Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

The Lil’ JOYtique Story


Owner Dawn Leonard finds purpose in life by spreading joy

by Donna Sanders Corbus

Because The Lil’ JOYtique is mobile, Dawn can literally bring the store to her customers, <BR>setting up shop anywhere.<BR> Photo by Christal Marshall at Marshall Arts Studio <BR>Hair and Makeup by Nicole Martin at Mystique Salon & Skin Spa

Because The Lil’ JOYtique is mobile, Dawn can literally bring the store to her customers,
setting up shop anywhere.
Photo by Christal Marshall at Marshall Arts Studio
Hair and Makeup by Nicole Martin at Mystique Salon & Skin Spa

Spread joy daily and live life purposely” is the motto of Dawn Leonard and her family. Not only does Dawn follow this motto in her personal life, but her business, The Lil’ JOYtique, exudes the message.

A native of northeast Florida, Dawn married at age 18.  With a baby on the way, she worked as an assistant manager at a national fast food chain. It soon became abundantly clear that more income was needed as her family began to grow, so Dawn—having always been helpful by nature—returned to school to become a licensed practical nurse.

Dawn’s days began by working from 5:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. at the drive-in. She then took classes from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m, before going home to eat dinner with her son and then returning to the drive-in to work the eight-to-midnight shift. The schedule was grueling, but the family made it through the ordeal with the help of relatives and friends.

While taking her son to a routine check-up,  Dawn mentioned to the pediatrician that she had just completed her LPN; he hired her to work for him. She fell in love with nursing.

When Dawn’s marriage ended in 1998 due to domestic violence, she and her sons were homeless for a few months. Working three nursing jobs to support her boys, she returned to school and earned an Associates Degree in Science of Nursing, graduating  as Salutatorian of her class. She continued working three jobs as an RN while caring for her boys and remaining actively involved in all of their school and extracurricular activities.

In 2003, Dawn met David Leonard, MD. He was in the Navy, so the first few months of their relationship consisted of email correspondence. Once they met and  began taking a dance class together, their love bloomed. They married in 2007, and since then have had more children. Dawn is now the proud mom of six children (ages seven to 27) and a grandmother of four, with another grandchild due in August.

When David retired from the Navy in 2010, he accepted a position as a physician with Eastern Virginia Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists, and the family moved to Hampton Roads.

Dawn retired from nursing to care for elderly parents in 2014, but soon after realized how much she missed working. For years, she made clothing for her children, so she began sewing and selling her creations locally. As an interest in retail clothing took root, Dawn started to explore business opportunities.

Dawn discovered, and was impressed by LuLaRoe—a California-based clothing company whose mission statement embraced strengthening families, serving and blessing others, and fostering love, confidence and purposeful living. These were the very values that Dawn and her family had always embraced.  As the mother of six, she also appreciated the fact that LuLaRoe’s fashionable clothing for men, women and children was both comfortable and reasonably priced. She became an independent consultant with LuLaRoe on April 7, 2017.

Dawn quickly realized that she could serve and help more people in the community if she brought the clothing to them. So, she opened a mobile boutique—an 8-by-28 foot trailer that not only holds 3000 pieces of clothing, but is large enough for customers to come inside to shop. There are even party lights and a dressing room inside! Best of all, because it is portable, she  can literally bring the store to her customers throughout the Hampton Roads community. Consistent with her mission of bringing joy to others, Dawn christened her mobile store The Lil’ JOYtique, LLC with a ribbon cutting in September 2017.

“My life was joyless for a season...
that is why it is important
for me to spread joy to others now.”

—Dawn Leonard

“The real purpose of The Lil’ JOYtique is to serve and bless others in the community, and to make a difference their lives through fashion, fun and God’s grace,” Dawn declares. “My life was joyless for a season, and that is why it is important for me to spread joy to others now.”

Dedicated to giving back to the community and helping those in need, Dawn Leonard donates ten percent of The Lil’ JOYtique’s sales to a different charity each month.

Dedicated to giving back to the community and helping those in need, Dawn Leonard donates ten percent of The Lil’ JOYtique’s sales to a different charity each month.

Dawn wants her customers to have a joyful shopping experience. “Friends can shop together in one place,” she says, beaming enthusiastically. “It’s great fun! Because I carry so many sizes and styles, families and friends can shop together instead of splintering  off to a lot of different stores.”

Bringing joy to strangers is also a passion for Dawn. Part of her personal mission is to give back to the community through charitable donations and fundraising. Dawn does not limit her efforts to helping only one or two charities; she is determined to give help wherever it is needed. Selecting a different charity each month, Dawn donates a portion of Lil’ JOYtique’s total sales to that particular organization or cause.

Because the mobile boutique allows Dawn to set up shop in any location, businesses allow her to bring The Lil’ JOYtique to their parking lots for either a few hours or an entire day. In return, Dawn will ask the business owner or manager if they support a particular charity. If so, a portion of all sales made at that location will go to that merchant’s charity of choice. Dawn presents that charity with a check for the amount raised, giving recognition to the business or organization where the mobile boutique was parked.

Dawn also spreads joy by donating clothing to homeless shelters and women’s shelters. Just before the beginning of the school year, she participated in a fashion show for the organization Parents in Need. The Lil’ JOYtique donated 24 outfits for the fashion show as well as backpacks filled with school supplies, to help the kids start the school year off right. Dawn has also raised money for suicide prevention by sponsoring a vendor event in which Chesapeake Behavioral Health participated. In April 2017, at a LuLaRoe training session, Dawn found out that there were 200 skirts remaining that would have to be shipped back to California at LuLaRoe’s expense. Instead of having them returned, Dawn asked if she could buy them to donate. She donated almost 100 skirts locally, while the remaining skirts were sent to women in need in Uganda with the help of Prakash Ministries. Dawn regularly supports  organizations such CHKD, Families with Autistic Children of Tidewater, MDA and Toys for Tots—as well as individuals suffering from life-threatening medical conditions, such as women and children battling cancer.

Though busy with private home parties, fundraising and charity events, Dawn and her family still find time to volunteer at their church, Great Bridge Presbyterian and with the Boy Scouts of America.

“We also like to read, roller skate, ride bikes, go to the beach, walk our dogs, play board games, go to movies and of course, dance,” Dawn says.

Dancing—yet another way of expressing joy— something that Dawn and The Lil’ JOYtique can’t stop doing.

The Lil Joytique, LLC