Sthefanie Welch

By Megan Willome

The Black Daisy boutique, Latina & trafficking survivor owned

“There’s nothing mundane about me,” said Sthefanie Welch, owner of The Black Daisy Boutique in China Spring. Not the spelling of her name. Not her style. And certainly not her story.

“My whole life is a story. I’m an open book,” she said.

It’s a story of drug addiction, homelessness, trafficking, sobriety, Jesus, marriage and family. And joyful clothes and accessories in a color-filled environment where customers become friends. Even if they’re not sure how to pronounce her name.

“The H is silent,” Welch said. “People are always asking, ‘How do you say it?’ When they ask how to spell it, I tell them, ‘S, The Fan, IE.’”

Wacoan writer Megan Willome is a fan of Welch, and they spoke by phone about her background, the ministry of her shop and why you — yes you — are magic.

WACOAN: What led you to start The Black Daisy?

Welch: I quit my full-time job to be a stay-at-home mom, got bored fairly quickly, so I asked my husband to let me borrow $300 to start this side business out of my living room. It took off, kept growing and getting bigger. The business started in 2016. I opened my first storefront in 2017 in Belton. I was driving out there like four times a week when my little one was a toddler.

We moved the shop from Belton to China Spring in 2018.

I do have a booth at a shop called Market at the Mill in Clifton. I have some plant tees at Grow & Co. which is in downtown Waco. I closed my downtown store last October.

WACOAN: What’s the story behind your shop’s name?

Welch: A daisy a lot of times is seen as a weed. I’ve always looked at it as a beautiful flower because it grows from the most unexpected places. It’s a resilient flower. That’s how I see myself. People looked at me as something to be plucked and discarded, but God has allowed me to see myself as a resilient person.

I also like the idea of the color black as classic. Black is beauty coming out of something dark. That’s something all women can relate to in today’s society.

WACOAN: Online you proudly share your Latina heritage. What is your background?

Welch: I am Central American: Mom is Honduran, Dad is Guatemalan. I was born in California. I’m proud of my heritage.

I live in China Spring, so there’s not a lot of people from the Central American community out here, but I’ve met some here and there. I learned how less than 2.5% of businesses were Latino-owned in Waco. How is that possible?

WACOAN: Talk about the need for people to support small businesses. What does local support mean to you?

Welch: Small businesses in our local communities are the first ones to jump in when their local school district is asking for a monetary donation. They are the ones who are joyful to give when you’re raising money for an ailing family member. They are the first to think of ways to give back in times of need. 

So not only are small businesses vital for the strength of their local economy, not only do small businesses bring employment, but small businesses are passionate about the communities they serve.

I speak on behalf of The Black Daisy when I say that we chose to open a store in the China Spring and Waco area because we have a true love for the people in it. Giving back, to us, comes naturally. We are joyful givers because we feel so blessed in being able to serve the community we most love.

WACOAN: The atmosphere of your store is peaceful and joyful. What makes it feel that way?

Welch: If you walk into my store, there’s lots of T-shirts with positive sayings on them. Color brings people joy. People comment on how colorful and happy it feels. I like to provide something different. Some boutiques have beautiful stuff, but the color palette is mundane. I like super bright, happy colors. You walk in, and it automatically puts a smile on your face. It makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. I hope people coming to my store may include bringing them out of their box a little. People say, ‘I need a really fun piece,’ and they know they can come in here and find it.

WACOAN: Inclusivity in sizing is important to you.

Welch: Society puts this hard idea into women’s minds that we have to look a certain way and dress a certain way. We’re only pretty if a certain part of our bodies looks a certain way. At The Black Daisy I want every woman to feel beautiful. To make women feel their best when they walk out of here, so we carry clothes that fit all types of bodies.

Since the beginning we’ve carried sizes small through 3X. We print all of our T-shirts here, so we can custom to sizes 5-6X. You can’t say you love all women and all women are beautiful if a woman is curvy-sized and doesn’t fit in because we have nothing for them. It’s a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of thing.

WACOAN: What do you carry in the way of gifts and accessories?

Welch: I have 12 other women-owned businesses in here with me that I commission space for. They’re all locally women-owned businesses. All makers. I am here for women! I love empowering them and giving them space. We have Music Magic Art, Hooked – Crochet by Monika, Symphony Candle Co., Lonely Girl Crafts and others.

