PHOTOS BY MICHELE ASHLEE
In the latest edition of She Hustles Talks, women entrepreneurs highlight, we have a young “ladyboss” hustling her way to the top! Please welcome Hali Rockow, owner of Buffalo Bleached. And no, she is not located in Buffalo, NY, she is right here in Rochester!
Tell us about yourself, your background, and how you started Buffalo Bleached.
My name is Hali and I’m the owner and founder of Buffalo Bleached! I’m a 24-year-old Rochester native. I’m a full-time student at SUNY Brockport majoring in Public Health and Sociology. Shortly after making the decision to go back to school and finish my degree, the business happened on complete accident!
I was layed off during the pandemic and started to find fun things to do and take away the stress of it all, I started bleaching and tie-dyeing clothes and that’s how I started. I bleach dyed a random Bills shirt I bought at Walmart and the rest is history! A little over a year of doing business all online and hosting pop up events throughout Rochester, I made the jump to open my first brick and mortar store located in Greece.
What makes you “hustle”?
I think I have always had natural “hustling” qualities. As soon as I was able to work at 15, I got my first job and honestly loved to work! I’ve always had a strong worth ethic and I strive to always do more. It makes you hustle even harder when the business is your own!
What is the mission beyond Buffalo Bleached?
The mission behind Buffalo Bleached is that being cute and comfortable should be celebrated! I call my customers my “besties”, and I want to be a safe space for them and anyone who steps foot into my store. I want to feel like I really am your bestie! Buying clothes and accessories you feel comfortable and cute in is the driving force behind bb. The atmosphere is welcoming, bright and fit for anyone.
How did you get started and decide to open up your own business and become a female entrepreneur?
It wasn’t even really a decision, more of a happy accident! My business was my version of a “pandemic baby”. It was born during the pandemic and flourished in a time when I think people needed it most, and since then it has stuck!
Who inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
There are so many people that inspired me. In this day and age of social media it’s easy for women to find business babes to look up to and that is just what I did. I lost my dad as a kid, he always dreamed about having his own business, so in many ways I feel like he was a driving force in the back of my mind pushing me to own my own business.
What fascinates you about your business?
My customers fascinate me the most about my business. They are honestly the bright spots of my day and are always around when I need it. It fascinates me that they are still interested in the things I sell and things I do, I really don’t feel worthy of their support and sometimes it doesn’t feel real. There will be times I’m shopping at the pet store or in Wegmans and someone comes up to me and asks, “if I’m the girl from Buffalo Bleached” and that is so surreal to me still! I appreciate that they know I’m still human and not just a face behind the screen or counter.
Why did you choose to open a physical storefront?
I needed more space! I was traveling all over for pop ups and making clothes in my basement and it became claustrophobic. I have always wanted a storefront to offer my own eclectic taste to others, and this just seemed like the perfect chance!
What is your most favorite service to provide, or product you offer and why?
Any of the Bills inspired gear is super fun and definitely a crowd favorite. My style is more in the front of the store in the clothes with funky prints and colorful sunglasses and all of the candles and housewares. My style really comes through in the merchandise that I sell and you really don’t find anything else like it in the area.
As a business owner, what are your top three priorities in running a successful business?
Customer service is definitely number one! My years of working in the service industry have taught me that. My second priority is staying involved in my community, that’s where my heart is. And my third priority is buying, I always want to have a cute selection of gifts and treats for my besties!
Do you walk your talk as a lady boss?
I think I do! I hope I do. I think that is important and leads to a more successful and honest business.
“What is your ‘why? ‘” Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I love it! Getting to show up to “work” every day at a place I built, designed, curated and have put my all into is one of the most rewarding things one can experience. I love getting to meet new customers and see the way people smile when they walk into the store and see all the fun items and bright colors. Coming to work doesn’t feel like work to me because I truly enjoy the store and it has become my passion.
Who were the mentors that encouraged you to fulfill your dream?
I learned a lot at my old job from the woman that owned it. I tried to carry the wisdom and things I learned from her and give my own touch to it when I opened my storefront. Without the things I learned, I don’t know if I would have been confident enough to open my own place.
What do you find is the best form of promotion for your business?
Since I opened the storefront, just simple word of mouth has been my best form of promotion. I never thought this would be the case because we rely so heavily on the internet these days but spreading the word has helped me so much!
What are your plans for your business for the future?
I would love to be able to open a second location one day! I hired my first employee as of recently and that has been a big step for me so I’m just going to keep dreaming!
When starting your business, did you ever ask yourself “WILL CUSTOMERS ‘WANT’ OR ‘NEED’ MY PRODUCT OR SERVICE?”
All the time! I never would have believed this would have caught on and people would be interested and want my products. I think that goes through ever business owners head at some point. It even still crosses my mind today, but I know I have created a store and a brand that people love!
Are you a born leader? Having a great idea is one thing. Being able to communicate that idea and convince others to jump on board is another. Do you feel you have what it takes to be successful?
I know I have what it takes to be successful! It took me a while to see that in myself but what I have done so far is working and I don’t have any plans to let up!
Does your business currently have a social media presence? What platform do you find to be the best response for you?
Yes! You can find us on Instagram at @shop.bb.boutique, Facebook and Tiktok. I have found Instagram to be the best, but I love how creative you can be on Tiktok!
What do you think is the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
I think the belief in myself that I had the ability to be successful has helped me stay successful. Owning a business, especially at 24, is not an easy task but it’s rewarding. I have built such a loyal community and brand and being successful has just been natural because of that.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and what is one piece of advice you would want to pass on to a young entrepreneur?
I would say to never let anyone make you feel like your ideas are too crazy or impossible. You can do anything you put your mind to, you are never too young to make your dreams come true. Never make yourself smaller to fit into the room!
Who do you look up to for inspiration?
I look up to my mom, she has taught me what it means to be independent and the power you hold when you teach yourself to do things on your own. I also look up to Karen Iglesia, the founder of Primetime Ballers (a not-for-profit organization I am a board member of) for her strength and ability to have others gravitate toward her. Both of these women have kept me on my toes and helped me to learn so much about myself. I also look to my sister for inspiration. She is so strong and she is younger than me so she helps to keep me young and trendy.
Where do you see yourself both personally and professionally in the next 3 years?
I will have graduated with my bachelor’s degree, hopefully opening up the second bb location and just continuing to grow my brand and using my platform for good.
If you could have one wish for your business what would it be?
To continue to grow and be a safe and fun place for people to come and shop and just feel at home. I love the vibe of the store and I’ve worked hard to create it so my wish is that bb never loses its charm as we continue to grow.