July 18, 2024

Women often have a wide-range of clothing options, but young women don’t always have easy access to high-quality, trendy apparel, one of Ames’ newest business owners said. 
That niche market inspired Kayla Cameron to open her first boutique for young women when she was just 17 years old. In August, Cameron, now 22, opened her first Iowa location of Kaylee boutique on Ames’ Main Street.
The cozy location at 218 Main St. features a soaring tin ceiling and a collection of clothing and accessories aimed at women in their late teens and early 20s.
Cameron opened her first boutique in the Lake Michigan resort town of Pentwater, Michigan, where her family has lived during the summer season for several years.
She started the boutique under the name Mangoes, which is open only seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
“It’s exciting to have something open year-round,” she said.
In 2021, Cameron changed the business’ name to Kaylee, which is a nod to her family nickname as well as an homage to her future married name.
“I changed it to Kaylee because that’s what my mom’s always called me,” Cameron said. “And I got engaged, too, and my fiance’s last name is Lee. Since my name’s going to be Kayla Lee, I thought it would be cool to combine it to Kaylee.”
Cameron’s fiance is Iowa State University football player Isaiah Lee, No. 58 and a defensive lineman for the Cyclones. Their wedding is scheduled for June 29, 2024.
More:ISU’s Isaiah Lee grew up fast before becoming a Cyclone. Now he’s ready for greatness.
A 2021 Iowa State grad with a major in apparel, merchandising and design and a minor in entrepreneurship, Cameron said she has always had a passion for the fashion industry. Her fashion education began at Parsons School of Design in New York City.
“I really liked running my boutique in the summers, and I wanted to come to Iowa State to learn how to do it better,” she said. “I feel like I really learned how to set up a store and build a brand.”
Cameron noticed a gap in the apparel market when it came to high-quality fashions for young women.
“I would go shopping with my mom, and I noticed all the stores were geared toward older women,” she said.
The stores aimed at younger women tended to have products that would fall apart after a few washings, she added.
“Also I want my customers to have a great personal experience. I tell the girls who work in my store that I don’t care about the sale, I just want our customers to enjoy their time here,” Cameron said. “No one my age gets that experience.”
She wanted to create that atmosphere while offering high-quality pieces at a relatively affordable price. Most things in the boutique are less than $50. Some jackets and jeans are a little more than that, Cameron said, but her goal is to offer things college students can afford.
“I really love color. I feel like a lot of people are scared of color or patterns, but I really love color, so I try to bring in a lot of that,” she said.
The shop also offers some accessories, handbags, shoes and Iowa State gear.
“We have a little bit of everything. I like to offer the whole college-girl experience, from loungewear, to going to class, to hanging out with friends,” Cameron said.
Kaylee is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Kaylee also has an online store at shopkaylee.com, where items can be shipped or purchased for local pickup.
Ronna Faaborg covers business and the arts for the Ames Tribune. Reach her at rl******@ga*****.com.


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