by Marci Narum | Photography: Photos by Jacy
A little girl pulls her father close and whispers, “Daddy, when I grow up, I’m going to…” Oftentimes, those whispered words of wishes and dreams are the same she would use as a grown woman.
Fathers play a big part in making little girls’ dreams unfold. Two women with similar dreams share their stories with us. They share something else in common: their fathers were a major influence in why they are living their dream today. They are both deeply grateful—but they say it not with a whisper, but with a shout.
Brittany Leischner’s beautiful, long, blonde hair falls across her shoulders and onto her faux suede jacket. The jacket is one of her favorite fall staples.
“It’s icing for the perfect outfit,” Brittany says.
Brittany is the owner of Cobalt Moon in Bismarck, a woman’s clothing boutique that focuses on timeless pieces.
“It’s basically women’s clothing, but understated basics. Very simple, very neutral. But I feel like they are stylish pieces that maintain the test of time. Building blocks to your wardrobe. Things you’re going to have in your wardrobe for 10-15 years. Things you can wear when you’re 19, 35, or 60.
“Neutrals are easier too, because they allow you to bring them into your work wardrobe and everyday wardrobe. It’s just really useful clothing.”
At 32, Brittany still has those “I can’t believe it” moments—being the owner of a clothing boutique. She had always dreamed of a career in fashion and retail. Law school was also a dream. Brittany’s plans changed, though, and she has her father to thank.
“Dad didn’t think I would be happy in the law profession, that it wouldn’t fulfill me in the career sense. He was really looking out for me.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Brittany grew up in the family business and is now helping run it. She is the president of Leischner Electric, Inc., which owns Cobalt Moon and Unicom. She is also a realtor and a property manager. She admits that she is very happy in her career. Her dad, Mark Leischner, is even happier.
“She’s a hardworking kid,” Mark says. “Six days a week for sure. When she puts her mind to something she does not give up until she’s accomplished what she was after. You don’t ever have to tell her twice. It’s going to get done.”
Brittany says that’s also thanks to her dad and what he modeled for her as an entrepreneur.
Mark Leischner was a businessman in New Leipzig, North Dakota at the age of 14. He was the state’s youngest certified electrician and sold CB radios door-to-door. His father founded Leischner Electric, Inc. in 1974, and Mark joined the business while he was still in high school. Mark had a trenching business and then moved his family to Bismarck where he started BisMan Mobile Phone. Unicom and Unistop Gas Stations followed.
“We had the Unistop convenience stores, which is where I began working with him,” Brittany explains. “We had those for about 15 years and I worked as a cashier. Then I became the operations manager.
“I have degrees in marketing and business administration. So when he sold the gas stations I had always kind of wanted to spread my wings and fly; I wanted to see other places, live other places. But my dad is very much like a mentor to me so I thought, maybe I don’t want to shut that door and walk away from all the experience I could get working alongside him.”
Brittany says she loves working in the family business with her dad, her mom, Sue Leischner, and her younger brother, Michael. But she continued to dream about having her own business. She says her clothing boutique is her passion project.
“Dad said, ‘If it means that much to you, I’ve got your back. You’ve had my back for all these years. I’ve got your back.’
“He bought me dolls when I was a girl, but he also raised me in a way to not be afraid to be aggressive or competitive, and to just be an advocate for myself. Too often when a girl is competitive, people look at her like she is bossy, or they react with, ‘who does she think she is?’ It shouldn’t have to be that way. Never once did I think that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. It has to be because of how my dad raised me.”
“She’s a go-getter,” Mark says. “She runs the place all by herself. She’s committed to it. I’m not into clothes. But that’s always been her dream and now she’s just living her dream.”
Brittany might even call it icing on her dream.
“This is really like a pipe dream come true,” Brittany smiles. “It’s the best of all spectrums. I get to work with my family, play with my clothes, and meet new people. So it really is like a dream come true.”
See more photos of Brittany and her dad by Photos by Jacy, here.
Mark Hamilton is a proud father.
“There’s only one Chappy. It’s what everyone says,” Mark says, reaching for his daughter’s hand.
Chappy Windsor tips her head and smiles, gives her father’s hand a squeeze, and wipes tears from her eyes. The 39-year-old mother, designer, and entrepreneur has been reminiscing with Mark about how she discovered the calling on her life. Her parents, especially her father, played a significant role in that.
Chappy is the owner of Dakota Chappy, a plains-inspired women’s clothing store which carries fashions designed by Chappy.
“The fashion inventions and fashion solutions were borne out of the frustration of wardrobe fatigue and wardrobe failure, and just feeling like I had a potential that I wasn’t living up to,” Chappy explains. “My clothes weren’t serving my needs. You shouldn’t work for your clothes, your clothes should work for you. It’s always about fit, never about size.”
Growing up in Minot, North Dakota, Chappy wondered where she fit. She was a creative young girl, but not a star student. Some of her teachers said she was lazy and called her a daydreamer. And Chappy didn’t know what she wanted after high school.
“I didn’t have those key points that most people would bet on me becoming a success someday,” Chappy says.
WHAT THEY DIDN’T KNOW
Her dad saw something, though. Mark was a business owner. He operated Wild Things Gallery in Minot for 12 years. From the time it opened, Chappy helped out, sweeping the shop floor. But she also spent enough time with her father at the store to learn valuable business practices.
“I remember being in the second grade and unpacking decoys and Dad saying, ‘Okay, we pay $100 for this decoy, we’re going to sell it for $200 and here’s why: our rent is this amount, our employees cost this much, our insurance costs this much. So at the end of that we’re going to have about $20 profit. And that’s how it works.’
“The one really good grade I did get in school was in general business. Because all the principles of general business he had already taught me. I had a really clear understanding from the very beginning.”
It made sense, then, that after his daughter finished high school, Mark asked her to open and manage a Wild Things Gallery in Grand Forks. Chappy began to see possibilities; a place where she might fit.
“He wouldn’t hand over his life’s work to me if he didn’t think I could do it! And it turned out, I had the most successful store of his three locations; I just found my calling there. I was determined to make it work. It’s where my love for retail began.”
It was just the beginning. Chappy managed the Wild Things Gallery in Grand Forks, followed by one in Medora, then Dickinson. She took college classes on the side and eventually started her business as a fashion designer.
“I think I knew I could do it because I saw my dad do so many things. He made his own frames and cut his own mats. He commissioned his own artists to do paintings of things he wanted to see. He built out the stores. He was really so resourceful at using things for their unintended purpose.
“I know for sure there is no way in the world that I would be on the path I am on right now and be giving the products and services to people I am if he hadn’t given me that blueprint.”
An ever deeply proud father, Mark is also quick to give his daughter the credit for her success and flourishing business.
“She’s amazing,” Mark says. “It constantly amazes us, the amount of business she does. I don’t think anyone else could do what Chappy does.”
It’s enough to make any girl cry.
To see more photos of Chappy and her dad by Photos by Jacy, click here. To read more from Chappy about goals and dreams click here.