We had the good fortune of connecting with Serena Houlihan and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Serena, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Like so many ventures, Le Wren started because I needed something I couldn’t find anywhere else. I wanted to send a beautiful and thoughtfully curated care package to a relative facing brain cancer and couldn’t find the right items bundled together anywhere, so just created my own care package for her. I was in the unique position to know what someone facing cancer might need and want because my mother faced the same diagnosis now twelve years ago. That experience sparked an idea and the concept for Le Wren was born from that. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business, but the idea was never fully clear until that moment. And from that moment on, it was off to the races!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Le Wren is such a labor of love. Obviously the concept comes straight from my heart and my late mother’s battle with cancer. The creative side, however, is the culmination of 15 years of merchandising and buying experience at some truly amazing brands: Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, Gap, Club Monaco and most recently Charming Charlie. I began my career at Saks, in their buyer’s training program, after a Political Science BA from Brown in 2005. Growing up in Manhattan, retail was such a part of my life from an early age. I had always loved fashion and retail, but knew nothing of what really went on behind the scenes and bringing product to life and into the consumers’ hands. The Saks’ training program was basically a masters degree in retail and I continue to draw on what I learned there. Fast forward a few years to Club Monaco where I learned how product was actually made, designed, priced, manufactured, etc. and my love for the creative side of retail flourished. After years at Coach and then Gap in similar roles and working for and with some incredibly brilliant merchants and designers, I found myself newly re-located to Houston because of my husband’s job in oil & gas. I was lucky enough to become a VP of Merchandising at Charming Charlie, where I worked until the company went out of business in July 2019. Because CC was so much smaller than any other company I’d worked for previously, I was able to see other sides of the business merchants typically weren’t involved in. I learned so much! As hard as going through bankruptcy was, I credit that period of my career with giving me the experience I needed to tell myself I could start a business from scratch. It’s a hard jump to go from a large, public brand to a start-up, but CC was a phenomenal intermediary point that gave me some much needed experience and confidence to do just that. All of that is to say, I’ve learned something crucial at every place I’ve worked, at every level and in every role. All of that helps shape what Le Wren has become and how we manage our business. But at the end of the day, we are all about people and helping our clients connect with their loved ones. Where I’ve been successful in my prior roles, it was because I had strong, respectful relationships with my colleagues, vendors, team, you name it. In today’s business world, one cannot overlook the importance of relationships and that personal connection.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is tough for a native New Yorker to openly admit, but I love Houston! I have been amazed by its openness, diversity, food scene and, yes, natural beauty. Now, I do have three small children (Lizzie, 4, and James and Alex, 16 months), so my wanderings around Houston aren’t quite like they used to be, but when we used to have guests in town we made sure to take them to the Houston Arboretum, the Houston Zoo and the Terry Hershey Trail to enjoy the outdoors. We live in the Heights and spend hours upon hours strolling up the bike path which is still one of my favorite spots in this whole city. You can usually find us at Boomtown on 19th Street to get our weekend (and caffeine fix) going. We love to enjoy the food scene here and often enjoy El Tiempo, Kin Dee Thai, Kyhber Indian, Pico’s, Local Foods, True Food… honestly the list goes on and on. I don’t get out much after hours these days, but we love going to Goodnight Charlie’s in Montrose for a pretty hip honky tonk experience.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Entrepreneurship is like parenting — it takes a village. There are so many incredible people who have helped me get this beautiful business off the ground! First, my Co-Founder, Amanda Goller, who has been an incredible partner and sounding board as we developed the idea and launched. Her business background is entirely different from my own, so our blend of skills, perspective and experience have made all the difference in creating Le Wren. Lori Houlihan, the relative I was originally shopping for when the idea for Le Wren came to mind, has been an incredible support and idea generator for me, supporting Le Wren through all phases of its development and now that we are open for business. And while Le Wren is truly focused on supporting women, there are two incredible men who deserve loads of credit — my father and my husband. They’ve shown me so much support and encouragement along the way from high level strategic advice to the brass tacks of fixing my printer (which I regularly break). When we were still ideating on Le Wren, I remember telling my father about the idea. He said “Do it. Now. Wouldn’t you love to go to work every day and know you were truly helping people through the worst times in their lives?” That was the advice that helped make Le Wren a reality.

Website: www.lewrencare.com

Instagram: @lewrencare

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lewrencare

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