When Keneisha Townsend moved to Marion in 2006 as a freshman in high school, she was angry.

She didn’t understand why, of all the places in the world, she had to move to Marion, Indiana.

“There was one point after I graduated high school when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be here,” Townsend said. “I didn’t know why I’m here or what my purpose is here.”

After quitting her job, it all clicked for her.

“My purpose is to reach out to other women, especially women who might have been through what I went through,” Townsend said.

Townsend opened Uplyft U Shoetique in 2017.

“I love shoes,” Townsend said. “Marion is small, and sometimes you can’t really find the stuff that you want here. Some people don’t want to go out of town to shop.”

In 2018, she added clothing and accessories and changed the name to Uplyft U Boutique, an online store for women.

“Once I started incorporating the clothes and getting a customer base, I decided I wanted to branch out and do something to give back to the community,” Townsend said.

Townsend started the Uplyft U Prom Giveaway as a way to help young women in the community.

Grant County high school girls can submit a short essay about themselves, their lives and goals, and Townsend will choose a winner and a runner up.

The past winners have received a dress, shoes, accessories, professional hair styling and makeup and professional photos.

Townsend takes the winners shopping and then treats them to lunch with local college graduates so that they can learn more about college life and life after college.

“I felt like I wanted to reach out to younger women and try to be someone that can give them that positive feedback they are looking for,” Townsend said. “It’s always good to try to lift up other women, hence the name of the boutique.”

Townsend said she started the boutique because she wanted to help women feel beautiful.

“A lot of people don’t have anyone to tell them that they are beautiful or a good person,” Townsend said.

Growing up, Townsend’s family moved many times because her mother was in the military until she was in the second grade.

“My mom was a single mom, hardworking, she never let us go without,” Townsend said. “I think that’s where it came from because I’ve never had to struggle. I’ve never had to go without.”

Today, Townsend works full-time at Indiana Wesleyan University, is getting a degree in business, mothers three children and finds time to run Uplyft U Boutique.

Her attitude toward Marion has changed drastically from when she was a freshman in high school.

“Marion is changing,” Townsend said. “When I was in high school, there was more stuff to do. I think it went downhill at one point, and I feel like now it’s coming back around.”

New businesses in Marion are improving the community, she said, and locals should support them.

“Support your community. You don’t have to leave,” Townsend said. “Support your community.”

Townsend said she is currently working on clearing out inventory, but will be getting more merchandise in March and April. She offers local pickup and delivery in Grant County.

For more information, visit facebook.com/shopuplyftu/.

“This is a start for us to reach other women,” Townsend said. “This is just a start.”

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