WILLMAR, Minn. – Despite a trend toward more casual clothing, many milestones and celebrations still call for that extra something special – a suit. Sean and Sao Yang are ready to help customers find the perfect look at their new store in Willmar, Emporia Suits & Alterations. The Yangs opened the shop with help from Southwest Initiative Foundation’s (SWIF) Business Finance Loan Program.
From a classic black ensemble to show-stopping suit jackets in red and blue velvet, Emporia has options to fit any style. The store also stocks shirts, ties and socks.
“Our motto is to make sure you are occasion ready,” Sean said. “You can’t go wrong with a suit.”
Emporia also offers alterations and mending for all types of clothing. Located on the south side of Willmar at 1305 1st Street South, the store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This is a second business for Sean and Sao. They also own Sewn Edge in Walnut Grove, which they opened in 2018 with help from SWIF’s Microenterprise Loan Program. Sewn Edge offers sewing services and creative clothing alterations.
Sean came to the United States from Laos with his family in 1989 when he was just 7 years old. His parents started several small businesses, finally settling on providing clothing alterations. Growing up, Sean spent a lot of time helping and working in their businesses.
Sao’s family believed in repairing and repurposing clothes, which is how she learned to sew.
“She’s really creative and experienced at sewing. I grew up on the business operations side, which is the part I love. We realized that those two things make a great combination,” Sean said.
SWIF’s Business Finance Loan Program helped fund equipment, working capital and building renovations at Emporia.
“Sean and Sao have a unique product to offer the Willmar community by starting the only suit shop in town,” said SWIF Economic Development Officer Jackie Turner. “We’re happy to be able to help them in this next stage of their journey as entrepreneurs.”
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.
SWIF’s Microenterprise Loan Program helped Sean and Sao buy equipment and supplied working capital when they opened Sewn Edge in Walnut Grove.
Microloan clients also 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 [email protected].
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 $97.8 million through its grantmaking and business finance programs.