Inspired Woman Magazine

Jeri Poppe-Werner & Ardie Poppe, Plato's Closet and Clothes Mentor Est. 2005, 2011

Ardie and Jeri
Was this business your vision/passion, or did you kind of ‘fall’ into it?
We were always wanted to own a business that would be fun to operating and definitely something we enjoyed and we do love shopping! I always looked through the paper to check what business might be for sale when I came across an ad offering franchise ownership opportunities. We inquired and went through the process but weren’t awarded the franchise we applied for. Instead they offered Plato’s Closet which they felt was a better fit for us to operate. At the time we were devastated. It’s funny how things work out. Now when we look back at it we are so glad it turned out the way it did.

How did you finance your business?
We shopped around checking with a few local banks and looked at a SBA loan. 
We wanted to work with local peoples so we financed both businesses through a local community bank.

How many employees do you have?
Plato’s averages right around 10-12 employees and Clothes Mentor normally has 6-7 employees. During the Back-to-School months we hire a few extra high school kids for Plato’s. Jeri spreads her time between both stores managing sales, marketing and the employees, Ardie works in the store for special sales or events and manages the financial side, and Jerry, Ardie’s husband, handles everything in between.

What has been your biggest challenge?
Affordable health insurance has been our biggest challenge. We do have employees that need health insurance so we shop around try to find the best product for our group. Shoplifting is another huge challenge for us. Even though the staff is trained on how to handle this, shoplifters are constantly finding new ways to steal.

When did you realize you had finally ‘made it’?

I don’t know that we have yet or that I want to feel we have because we may not push as hard to be successful. If anything though, it would be comments from customers about what a great store we have and they are going to tell all their friends about us. Also returning customers and being recognized while skiing in another state, that makes me feel we “made it”.

What is your vision for the future of your business?
We want to be “a $1 million in sales” store and we will get there. We are in the talking stages of eventually expanding the Plato’s store. We need more fitting rooms and we’d like to have more inventory on the floor. As far as Clothes Mentor we want that store to be a household name just like Plato’s Closet. To be our customers first stop to shop!

What makes your business different/unique selling proposition?

In both stores we pay “cash on the spot” for items we can accept which sets us apart from a consignment shop. Our merchandize needs to be clean, current style and in ready to wear condition. Every customer that walks through our doors are greeted within 30 seconds with a smile and a welcome!

What business idea do you wish you had thought of?

The business we are running now! These two brands are growing so rapidly across the US and Canada, helping the earth be greener!

What is the most fun you have at work? What do you most enjoy.

The most fun at work is when we are busy. When the staff’s energy level is at it’s highest. The customer feeds off that and sees how much we love our job.
What I enjoy most is seeing people buy what they couldn’t afford else where. Knowing our customer is walking out with a happiness and feeling better about themselves.

What do you wish you had known before you opened the doors?
As far as the business side, I wish I had known that everything is negotiable rather than just taking as offered.

What is your proudest moment as a business owner?

The day we opened the doors on Plato’s Closet and my daughter and I were standing together arm in arm watching the customers rush in the door! That’s when I felt we “did it”, we actually achieved our dream!

What advice can you give to someone who wants to start a business?

It definitely is scary starting up a new business but if it’s your dream and it feels right, take the risk. It will be well worth it. Do your homework. We talked to a lot of people before we made the final decision. Life is too short for regrets!

Plato’s Closet, 204 West Front Avenue, Bismarck
Clothes Mentor, 100 West Front Avenue, Bismarck

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