I bet you are wondering how in the world Australia has anything to do with our hometown store in Hiram, GA… Well hold on because boy do I have a story for you!
During college my dream was always to do a study abroad. I loved the idea of experiencing a new culture and meeting new people. My bucket list country has always been Australia. Why you may ask? Honestly, I couldn't tell you… there was just a connection to this beautiful country I have never been (plus they spoke English which helped a lot lol). My dream came true in the Fall semester of 2017 where I spent 3 months living in Australia working for a nonprofit organization as a marketing intern. To say it was the coolest experience is an understatement. Naturally, I am a people person and met someone who lived there. We spent 2 years together going back and forth from country to country trying to make things work. After graduating from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelors in Marketing the summer of 2019, I decided it was time for me to spend another 3 months in Australia to see where my life would take me. Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely hard to leave my job I loved, family I would miss dearly, and all of my friends, but I was ready to take on this new chapter of my life.
While there, I struggled finding my place and figuring out how to make a life abroad so I did what I always knew would help: starting digging into the Word and finding a church family to call home. I’m not typically a reader, but boy do I love to learn about God’s love for us and our mission for the Kingdom. On my way home from church one Sunday afternoon, I was reading Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love (side-note: I HIGHLY recommend reading this book). At this time, I was really struggling knowing the person that I thought I wanted to build a life with did not believe in God like I did. Being raised in church and having a deep personal relationship with Jesus, I knew that is what I needed in a husband and I have always dreamed of having as a head of my household. Sitting on the train that Sunday afternoon reading that book, I felt God speaking to me through Francis saying, “Do you choose to love a man or me more?” That question struck me to my core. How can I sit here and say I choose an imperfect human over the Creator of this universe. I couldn’t.
That question right there is what changed it all for me. I knew I couldn't be there any longer and God was calling me back home. To say that was a hard time in my life is an understatement. Here is a man that already doesn’t believe in God and I have to tell him that God is calling me home/not to be with him any longer. It was devastating. After many long nights and tear filled eyes, I was able to come home a week later.
I arrived home just in time for Thanksgiving and all the holidays thereafter. The entire month of December I just kept thinking to myself: Now what?? At this point, I had given up my job, my apartment, moved everything to my parents house because I truly thought I would create a life in Australia. Thankfully, everyone welcomed me home with open arms. My parents let me stay and my old boss was so excited to have me back.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve, my best friend got engaged to the man of her dreams. I was so thankful I was back home to do all the fun celebratory things that come with planning a wedding. Just a couple of weeks into the new year, we all went wedding dress shopping. That is where she told me she was moving her business out of their current location and into the building behind them. Katie, being the amazing friend she is, said, “Lauren, you have always loved fashion, why don’t you do a boutique in the space we are moving out of. Hiram really needs more clothing stores. Plus, the clothing store we had attached to the salon did so well when it was in that location.” I looked over to her mom (which was the owner of the store Katie was referring to) and said “Dad and I have always said we need another men’s store like y’all had. We need a place for men to come shop for anything they need no matter what size they are… Joy, would you help me if I really look into this”. Being the second mom to me always, of course she said yes.
I was so excited to go home that night to tell my parents all about what we had talked about. To my surprise, they were behind my vision 100%. The next month, I worked relentlessly on the vision for a store that men could feel was theirs. A place they would actually want to stop at. A place where they felt welcomed and at home. A place to call their very own. Doing my due diligence, I created a business plan for the store I had not named yet and presented it to our local Small Business Administration (SBA) coordinator. After the meeting, I was a little down and still didn’t know if this was what God was really calling me to do or if this was another one of Lauren’s life plans. Seconds later, I received a phone call from Joy saying there was a local business closing down and they had all the fixtures I needed to open the store with. If that isn’t God right there, I don't know what is!
I drove straight there and got all the fixtures you see that is still in the store today. I was blown away with just how many times God places people and events in my life to set me forward in this adventure. The next step was to come up with a name.
I had all hands on deck coming up with the perfect name for this store. I wanted it to be something that represented not only the store, but the story of how it came to be. A friend texted me one night with all sorts of names... the last one she sent was Homeward Bound. (Yes, like the children’s movie that I LOVED growing up.) After shortening it to Home Bound, I was sold. That was it. The perfect name for our perfect store that I couldn’t believe God had pieced together. Once that name was spoken, I couldn’t picture it any other way.
With tremendous Faith, support from my amazing Family, and a little Hard Work, Home Bound Apparel was created. I could not have imagined this is what God was leading me to just one short year ago, but boy am I glad He has bigger plans than me. He has blessed me not only with this amazing store, but has also lead me to the love of my life. A man that leads me towards God and pushes me to be the best I can possibly be. He loves me through all the long and crazy hours of being a store owner and is right by my side through it all.
I cannot wait to see how God uses this story of His unconditional love to help others. I am so thankful to be here and can’t wait to serve you all.