Retail Gallery Incubator Leads to IMIHI Showroom Launch

Tammy Thompson and Alexis Lenae at IMIHI Grand Opening
Tammy Thompson and Alexis Lenae at the Grand Opening of the IMIHI showroom 2022
With the support of Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, Alexis Lenae opened the IMIHI Showroom on Penn Avenue. She hosted a fashion show and grand opening event to celebrate her success.

It is not too late to discover that perfect New Year style. In the Summer of 2022, with the support of Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, Alexis Lenae opened the IMIHI Showroom on Penn Avenue. She hosted a fashion show and grand opening event to celebrate her success.

Catapult has invested in establishing a small business retail presence on Penn Avenue next door to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Business entrepreneurs operate in a shared retail gallery space. IMIHI is the first stand-alone branded studio store.

IMIHI is located at 5903 Penn Avenue in the heart of East Liberty. There Alexis and her team design one-of-a-kind statement pieces for various occasions such as bridal, prom, galas, and more. She also teaches beginner sewing classes to children and adults both in-person and online. You can visit the IMIHI website to learn more about these services and book an appointment.

The IMIHI Journey

Alexis Lenae IMIHI
Alexis Lenae, Owner of IMIHI

IMIHI (pronounced em-may-hee), was initially created in 2013 as a social media hashtag for Alexis Lenae. Her focus was to create a fashion-focused blog that encouraged body positivity and self-love for the plus-size and curvy community.

However, things slowly started moving in a different direction. “I literally woke up one day and decided that I wanted to learn sewing as a hobby so that I could create clothing for myself,” said Lenae. “I found it extremely frustrating and discouraging to go shopping and not be able to find quality and fashionable plus-size clothing. Oftentimes it left me feeling defeated and insecure.”

While her intention was just to make clothes for herself, it was clear that God had other plans.

Early on in her sewing journey, Alexis created a custom piece for a friend. Once it was posted to social media, IMIHI quickly became more than a body-positive hashtag. IMIHI became a brand that embodied class, elegance, creativity, and so much more.

“I want to provide every client with an experience to see themselves as the amazing and beautiful person God intended them to be,” said Lenae. “My hope is they will look in the mirror and simply say I’m made in His image (IMIHI).”

Learn more about Alexis Lenae, the Visionary and Owner of IMIHI, and shop her latest collection online.

woman wearing red custom prom dress
Custom Prom Dress 2023

IMIHI In the News

An East Liberty nonprofit provides entrepreneurs ‘the luxury of experimentation’

Source: Pittsburgh PostGazette

Catapult’s Retail Gallery Incubation Program provides storefront spaces for people interested in learning how to sell and develop their products in a high-visibility space while gaining hands-on experience in a low-risk environment. Program participants receive training, rent-free storefronts for a year, and help with networking.

“The luxury of experimentation is what we’re trying to give people,” Ms. Thompson said. “Because, quite honestly, the folks that we’re working with do not have the luxury of failure. Almost 100% of them are self-funding these businesses. They’re working full-time jobs, and then using their discretionary income and time to start.”

Catapult trains program participants on everything from the importance of producing a quality product to how to label their goods, from marketing themselves and their merchandise to effectively engaging customers through websites and social media.

Ms. Lenae has moved into her own storefront, also on Penn Avenue. She designs prom dresses, wedding gowns, and other custom creations in her own space.

About the Catapult Retail Gallery Incubator Program

Catapult Retail Gallery Incubator storefront spaces offer retail businesses the chance to showcase their products within the local community. The program promotes economic justice, growth, and success in a collaborative environment. Through the program, minority business owners can gain hands-on retail experience in a high-visibility, supportive, and low-risk environment where they can learn how to sell and develop their products or services.

Catapult established the retail spaces in response to the historical lack of access for minority businesses to high-traffic storefront locations. The advantages of gallery retail spaces extend beyond just business owners like Alexis Lenae and IMIHI. They positively impact the community and provide a platform for retail entrepreneurs to create an enriching environment for all.

Catapult partnered with Fireman Creative to develop the Retail Residency brand signage. Cat the Frog with the needle and the spool of thread on the storefront sign symbolizes how our organization has sewn together the IMIHI brand with the Catapult Retail Residency program.

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