A long history in management, mostly for foodservice, prepped Jessica Hilgemann to become a business owner. But the strict dress codes at her former workplaces were cramping her style. The fashion lover couldn’t wear jewelry or needed to have close-toed shoes with non-slip soles.
“I felt kind of stifled there,” Jessica Hilgemann said. Not anymore. In May, she purchased fashion retailer Sole Mates with her husband, Lucas Hilgemann. Now dressing great for work is part of the job.
“Any time you can express yourself and your passions, it doesn’t feel like work anymore; it feels like fun,” Jessica Hilgemann said.
Marshall welcomed Sole Mates to Main Street in 2008. The store has enjoyed a loyal customer base locally and pulls in repeat shoppers from Sioux Falls and the Twin Cities. Jessica Hilgemann credits longtime former owner Deb Brink for the store’s reputation.
“Deb has done such a great job of building the business over the years. Everyone in the community knows Deb and knows this business,” Jessica Hilgemann said.
Taking over an established business eased some of the jitters of the purchase. So did financing from Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF). Through its Business Finance Program, SWIF helped Hilgemanns transition ownership of Sole Mates and retain the business in Marshall. Loan programs have always been a key function of SWIF as a way to support communities and businesses throughout southwest Minnesota.
“SWIF was so great to deal with. I love tight-knit communities, and I really enjoy that they love that and stand by that and want to continue that,” Jessica Hilgemann said. “It was a great experience.”
Having two young, energetic entrepreneurs assume ownership of an established business is exciting for Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Brad Gruhot.
“Jessica and Lucas are good businesspeople and have a good rapport among other businesses,” Gruhot said. “It is a really solid business on Main Street, and it’s only going to help with their new additions and their new ideas.”
Currently, the store features a wide inventory of brand-name shoes for all ages alongside accessories for men and women and women’s clothing. With plenty of square footage, Jessica Hilgemann is eager to expand the store’s selection for women. She wants women of all ages to find something they’d love to wear.
Outside work, Hilgemanns stay extremely busy. Lucas Hilgemann is the store manager at Titan Machinery in Marshall, and the couple is constantly on the go with teens Brayden and Jordyn, and tween daughter Jaryn.
Their love for the Marshall community and their family is the foundation on which their business is built. After moving her family here eight years ago, Jessica Hilgemann can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“This is definitely home,” she said. “Getting to know our community better has been amazing.”
Through its business finance programs, SWIF has helped start or expand more than 700 businesses, which have created or retained more than 8,600 jobs. Learn how to apply for a Business Finance Loan.