A love for shopping and fashion, coupled with a desire to empower women, brought class of 2018 alumnae Sara Musleh and Avonni Ward into business together. The duo opened Sarae Boutique intending to carry clothing for people of various religions, cultural backgrounds, and sizes.

“Sara and I have always been shopaholics. We used to shop in between courses while attending Holy Cross College,” said Ward. “One thing we noticed is that there were very few stores where we both could find fashion to fit the both of us. We noticed a gap in the market. There are very few boutiques or stores that offer inclusive fashion. We couldn’t find a one-stop-shop, so we created it. Sarae Boutique is here to be inclusive and to offer visibility for all women—showcasing women of all colors, shapes, and beliefs.”

“Fashion has always been something I loved. It was one of the things Avonni and I bonded over in college. However, it wasn’t always easy for us to find clothing that would suit us, so we came up with the idea of opening a boutique that would carry clothing suitable for people of all sorts of religious and cultural backgrounds and different sizes,” said Musleh.

Background and experience

Upon graduation with her bachelor’s degree from Holy Cross College, Musleh began managing her father’s businesses full time while running Sarae’s Boutique with her partner. While continuing to grow the business, she plans on pursuing her master’s degree next year.

“After graduating Holy Cross College, I went on to work at Press Ganey for a year. I left Press Ganey to pursue my Master’s in Management from Notre Dame. After graduating in 2020 with my master’s degree, I am now working full time as an underwriter,” said Ward. “I also run and manage Sarae Boutique alongside my business partner Sara.”

Creating a foundation

“Holy Cross helped me begin my discernment process for my career aspirations. I was able to begin to find where I believed I fit into the ‘real world.’ Having a strong conviction on what I believe my contribution to the world will be has helped me confidently advance in my professional life,” noted Ward.

“Holy Cross has given me a lot more than just a degree. I believe a key part of my college career that helped me in my professional life was my internship. It helped me eliminate some career choices I had thought of by giving me the opportunity to explore them,” said Musleh.

Memorable college moment

“I personally used to love the business seminars that would happen on Wednesday nights once a month. A lot of the speakers that would come in really had inspiring stories on how they reached their goals. As a business major, most of my classes would offer extra credit for attending these seminars, however even when I didn’t have classes that offered that extra credit I would still look forward to those seminars and go regardless,” said Musleh.

“A memorable moment for me was my senior capstone. My senior capstone allowed me to look back on what I had learned and apply it to the future. I was able to pinpoint what made me Avonni, and use that to continue to build myself,” recalled Ward. “My senior capstone journey was definitely a strong take-off to propel me into my next journey in life.”

Plans and aspirations

“I hope to continue to grow Sarae Boutique and own more than one business. I have a lot of business ideas and projects that I hope to turn into a reality one day. Avonni and I are great business partners and we have a lot of plans for South Bend in the future,” noted Musleh.

“My plans are to continue to uplift women through my personal career advancements and through our boutique. My goal is to showcase how far grit and determination can get you,” said Ward.

Learn more about the boutique at https://saraeboutique.com/.

Photos provided by Sarae Boutique. Pictured from left to right are class of 2018 alumnae Sara Musleh and Avonni Ward.