HUTCHINSON, Minn.— Jodi Swaja is the person behind the new prom, pageant and special occasion dress shop The Elegant Edge now open in the Hutchinson Mall. Swaja opened the business with help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Microenterprise Loan Program.
When it comes to formalwear, Swaja has hands-on experience from her time in the pageant circuit as well as in retail. She worked at Aubony Bridal, whose owner has supported Swaja through on-site training and sharing inventory.
“I have dreamed of opening a dress shop for many years and once I found the right spot, I was thrilled,” Swaja said.
The Elegant Edge offers prom and pageant dresses, featuring designer Sherry Hill, a label known for its popularity with young TV and film stars and a leading pageant gown line. The business will be managed by Swaja and her daughter, Montana, who is attending college for fashion merchandising. The two have had additional help from Parker Duesterhoeft on store design, fashion trends and social media. The shop is open Friday through Sunday during the months of January through April, and by appointment at other times.
“I want to provide individual personal support to young women shopping for a prom or pageant dress and give them a special experience,” Swaja said.
Swaja’s passion for pageants dates back to her time as a titleholder. In 1985 she was crowned Miss Minnesota Valley. She has been a royalty director for several community festivals since then. In 2012, Swaja and her family moved to Hutchinson, where she became involved with the Miss Central Minnesota Pageant, first as the judge’s chair and then as the executive director. Swaja most recently served as vice president for the Miss Minnesota Scholarship Organization.
In addition to her involvement with pageants, Swaja holds a master’s in social work and plans to continue with her full-time job as a licensed clinical social worker.
Loan funds from SWIF will be used for working capital. 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.
“Jodi’s understanding of the industry and trends along with her passion for helping people make a solid foundation for her business. We’re happy to support her in opening The Elegant Edge,” 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.
About Southwest Initiative Foundation
Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is a nonprofit community foundation connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities to create a southwest Minnesota where all people thrive. Since its founding in 1986, SWIF has distributed more than $107 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.