Wildcat Tracks: Lauren Morris Thorp ’03
Sometimes the place you end up is not at the end of the path you started on. This is the case for alum and local shop owner Lauren Thorp. After graduating from Westminster in ’03, Lauren attended Butler University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance. She then did the “World Race”—an 11-month mission trip around the world where she served in Africa, Asia, and Latin America working with orphans, ministering at hospitals, supporting local missionaries, and working with women trapped in the sex trade industry. After completing the World Race, Lauren landed back in the U.S. “The Lord called me to Washington DC to work for a government contractor in international development. While I didn’t end up loving that particular job, I met my husband, Justin, in DC and we were married in 2011,” she said. “After moving across the country several times, we finally settled in St. Louis where we are raising our 5-year-old son, Miles, and our 3-year-old daughter, Eloise.”
Lauren is the owner of Bonboni, an award-winning shop located in the Historic Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis. Bonboni features collections of boho-chic women’s clothing, vintage home goods, and unique gift items. The shop is a fruition of a long-held dream. “My husband jokes that I started expressing my dreams of opening a shop on our third date! I’ve always enjoyed the process of curating and discovering items that bring beauty and joy to our lives. Shortly after we got married, I started working on some financial projections for a retail shop (thanks, finance degree!), but I could never get the numbers to work out to justify the time and resources it would require to get a retail shop operational,” Lauren explained. “In 2016, while house hunting, we discovered the home we now own near the Missouri Botanical Gardens. To my surprise and delight, it came with a commercial retail building on the side of the property. The building has formerly operated as a small grocery store in the early 1910s–the 30s, a candy shop in the 40s–60s (from which I drew inspiration for the name of my shop—Bonboni being a nod to “candy”), and a convenience store in the 70s and 80s, then was boarded up until it was rehabbed by investors right before we purchased it. The Lord handed me a way to walk into my dream of opening a shop, allowing for very little upfront cost, and a way to balance being a mother to two small children and a shopkeeper. Because we own the space, I am able to iterate and take risks that I normally wouldn’t take if I had the typical overhead of a retail shop.”
Lauren credits her time spent at Westminster with giving her a foundation for running a successful business. “I really valued my time at WCA, both in terms of academics and the relationships that I built. Several teachers left a lasting impact on me: Dr. Holley taught me how to be a competent writer, a skill that set me up for success in college; Dr. Shaw gave me a love for science and the world around me; and Mr. Boesch taught me how to think critically during my time with We the People,” she said. “I’ve always been a unique mix of both right and left brain. While in school, it was much easier to focus on developing my left-brain strengths. After I graduated and was out on my own, I felt freer to explore my right-brain strengths and dabbled with blogging and other creative pursuits in my spare time. While I thought it would be fun, I never really thought a career in design would be an actual possibility for me since I have no formal training.”
That career turned out to be a perfect fit! Bonboni has garnered several awards including “Most Beautiful Independent Store in Missouri” by Architectural Digest and “Best New Home Goods Shop” by St. Louis Magazine. Lauren is also the author of an e-book, “Define Your Style”, that helps readers identify their home design style. Be sure to check out Lauren’s boutique in the Historic Shaw Neighborhood or find it online here!
This alumni spotlight was originally featured in the May 2019 issue of our alumni newsletter, Wildcat Tracks.