New Cookeville business gives back to the community

An unusual boutique, recently opened in Cookeville, doesn’t keep all the profits they make from sales.
Bless is a cause-driven retail boutique which gives back the first 10 percent of profit, right off the top, to local organizations in the community. While students love trendy clothes and shopping, they could give back to something and contribute to help others while doing so. The boutique attracts customers of both genders and is all-age appropriate.
Sept. 10 was opening day for Bless.
“We are going to expand some more,” owner Kelly Martin said. “We already have women’s clothing, some men’s denim and some home ware, with more to come. This week has been great. People have been so kind wanting to know more about it. It has been an absolutely great first week.”
The idea of Bless came from a store in Franklin, Tenn., called Philanthropy. The owner was doing cause-driven retail. Martin said she talked to her about licensing, but the owner only donated the first 5 percent of profits. Philanthropy was mainly the sole provider for an orphanage in Uganda, and Martin wanted to keep it close to home.
Bless also has several global give back products, such as sandals that women in Uganda sew straps and backs on. The sales allow the women to go to college and further their lives.
“It brings them income and teaches them something,” Martin said.
The boutique also sells Raven + Lilly jewelry, which HIV positive women make. The money goes back to the women.
Martin is also trying to acquire Krochet Kids, which people in Northern Uganda make and earn a profit from.
“There is a picture when you buy the product of the person making it, and it’s so personal,” Martin said. “I know Tech students would love this product.”
Bless contributes to The Mustard Seed Ranch Children’s Home, Helping Hands of Putnam County, Structured Athletics for Challenged Children, and City Scape. The money will be divided equally out to the organizations after Dec. 31.
 “I felt like the needs in Putnam County were important, so I wanted to keep that here and start at home,” Martin said. “It’s a huge need, and we need to start becoming aware of the help people require, and the needs of children. It’s heart changing. If you can do something good, then you should do it.”
Martin said when looking for a name for the store, she wanted it to be less of her and more of helping others. She came up with Bless, with the ‘B’ bolder than the other letters on the sign out front of the store.
There are other boutiques around the Train Depot, but Martin said hers is the only cause-driven boutique she knows of in Cookeville.
“Girls come in looking for things to wear,” Katelyn Steakley, Martin’s daugher and manager of Bless, said. “There are already boutiques around us, but all offer different things, and college students love to be trendy and shop at these boutiques, but this isn’t just your normal boutique.”
Martin said, “That’s what I love about the Cookeville area. We can make a difference. It is not me doing this. It’s the people that shop here. To get to see the results from what you have done is the most precious thing you’ll ever see.”    
Bless is located at 18 W. Broad St. The boutique is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store also has a Facebook, Bless Cookeville, and a Twitter account, Bless1B1.