One-on-One with Talia Jensen


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

ISU alumna Talia Jensen is the owner of Portobello Road on Welch Ave. Jensen graduated in 2009 and moved back to Ames to fulfill her dream of owning her own store. 

Emily Eppens

Talia Jensen is the owner of Portobello Road, a boutique located at 122 Welch Ave. Jensen graduated from Iowa State in 2009 with a major in apparel, merchandising and design and production and a minor in entrepreneurial studies.

How was Portobello Road started?

I have always wanted to open my own boutique, and after working a full time job after college for a few years, I finally decided that I didn’t want to wait any longer. I was ready to jump in and get things started. I didn’t want to be a 40-year-old who had worked all her life just to start a business. I wanted to work my whole life at my own boutique. I quit my job in Minnesota and moved to Ames and waited for a spot to open up. Then I jumped in and got it started.

Why did you pick the name “Portobello Road?”

I wanted a name I could build an aesthetic around. I didn’t want it just to be a boutique with clothes that gave people no feeling. I looked at some different names and nothing really stood out as being anything special. My friend and I were brainstorming one day and we started talking about Portobello Road. Portobello Road is a name of a famous flea market in London, and it really allowed me to do a very eclectic mix of items. I have vintage and I have new and I have clothes and home decor and trendy, random and weird things. Plus, I really wanted to put a brick road. The name encompassed everything I wanted to put into the store.

What is the toughest part of running your own business?

Figuring out everything that needs to be done and then actually doing it. If things need to be clean, I clean it. If things need to be ordered, I order it. Managing and hiring — it all needs to be done and you can’t just sit around and wait for someone else to do it because then it just won’t get done. The hardest thing is getting yourself to do the work because you don’t have a boss that tells you to do it.

I’ve heard that you have done a couple fashion shows — what work goes into an event like that?

Originally, other people asked me to be a part of them, and at first I really didn’t feel like doing many fashion shows because it’s just one extra thing to do. But the more I thought about it, the more fun it seemed, so we hosted a model call and looked for people around Ames who we think might fit our look or our theme. It can be really anyone with a fun personality who wants to do it; they most often get picked to be part of the show. Then we’re in charge of advertising and promotions and coming up with a theme for the show and how to decorate. Another designer works with me and The Grove, the apartment complex here in town, often hosts the shows.

How important is success to you?

The more I’m here at the store, the more I really enjoy being in Ames and the more I really want to be able to share all of it with Ames. It’s not so important that I’m successfully known nationally. I don’t necessarily want to have more than one location anymore. But I do really want to be successful in that everyone’s been here and people like it and that they come back and talk about it with their friends.

Can you tell me about the store’s specialty nights?

Well, we had a wine night in June and a fashion’s night out in the fall. It’s something fun I like to do — it gives people more things to do than just the bars or a regular night out in Ames. Our specialty nights are a customer appreciation thing. I love meeting people and having people come into the store, so I like to do something for them.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My dad is an entrepreneur of sorts, so I think he’s who really got me interested in starting my own businesses. Also other small businesses owners alike — it’s inspiring to see all those other people working.