Women & Business February 2017: Carol Kinkela
Carol Kinkela is Owner Carabella boutique in Oakmont.
Carol Kinkela says she opened Carabella 20 years ago “just to see if we could.” At the time, the boutique was 600 square feet and consisted of just two employees.
“I was worried no one would walk in,” she says.
Despite feeling anxious, Kinkela’s background had prepared her well for the challenge. She earned a degree in fashion merchandising from the Bradford School of Business and attributes much of her business savvy to her time working at Surrey, a Shadyside women’s clothing shop owned by prominent Pittsburgh businessman Walter Blattner.
These experiences, along with Kinkela’s sharp eye for style, have helped Carabella grow into an award-winning boutique. Today, the shop is 1,800 square feet, and the team is made up of 14 “Bellas.” Carabella has received multiple honors, including the NCJW Designer Days Merchant of Distinction in 2009, and it was inducted into the Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame in 2011.
Kinkela says success has come despite obstacles.
“The biggest challenge of my work is shopping six to eight months in advance for the next season, wondering if I have chosen the right product for each category and keeping it ‘age-appropriate cool,’” she says.
Following social media has enabled her to quickly switch gears if necessary, and Kinkela says she is “always up to the challenge” of finding the right pieces for her store.
Kinkela is especially grateful for her team of Bellas – which she describes as a “true sisterhood” – and the opportunity to work with Carabella customers.
“My favorite aspect of my work is, of course, the people I have been blessed to meet, treating them to the best customer service possible and the relationships that have developed these past 20 years.”
Her passion for working with others is also reflected in her charity work. Kinkela was recognized as an Outstanding Community Supporter by the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in 2012, and she received a Patient Advocate Award from the Ladies Hospital Aid Recognition in 2016.
Kinkela encourages aspiring business owners to always keep others first and to follow their passion.
“Find something you love and make it your business,” she says. “People, passion, pride, in that order.”