman says. “I think it is a great idea when people come and visit to let them know that the business supports the university and vice versa.”

Prospective students and families often check out her shop when visiting Elon for the first time. They frequently come with questions they may not have asked on their tour. “It’s neat to tell them my journey,” she says. “School is not just fun and games. You can actually turn a school project into a career.”

Elon continues to play an integral role in Troutman’s life. She grew up near the university, and it was there she met her husband, earned two degrees and developed a thriving business. “I just have such a love for the university and the town,” she says. “It’s just so special to stay. I feel like I’m still home.”

Learn more about “Theme 3: Connect” of the Boldly Elon strategic plan.