Local teen launches online boutique

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An online boutique founded by a Walker County teen launches today.

Sidney Manasco of Empire is getting her Opal + Grace Boutique up and running just weeks before she graduates from Hartselle High School.

The boutique specializes in women's clothing and accessories and is named after Manasco's great-grandmother and her sister.

"My slogan is 'Be vogue. Feel radiant.' If you have a cute outfit on, then you're going to feel really good about yourself. My mission is to help every woman feel beautiful and wanted," Manasco said.

Throughout her senior year, Manasco has been participating in the Decatur Morgan CEO program, which teaches youth about entrepreneurship. 

"This program has changed my life. I've always wanted to own my own boutique, but I never thought I could do it. The program has really helped me create my business," Manasco said.

The Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship started the CEO program in 2009 in Illinois, and it is now in seven states. Students meet daily for 90 minutes and plan two class businesses as well as an individual business throughout the year. 

"For our second class business, we did a drive-in movie. It was like a one-weekend event. It all prepares you for your individual business," said Manasco, who was in charge of sales and marketing for the class project. 

Last week, Manasco and other program participants pitched their individual businesses to a three-judge panel in the second annual Decatur Morgan CEO competition, which is modeled after ABC's reality show "Shark Tank."

"You make your pitch and they ask you very hard questions about your business, your financials and stuff like that," Manasco said. "I had the highest score. Jesus (Martinez) was our winner, but I did a lot better than I was expecting." 

The initial inventory for Opal + Grace Boutique came from an auction held after a  boutique in downtown Hartselle closed down due to family matters.

In the future, Manasco will continue to add new items for events in the area like Rock the South. She is also looking to work with local stores that sell wholesale.

Though it is an online boutique, Manasco will have a pop-up shop in Decatur today at Royalty Funnel Cakes. She will be doing more pop-ups in the future and will be attending as many local festivals as she can this summer and fall.

Her future goals include having a mobile boutique within the next couple of years and eventually opening her own brick-and-mortar.

This summer, Manasco will be getting licensed as a mortgage broker. In the fall, she will be going to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she plans to get a master's degree in business.

"I plan to continue my business as long as it wants me to. Business is hard, but I keep the mindset that most millionaires have failed three other businesses before they got to one that worked. My boutique is something I'm doing because I love it. I love shopping, fashion and making people feel great," she said.

For more information, visit http://shopopalgrace.com.