We had the good fortune of connecting with Robbie Johnson -Coutee and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Robbie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When first starting my business my thought process was a little clouded. Only because a lot of the times my taste level and my pocketbook were on two different pages! There wasn’t a market for women like me. Who were on a budget but wanted to look expensive. When shopping a lot of the times I could never find reasonably priced pieces that I loved, so I created my own niche. My brand represents rock moms who want to keep its fly but on a budget! I represent women who love unique pieces and love to stand out in a crowd.

What should our readers know about your business? What sets you apart from others?
What sets me apart from other businesses in my field, being that my background is primarily in customer service and retail , I have a strong sense of customer urgency partnered with a killer sense of style. Which I have realized in running a retail business are 2 of the most important aspects to keep your business alive. Customer gravitate to your business because of your product first and they come back because of how they are treated . My customers always come first. I listen to their wants and needs when it comes to style and pieces. I pride myself on overpromising as well as over delivering when it comes to the quality and exclusivity of pieces that are part of my brand. What makes me most proud about my brand is that I have a hand in every aspect . I design all the footwear as well as the leisure pieces that are a part of the ABI Project. Not many people have the opportunity to do so, I have been blessed with the resources and the knowledge to do so. When I first was introduced to designer footwear I worked for a major footwear company in Chicago as a contracted designer but the owner of the company saw something bigger in me and for me. So, she put me in the position to start my own footwear company and I am forever grateful for that opportunity. It is not easy being the head of a footwear company due to the fact that my factory is in China , I have many late nights and early mornings of conference calls ,emails , and CAD approvals to go through to make sure that everything is perfect with all the designs. The process to design 1 pair of shoes takes at minimum 2 months ! I remember when I designed my first pair of shoes for my brand the shoe was beautiful but it had so many design flaws for example the heel was not sturdy which is a major design flaw. But in designing you make it work , you live and you learn and you improve. What I will want the world to know about my brand is that every design is well thought through I design pieces that tell a story . I design pieces that are affordable, timeless and show stoppers !

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spots in Chicago are westloop and Hyde park for different reasons . Westloop’s restaurants are some of the best in Chicago. ( The area is compare to New York’s Meat Packing district.) the ambience is very chill , the drinks are strong and the food is amazing ! My favorite restaurant is Duck Duck Goat . My second favorite spot or area is Hyde Park not only is it my neighborhood it is also one of the most predominant black areas in Chicago with a melting pot of all ethnicities it is home to the Silver Room, Chant , I can’t believe it’s not meat, and Fru’ve Xpress juicery which are some of my favorite spots in Chicago.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to shoutout my village, my husband especially for holding me down in my journey of discovery to greatness. My parents for always supporting my dream and putting me in the position to always think outside the box. And to my “OUTFIT” sisters, you guys keep me grounded and focused on the bigger picture. All of my ABI girls for always supporting me and being open to my wild ideas and pieces. And last but not least my son Jamison without you I wouldn’t be the best version of me.

Website: https://theabiproject.com/

Instagram: @Abi.project and @57th_ave.footwear

Image Credits
Photo credit : Legz

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