Female Feature Friday: Alyson and Kacey of Esther Penn

We are back at it, bringing you another Female Feature Friday. We are so excited to be sharing a new amazing Girl Boss every week. The inspiration behind this series was to highlight the brilliant women running small businesses in an effort to inspire other women to bring their talents to the table. We can do it all, ladies!

Kacey and Alyson, the two best friends behind Esther Penn, are living their dream of building a style community for the employees and customers. We love their style and go for it attitude. Keep reading to see how they got their start and what keeps them motivated to create one of the best boutiques in the DFW area.

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Name and Occupation:

A: Alyson Johnson // co owner and buyer 

K: Kacey Cargile // co owner and buyer 

Briefly describe your business:

A: We are an affordable on trend women’s boutique. 

K: Esther Penn is an always changing, price conscious women’s clothing store. 

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How did Esther Penn come about and what were you doing before its inception? 

A: I worked in commercial production for a while and started working retail just to meet some new friends in Fort Worth because when we were new to town and I didn’t know anyone. I met Kac my first day and we’ve been best friends ever since. We worked together for a few years and then decided one day we wanted to do our own thing and make sure we got to work together for a long time. 

K: I worked retail through college with Nordstrom and a couple of boutiques in Austin.  I moved to Fort Worth for law school and continued working retail part-time while I was finishing school.  I met Alyson during this time and she convinced me to open our own store instead of going to be a lawyer- best decision ever! 

What drew you to fashion?

A: I think I’m more drawn to people which is why I love retail. I love helping people and getting people to try things maybe they wouldn’t normally try. Don’t get me wrong I do love clothes but it’s the best feeling to help people find something they love. 

K: I have been drawn to fashion since I was a little girl.  I am a shopper- I love to look at clothes, designs and styling even when I am not purchasing.  Fashion has always been how I have expressed myself, especially as an angsty teenager. One of my favorite things to do in the morning is drink my coffee and put an outfit together. 

How did you two meet?

A: We met working together in another shop. 

K: Alyson and I met in Fort Worth in 2011.  We were both working part-time at another clothing store.

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Why is small business so important to you? 

A: It’s so special to have a small business that people support, it’s the coolest thing to get to work for yourself and build something you love so much. 

K: Small businesses create a workspace that you cannot find anywhere else.  Alyson and I are so lucky to be able to do what we love but we also enjoy creating an environment that our employees love as well.  Our staff is what makes Esther Penn work and we believe that if the store does well, the employees do well. We want to create these meaningful spaces for our girls that you cannot find in a corporate structure. 

What was your first real job?

A: I was a production coordinator for a production house in Austin. 

K: Nordstrom- Handbags.

What motivates you to keep going on the less than awesome days?

A: I think because it’s on us to make it work and succeed. It helps that you get to do it with you best friend, we are there to pick each other up which always helps. 

K: Definitely picking up the phone and calling Alyson.  We have some pretty funny conversations when we are frustrated, worn out or worried due to the shop.  By the end of the phone call we are laughing and putting each other in check. I think being able to voice your concerns to someone who is just as equally invested really helps.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business? 

A: Working in the field before you jump out there and do it is super important, you learn all the pros and cons and if you really love it. Then I think just go for it, YOLO. 

K: Do the research, have the financial backing and create your own ideas.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and what/how did you learn from it? 

A: I think any time I’ve made a mistake it’s probably been a communication thing and since Kac and I aren’t in the same place a lot it’s super important to communicate. 

K: My biggest mistake is probably not asking for help when I need it.  I tend to be pretty type A in all aspects of life so letting go of control and letting others help is a struggle for me.  I found myself half-assing things because I was stretched so thin. I think I have learned throughout the years that you are not going to grow without a strong team behind you. 

What has surprised you most about running a small business? 

A: maybe just how it really feel like your baby, it’s something you are constantly thinking about and you want it to be the best it can be.

K: The work never stops.  5 years into it I am still up at night wondering if the racks are straight and if Sally got her homecoming dress.  It has also been crazy to me to see how success in a small business really is directly determined by how much work you are putting into it.  If you slack, the store suffers. If you stay late a few nights working on something, the store has a better week. This has been true on a macro-level as well. 

Who have you looked to for advice and mentorship?

A: We look to Kaceys mom Cathy a lot! She is so helpful and really has the best advice when it comes to business and managing people. 

K: My mom works for a national company so she always has good advice on logistics.  We call her head of HR.

What’s it like running a small business together?

A: It’s the most fun thing ever, we are so lucky we are the same but also so different so we work so well as a team. We’re always learning and trying to get better as bosses, as buyers and all around business owners. 

K: We have our dream jobs.  I really feel guilty sometimes when I am talking to my friends or family about work because mine is hardly work.  Our weaknesses are each others strengths so we have been a really good team. 

What’s next for Esther Penn?

A: More stores and a bigger online presence hopefully! 

K: More stores, more babies and more margaritas.

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A: I moved with my boyfriend at the time (now husband) because of his job. We both went to UT in Austin and we’re living there until we moved to Fort Worth.

K: Law school at Texas A&M University School of Law.


A: Taco Heads // potato egg and cheese with lots of green sauce.

K: Taco Heads- bacon egg and cheese on flour.


A: HG Supply.

K: Mi Cocina.


A: Mi Cocina // Mambo Taxi.

K: Taco Heads- Best in Texas Margarita.


A: Del Friscos.

K: I am drawing a blank here so I’m just going to make my own rules and say favorite restaurant in Fort Worth- Tokyo Cafe.


A: I love our customers they are so loyal and supportive it really is the coolest thing ever. 

K: Since we have been open 5 years in Fort Worth we have watched our customers graduate, get married, have kids, move, etc.  They are also just as invested in our lives so we feel like we really know them and have grown with them. I don’t think you find that in every city.


A: indigo yoga, taco heads and Winslows wine shop.

K: Taco Heads, Charlie and Co, Baby by Design. 


Be sure to check out our interviews with:

Melissa Ice of The Worthy Co / The Net

Marcie Finney Ditto of Mustard Seed Jewelry

Mandy Gleason of Replica Surfaces

Betsy Price, Fort Worth Mayor

And my personal journey with Sip Dine Design