Last week, the consignment shop at 320 Ninth St. was awarded first place in the Northwest Iowa Dream Big Grow Here competition. Owner Mindy Nasers earned the $4,000 top prize to invest in her small business after impressing a judges panel with her business model and pitch.
“It was a lot of work, but I had a lot of fun, too,” Nasers said of the regional competition designed to help entrepreneurs start or expand their new small business.
Opened in April 2018, with support from her clientele from across the region, Nasers has been looking toward future expansion of the consignment shop’s footprint, inventory and business hours.
So timing was everything when she stumbled across the Dream Big Grow Here competition advertised in a newspaper. With no entry fee, she decided to take a chance and submit her business plan and promotional video.
That was earlier in September, and a public voting period ensued for 10 days in October.
The top three small businesses with the most public votes automatically advanced to the next round. Although she racked up 450 votes, Nasers didn’t quite make that cut.
The panel of judges saw potential, and hand-selected Nasers from the remaining pool of applicants to join the top five.
Although nerve-wracking, with support from community members, Nasers pushed through to the grand prize, which was awarded Nov. 14 at the Oscar Carl Vineyard in Sioux City, Iowa.
The competition allowed Nasers to reflect on the past year and a half in business and what’s ahead.
Inspired by her own love of thrift shopping, Grace Boutique was born out of Nasers’ desire to bring a unique space to Sibley’s retail options, where shoppers could find excitement in the hunt for their next affordable treasure while enjoying the small-town shopping experience.
“I knew I wanted it to be a boutique atmosphere to where you walk in and you don’t know it’s a consignment store,” Nasers said.
While the idea seemed simple, it required plenty of grit and elbow grease to transform the space into the final project she’d envisioned. The storefront formerly housed Klaassen Realty and various shoe stores.
Nasers is pleased with her first year in business, which she said paid out more than $19,000 to consignors.
“That helps the community,” she said.
Nasers accepts pre-owned, decent quality men and women’s clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture and home decor items.
Each article of accepted clothing is steamed before being hung on the rack for its next owner.
Grace Boutique offers clothing on consignment. (Alyssa Sobotka/The Globe)
Although the store is arranged with in-season items, consignments not in season are accepted at any time and stored until they become in-season. Nasers said that gives consignors ease in dropping off their clothing they’re ready to part with.
It’s a model that’s proven to be working, but there’s more in store.
In response to customer requests, Nasers will soon expand the store’s inventory to include children and infant clothing. Tuxedo rental will also begin in December.
To make room for the additional inventory, Nasers will need to either expand the business’ footprint to the north of the existing location or relocate. That’s yet to be determined.
A portion of the $4,000 winnings will aid in the expansion. Remaining funds will be invested in new racks, fixtures and website training.
Hours of operation will also soon expand from three to five days a week. Current business hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Grace Boutique has been a lot of fun for Nasers, and she’s excited to continue providing the business to the area.
“I’ve met so many neat people,” Nasers said. “Lots of people say, ‘We’re glad you’re here.’”