“I grew up shopping on Riverside Drive and can’t imagine having started my business elsewhere,” says Soraya Ardakani, owner of Rose & Sage. The women’s fashion and lifestyle boutique, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last summer, is a hub of activity in the heart of Toluca Lake, hosting frequent gatherings like champagne and martini parties and winning loyal customers with its focus on personalized service and style. Its proprietor is also a prominent figure in the community, staying active in local events and serving on the Board of Directors for the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce.
All these accomplishments are even more remarkable given Ardakani’s youth. Although she’s always been interested in fashion, she was a 20-year-old political science student when the opportunity to become an entrepreneur came knocking. “My vision for the store came to fruition when a small clothing boutique that had been in Toluca Lake for over 13 years closed down,” she recalls. “Everyone in the community was saddened, including me.” Instead of simply mourning the loss, however, she saw the possibility of creating something new in its place. “I had no idea what was going to come out of opening a store, but I realized if I didn’t take the chance, I might never do it,” she says. The college sophomore snapped up the open space, switched her major to business and plunged right in.
Ardakani admits she was wary of disclosing her age during Rose & Sage’s first few years, for fear of being stereotyped as an irresponsible millennial. “Being a young female business owner isn’t easy, because people don’t always take you seriously,” she explains. “One of the biggest challenges I’ve had is learning to stand up for myself.” But as her business flourished and she gained confidence and respect, she soon learned that “the community itself is so welcoming. The Chamber of Commerce members all communicate daily and support one another all year round.”
That support has been important to Rose & Sage, and Ardakani is conscientious about paying it forward with her own contributions to the greater good. “As a small business owner, it’s important to know what’s going on in your community and help to foster a positive neighborhood,” she says. The boutique hosts fundraising events for local schools and regularly participates in trunk shows in the area. She’s also passionate about her work with the Chamber of Commerce, keeping the organization’s social media up to date and helping to plan events. “The Chamber’s goal is to shine a spotlight on our local businesses,” she explains. “As times are changing and everything is online, it’s sad to see small businesses closing. If we all shop and spend locally, small businesses get the chance to stay open. That’s why I strive to get support from the neighborhood by organizing events to bring everyone out.” And the Chamber is working on some “very exciting projects” that will be revealed soon, she hints.
This sense of connectedness is also evident in the store, where Ardakani handpicks merchandise based not only on her awareness of evolving trends, but also on her firsthand knowledge of what her customers will like and want to wear. “You have to earn the trust of your clients,” she says, particularly in the risky and fast-moving world of fashion. “I love being responsible for keeping Toluca Lake stylish!”
Asked about her favorite places in the neighborhood, Ardakani has trouble narrowing it down. “You can find us Rose & Sage dolls at Spin the Bottle and Forman’s frequently, but honestly, every restaurant on Riverside Drive is a gem and should be visited!” she exclaims. She also loves the annual Holiday Open House, remembering how she’d attend with her friends when she was growing up, never imagining owning a business here and participating in the event one day. “I’m so grateful to be a part of this amazing community.”