One of the first things you will notice about Meredith Sparks is her smile—it’s the thousand-watt kind. The second will be her energy, and the third will be her confidence. All three are huge, bright, and contagious, which is probably why she recently became the founder of a boutique built around empowering women through fitness. The (tennis) shoe fits.
When Meredith was a little girl growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, her parents signed her up for tee ball. After a couple hours spent picking flowers in the outfield and perfecting her cartwheel, her parents switched her to dance, and for the next twenty years, she danced her way through high school, college, and even post-college in the Steps Intensive program in New York.
While in New York, she decided to retire from dancing and took an internship in fashion, where she realized she had a true passion for the business side of the industry.
“New York City was an endless supply of style inspiration, and being surrounded by it everyday helped me understand how influential fashion and style is in everyone’s life. I was able to explore parts of my personal style and try new things, and I think this helped me understand what works and what doesn’t for my body and my style.”
Things got serious with her boyfriend who was in Birmingham, so Meredith took a job at Hibbett Sports, analyzing sales data and inventory capacity, and moved back home to Alabama. Influenced by the volume of active women in Birmingham, she began to formulate an idea to bring the athleisure that had been so popular on the fitness scene in New York to the South.
“My goal was to bring women athletic wear that makes them feel amazing. Athleisure has come so far in the last decade, and instead of wearing something that looks mechanical and utilitarian, women can express themselves at the gym in a way they haven’t been able to before. I want to make women feel powerful and sexy and unstoppable, and I think athleisure does that.”
With a hardworking lawyer and entrepreneur for a dad, and a fashion and fitness guru for a mom, Meredith had plenty of inspiration and advice to draw on. “Growing up my parents encouraged me to do what made me push myself. They wanted me to be happy in my work, but they never wanted me to be comfortable in my work, which is something that I’ve always kept with me.”
In the beginning, discomfort showed up in the form of lack of support.
“The biggest challenge was feeling like no one was taking me seriously. I’m not sure if it was because I’m young or if it was because I’m a woman, but after a few meetings with people who brushed me off, I started to have to believe in my own ideas, and then everything changed. I think this pushed me to have confidence in myself and my decisions. When you do this, other people can feel it, and they start believing in what you’re doing.”
Which is exactly what happened when her advisors pushed for online only versus brick and mortar. “Once I had the opportunity to really interact with customers at pop-up shops, I knew that I had to open a physical store.” So she did, just last week.
“The store has a very clean, ‘West Coast’ vibe and in many ways is very minimalistic. I really wanted it to look like a gallery with the clothes as artwork. I also wanted to bring some of the edge of New York to the South—that part of my life has really influenced the direction of the collection.”
As far as deciding on a name for her business, Meredith chose Eleven Eleven because of its meaning of “synchronicity, simplicity, and spiritual awareness.” And the ambiance of the store alludes to that as well, providing lit candles, music, and art.
“I am very passionate about how my clients feel when they walk through my doors. The product I’m selling is a premium one, and I believe the experience should match. I really try to get to know each client and what they are looking for, so we can connect them with something they will really love. We don’t have bins of leggings that our clients have to dig around in or racks overcrowded with merchandise. The simplistic approach to displaying our brands makes the process feel luxurious, instead of stressful.”
As a small business owner, Meredith is not only invested in her clients; she’s also invested in her neighbors.
“Running a business is hard but having someone who does it next to you everyday is so uplifting. I’ve discovered a network of female business owners whose support is fierce, so I put together an event called Movement Collective. We host MVMT CLTV every other month in a new space around Birmingham. The ultimate goal is to bring health-focused, women-owned businesses and our clients together. We have a free Pilates class, a braid bar, ‘healthy cocktails,’ healthy food, and pop-ups. It’s been a great way to not only introduce our clients to new things, but it has opened so many networking and support doors for the owners and entrepreneurs.”
Surrounded by a tribe of strong female business owners and holding the keys to her very own brick and mortar boutique, Meredith is a far cry from the days of not being taken seriously. When asked what advice she would give now to herself when she was starting out:
“Just keep going. You know what you’re doing, and this is a damn good idea.”
We think so too.
Meredith in Ten:
- Favorite Childhood Outfit: “Little Mermaid” Flounder costume paired with red cowboy boots and a very ’90s ski jacket
- College Claim to Fame: Member of the Rebelette Dance Team at the University of Mississippi
- Fashion Icon: Her mother
- Exercise Obsession: Spinning
- Eleven Eleven’s (Other) Meaning: While dating long distance, she and her husband (then boyfriend) used to kiss the clock at 11:11 wherever they were.
- Favorite Item in the Store: The sign behind the counter built by her brother
- Biggest Dream: Create an athletic clothing line designed by women, produced by women, for women—all in Alabama
- Advice for Side Hustlers: Follow your gut, trust it, and don’t look back. If you second guess yourself, others will too.
- Fun Fact: You can be an Eleven Eleven Ambassador!