Anna Steffen is proof that a college degree doesn’t determine a person’s success. She didn’t need one to open The Native One, her chic, earthy boutique on Vine Street. Previously a pop-up on Main Street and an online retailer before that, the popular 15-month-old women’s clothing store relocated in April to the heart of OTR, where sales have since tripled and the staff has grown by five. Oh, and Steffen is only 21 years old.
The Ft. Thomas native’s retail journey began five years ago when she started working at Altar’d State, a women’s clothing chain store at Crestview Hills Town Center. “I loved the atmosphere of working with clothes,” she says. “I just knew that’s what I needed to do.” So, at 17, as a high school senior, she and a friend launched Kandid Boutique, an online shop that caters to 18-year-old girls. “Everything we did, we Googled,” says Steffen, who went on to work as a visual assistant at Madewell. She juggled her retail job, the boutique, and her studies, all while fielding tough questions about where she would attend college. Until she decided college wasn’t for her: “I was never crazy about going to school or what I was learning except my photography and fashion classes.” And she wasn’t ready for the debt that comes with a college diploma. For the next two years, Steffen continued working full-time while overseeing Kandid. Craving a solo business venture, she left Kandid last June and less than a month later launched The Native One, with a website she built overnight.
“I feel very grateful to be where I am today for not having much education for it,” Steffen says. But her 1,600-square-foot space on Vine doesn’t show any sign of inexperience or lack of education. Its clean, Instagram-worthy aesthetic expresses the exact opposite. Neutral-toned tops, jumpsuits, dresses, and sweaters—which she hand-selects from wholesale vendors in the Los Angeles Fashion District—hang from sleek clothing racks her dad and boyfriend crafted out of piping materials from Lowe’s.
A pink neon sign reading Treat Yourself shines on the wall across the wooden checkout desk. Real plants sit or hang in every corner, and other handmade fixtures display local goods and accessories. And to strengthen her brand, Steffen retags each piece of clothing with The Native One’s logo. But the best part of it all: Her cute and curious 6-month-old Miniature Goldendoodle named Milo “guards” the shop.
The Native One, 1421 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 832-7133, thenativeone.com