Lifelong friends open new boutique in Willmar
Local entrepreneurs benefit from Southwest Initiative Foundation loan program
WILLMAR, Minn.— Lifelong friends Dawn Lippert and Rochelle Peterson have been through a lot together, and now they can add business ownership to the list. The pair opened Mainstream Boutique in Willmar this year with help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Microenterprise Loan Program.
Mainstream Boutique is a locally owned store that’s part of a nationwide women’s fashion franchise of the same name. It originated in Minnesota in 1991. Their unique, multigenerational clothing lines cater to stylish moms and daughters as well as trendy grandmas.
“We’re on a mission to love, strengthen and celebrate women in our community through fashion. We are passionate about lifting customers up and making them feel beautiful,” Lippert said.
Lippert and Peterson met because their mothers were friends. They grew up together and have supported each other as mothers, wives, daughters, professionals and through every other life-changing event. They hope to share that strong bond through their business.
“At this time in our life, we decided that supporting women in our community with a purpose was a great goal. With the community need and our love of fashion, what better way to support women than opening a boutique?” Peterson said.
Fashion retail marks a career change for both co-owners. Peterson left her role as executive director of PACT for Families and Lippert moved on after nearly 20 years in banking, most recently as a mortgage banker at United Prairie Bank, to open and run the boutique.
Lippert recently graduated from the Elevate Community Business Academy, gaining hands-on training in business planning and management tailored to underserved entrepreneurs. Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar Economic Development Commission offer the Elevate course at no cost to entrepreneurs in Kandiyohi County with funding from SWIF.
SWIF loan funds helped the co-owners purchase equipment and inventory and provided working capital for Mainstream Boutique. Loan programs have been a key function of SWIF since its inception to support communities and businesses throughout southwest Minnesota. In 2001, microlending was added to existing programs as a tool to support small businesses and people looking for self-employment opportunities.
“As Dawn and Rochelle pursue a new chapter in their careers through business ownership, we’re happy to support them,” said SWIF Economic Development Officer Jackie Turner.
Microloan clients receive free technical assistance from SWIF staff to improve their business management skills. Areas of support include business planning and financials analysis, QuickBooks training, marketing assistance and other training opportunities for the life of the loan.
This microloan program receives funding assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, contact SWIF at (800) 594-9480, (320) 587-4848 or send us an email.