How one woman went from homelessness to running a business

Local entrepreneur hopes to inspire other women

ORLANDO, Fla. – It's a modern day rags to riches story for Ronni McNeill. Five years ago, the New York native launched Royal Rags Boutique, an online clothing business with a touch of bling.

"Most people probably won't even care. You know, they'll probably throw the boxes away and all that stuff, but it makes me feel good," McNeill said.

She gets a good feeling from wrapping each clothing order she delivers because for her, it's all about presentation. That's why she goes all out with the packaging. So much so that instead of using standard tissue paper, she buys silk fabric to wrap clothing items. 

"That's how I made mine different. I made sure to put thought into everything," McNeill said.

She also customizes the box with a glittery sticker of the client's initial and adds a handwritten thank you note.

But life hasn't always been silky for the single mom. Right as she was launching her business, hard times hit.

"I lost my job, someone stole my car, lost the house, couldn't get to work, couldn't do anything for a while so my son and I were homeless for almost a year. Literally homeless, sleeping at bus stops," she recalled. "We were staying in hotel lobbies until they kicked us out. There was a Tropical Smoothie in Sanford that we used to always go into and eat. They wouldn't say anything, we would be there all day."

Once those online orders started coming in, she had to walk six miles to the storage unit where she kept the inventory. Despite those hardships, she made sure to show her appreciation.

"Every order I was so grateful for, so when I wrote these notes to the customers saying thank you so much, I meant it because that $30 or $50 order meant we got to eat lunch that day," McNeill said.

Despite sleeping on the streets, McNeill said she always made sure to dress to impress, especially for job interviews.

"Just because you're going through something doesn't mean you have to look like that and that's the whole point," McNeill said about what her company represents.

She said she offers a variety of styles.

"A lot of pieces are a little dark. A lot of pieces are a little edgy, if you will, but I try to add some sparkle in there every now and then, some sexiness. You can still be all those things regardless of what you're going through," McNeill said.

Today, she keeps busy with two companies. McNeill is also a lash technician. She hopes her story will inspire others who are struggling.

"I hope to empower these women to know that, you know, just because you might be jobless, homeless, in a bad relationship, whatever the case is, I want you to know you don't have to look like that," she said. "Whatever you're going through you can come out of it. You just have to be determined and figure out what works for you." 

To check out McNeill's clothing store, click here.

About the Author: