When Ciara Stockeland, a mother of two children, couldn’t find stylish maternity wear in her hometown of Fargo, North Dakota, she found herself driving several hours to Minneapolis to get it.
Ciara knew other moms-to-be were having a similar problem, so she decided to turn that challenge into a business opportunity. Although she didn’t have any retail experience, Ciara and her husband, Jim, followed their entrepreneurial spirit and opened a high-end maternity store, Mama Mia, in 2006.
A year later, the success of Mama Mia led to another opportunity when Jim and Ciara were approached by a company storing a large quantity of designer overstock merchandise that needed to be liquidated. In February 2007, Jim and Ciara took that product and opened a second retail store next door to Mama Mia, calling it MODE. Word spread quickly that MODE carried designer products at discounted prices, and business boomed. Ciara and Jim decided to merge the two concepts, and created a designer outlet store in a boutique environment.
With plenty of tenacity and hard work, they made MODE a success. After five years, they turned MODE into a franchise, and it grew from one location to 11 across the Midwest and in South Carolina.
Their growth and success has not slowed down. In fact, MODE was named one of 102 winners of a national contest, the 2015 American Small Business Championship. The company was awarded accelerated training and access to a mentor from SCORE, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting small business, and resources from Sam’s Club. MODE also received the 2015 SCORE Awards Outstanding Franchise Small Business Award.
Through mentoring from SCORE and resources from Sam’s Club, the Stockelands took MODE to the next level. MODE’s Chief Operations Officer has worked closely with a SCORE mentor to learn key best practices when growing a business, and recently made technology updates to allow for more efficient communication with franchisees.
Ciara has learned valuable small business lessons over the past decade and is spreading her knowledge to others. “At MODE, I believe that with each franchisee I am given the opportunity to develop a leader,” she said. “We mentor, train and work with our franchisees to create a successful business in their community. We want them to grow their leadership skills so that they too can give back to other entrepreneurs.”
MODE continues to take big steps to achieve small business success. If you own a small business and are ready for growth, check out the 2016 American Small Business Championship. Now through Feb. 12, you can enter and share your story at www.score.org/championship. Two small businesses per state will win training from SCORE, a $1,000 Sam’s Club Gift Card, publicity, a chance to be the grand prize winner of $25,000 and more.
The American Small Business Championship is open to any small business, and is just one of several ways Sam’s Club and the Sam’s Club Giving Program are helping small business owners access capital and training to grow and succeed.