I also have two kid entrepreneurs, ages 10 and 11. One makes art, and the other does things out of clay. They’re the next generation, our future leaders, our future mountain movers. When they talk to me about a business plan, I take them seriously. We have to lift them up too. We have to start from an early age.

WACOAN: You’ve said The Black Daisy is more than just a cute shop.

Welch: I think Black Daisy from the beginning has been more than just a store. God allowed it to be a ministry.

I have a past myself in drug addiction and homelessness, and I was sex-trafficked, was a trafficking survivor. People knew part of my story, and that made us stand out, made us a safe place for women. It’s always been more than a place to shop. It’s a place where we are actual real-life friends with our customers.

WACOAN: You are very open with your story. Have you always been this way?

Welch: Believe it or not I shared everything — except the part about being sex-trafficked until about five years ago. It was this big shameful secret that not even my husband knew. We’d been married almost 16 years. I just told him and the whole world five years ago.

It felt like the right time. It gave me a sense of freedom. After I shared for the first time, I never stopped. I’m an advocate for women, for all women. It’s important to share those types of stories.

WACOAN: Even after sharing more often, is it still scary sometimes?

Welch: It is scary sometimes. There’s still that side of me that doesn’t want to be judged for who I was and want to be looked at for who I am now.

WACOAN: What made you decide to share five years ago?

Welch: Part of what helped me share was I came in touch with Jesus Said Love. The first time for me to share was with someone from JSL. (I’m now on their board of directors.) Getting to know them and hearing what they do — that was the first step in giving me the bravery and courage to be able to speak about it. I know sharing my story is going to help these women.

WACOAN: You said you had a period of homelessness. Was that connected to the drug addiction?

Welch: When I hit rock bottom in my drug abuse, I ended up in the streets for about five months. I slept on couches, sometimes behind Dumpsters. Wherever I had to. It was here that I ended up falling further into trafficking, and it was also here that I had my awakening.

While I was living in the streets I woke up one day and realized that I had worth. I woke up wanting to live and wanting a future. I remember having this feeling of being beautiful, being enough, being intelligent and being worth fighting for.

I made a phone call to one of my brothers, and he picked me up four hours later. He drove from California to Las Vegas the moment we hung up. I moved in with my oldest brother, and that was the beginning of my starting over.

I couldn’t explain then what had happened. But I know now that it was God who saved my life.

WACOAN: I can see how your customers would become your friends.

Welch: I don’t know if it’s something about me or whether people know my story and know I won’t be a judgmental person. People meet me for the first time and tell me their whole life story. They say, ‘I’ve never done that before. I’ve never told anyone this. I’m sorry.’ And I’m like, ‘No, I feel blessed.’ This is my ministry. Sometimes women say, ‘I can’t shop right now, but can we talk?’ That’s more payment than having a good financial day. It just kinda happens. It’s very natural. They trust us. We’re very protective of people and their stories. We’re very confidential. Part of working for me is knowing that is going to happen a lot here.

WACOAN: I’m sure some days that’s hard. When people have a story to share, usually it’s heavy.

Welch: When you’re an empath, it’s hard to remember that not everyone’s cross is your cross to carry. I’ve learned through the years to pray for them and be there for them, but I can’t fix it. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to be there for them.

WACOAN: Given that some customers are going to share difficult stories, how do you find employees who are the right fit?

Welch: Our interview process has always been a very honest one. We talk openly about our mission in advocating for women and empowering women within our walls. We have conversations about how building relationships is far more important than making sales. Albeit, sales are important, but the women who walk through our doors hold an importance that means more than any dollar amount. 

We talk about how we cry with women, we laugh with them and we celebrate them. We want them to truly grasp that it’s not a gimmick. It’s how we run our business, and those are the values we uphold.

We can always tell during the interview process if someone has the heart for that. We would never want to hire someone who we might be putting in an uncomfortable situation.

WACOAN: There’s also quite a story about how you met your husband.

Welch: My husband and I met online. We talked for about a year-and-a-half. I had just sobered up. I had never met a person who truly wanted to get to know me. It wasn’t physical because we lived in different parts of the country — he was in Maryland, and I was in California. He was interested in getting to know me. I fell in love with him as a person first. I’d never experienced that before. When we met in person, would the sparks be there?

He joined the military while we were friends and moved to Texas. He asked me how far away I was. I flew out to meet him in person. He bought my engagement ring before meeting me in person. When we first locked eyes and embraced each other, it was like we’d known each other our entire lives. It was just comfortable.

On the third day of that first visit he proposed to me. God knows I’m an impulsive person. He must’ve known, ‘If I don’t make this an impulsive decision, she’s not gonna get married.’

The next time I saw him was two months later, for our wedding. That was the second time I ever saw him. We will be celebrating 16 years together in March. I don’t think I’d be okay with my kids doing that.

My husband is the most beautiful human being I’ve ever met. Very patient, caring, understanding. He makes me the best version of me and never made me feel shameful or guilty. He’s very uplifting and encouraging. Every day I’m sure I made the best decision and made the right one. I always ask him, ‘What’s the catch?’ He’s like, ‘You still think there’s a catch?’

WACOAN: And you didn’t tell him the hardest part of your story until after you were married?

Welch: He knew every detail from the beginning except the part of being trafficked. He knew I was homeless, knew I was a drug addict. Not a single soul knew I had been trafficked other than the people who put me in that position. It was 2017 when I told him the whole truth.

I remember not being able to look at him because I was so ashamed. I was certain he was going to walk away from our marriage.

He just walked over to me, and it was like a movie. He picked up my face, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘When I look at you, I see a strong warrior of a woman. I don’t see any of those other things.’

He just loved me more that day. He loved me more than he ever had. Sometimes that’s how Christ loves us — endlessly.

My husband is just something else. I don’t understand how he is who he is. I strive to be more like him every day.

WACOAN: Is he still in the military?

Welch: He is still in the National Guard and is also in law enforcement. He’s definitely a lot more private than me.

WACOAN: There’s also a story about how you became a mother, through fostering and adopting.

Welch: I have two beautiful boys. I had a whole infertility part of my story. I decided to try to foster and adopt. I got my oldest first — he was 2 years old. Six months later I got his baby brother, his bio brother. He was 4 weeks old.

WACOAN: Was that the first time you’d fostered?

Welch: We did foster before that. We had a little girl for about eight months. We had hopes of adopting her, but ultimately she went with her maternal grandmother. That was very painful for us as a family. It feels like a loss — grieving a child, and all you have left are pictures, memories, belongings.

I was not sure I’d be able to do it again, but we did it one more time, and we got our oldest first, then his little brother. He is 9 now. The older one just turned 12.

WACOAN: Do they go to school in China Spring?

Welch: We homeschool. Because I don’t have enough to do! It’s an insane life we live, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sometimes public schools are not for kids who are not neurotypical. When you have neurodivergent kids, you have to make the best decision for them, and for us that was homeschooling. Both of my boys are dyslexic. The oldest has issues with anxiety. The youngest has sensory issues. They need a lot of one-on-one time. Sometimes they need a break, and a teacher with 20 kids can’t necessarily do that for them.

WACOAN: Your store is full of positive sayings, one of which is, ‘You Are Magic.’ Where does that come from?

Welch: I think we as women think we are not doing enough or we’re not pretty enough. We have that mom guilt because we’re working too much. We think, ‘I should be more, do more.’ We need a reminder to look in mirror and say, ‘I’m enough.’ That’s where ‘You Are Magic’ comes from. Where you are, the shoes you’re filling right now, that’s enough, and you are magic. Your life is magic because your life matters. All of us have different magic in us. It’s okay to love who we are, especially with the media telling us what we need to look like, how big or small we need to be.

WACOAN: You have a real voice on subjects many of us are uncomfortable talking about. What would you say to kids who are experimenting with drugs or considering going down that path?

Welch: I know it feels like no one understands the pain that you’re going through. I know you feel alone and unseen.

I want you to know that there are survivors like me that do know your pain. I want you to know that you’re not alone in your struggles. I want you to know that you have hope for a beautiful future.

Reach out to people who love you, or reach out to survivors like me. You are worth so much more than you think. Your future is waiting for your victorious story. Your story will help save lives. It’s not a story of shame. It’s a story of redemption.

Don’t give up. It’s never too late to start over. I believe in you, I believe in your story, and YOU ARE MAGIC.