Name: Ciara Stockeland
Business: MODE/Mama Mia Inc.
Location: Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.
Industry: Apparel & Accessories
Reason for starting: As a young mother I saw a need for fashion forward and comfortable maternity clothing in my community, so in 2006 (with no retail experience) I opened my first retail store, Mama Mia. By the end of 2006 I was approached about a quantity of designer overstock product that needed to be liquidated. In February 2007, I opened a second store next to Mama Mia and called it MODE. Word quickly spread about MODE and it became a booming success. In 2008, I decided to merge my two stores into one concept, which began MODE as it is known today. A designer outlet in a boutique environment.
After being approached about opening additional locations, I chose to explore franchising. I loved the idea of being able to offer others the opportunity to own their own business and use the blueprint that I had already created with my business. Our first franchise sold in 2011 and we currently have 11 stores with many more on the way.
How do you define success? Success can be defined in so many ways by so many people. I have always committed myself to being a woman who does what she says she is going to do. In my mind this shows that I respect those I commit to and can be counted on to do the right thing. Success to me is being respected by my team, my peers and those most important to me as I know respect is earned and I have done my very best to earn the respect of others. At the end of the day, I want my children to be proud of me knowing I have put my all into what I am doing, I honor my commitments to others and I do what is right. This does not mean that I am successful at everything I do, but I want them to know that I will do and try whatever is needed to get a job done and honor my word.
Biggest success: My biggest success to date was being invited to testify at the U.S. Senate regarding an issue that has major implications for small businesses and franchise. I was honored to represent fellow small business owners and franchise owners and share our voice on this issue. I testified, listened to the conversation and voiced my concern when I felt that the voice of small businesses was not being heard. Additionally, the next day I was invited to attend a summit at the White House where I again represented my peers in small business and the franchise industry. To listen to the President and Vice President speak and be able to share my story with others in attendance was a huge success for me as a small business owner and for others like me. I know anything is possible as I have proved that by taking my seat at the table for events like this.
I’ve always set big goals for myself and my team. One major goal that we have is to open 75 stores throughout the US by 2024. This goal has provided me and my team with challenges and rewards along the way and I know that we can achieve this goal. In order to achieve this goal, I need to continue setting the tone as a leader for my team, our current stores and our future store owners as it will take dedication from everyone involved in our business to achieve this success. Knowing that we have built a solid brand and franchise grounds me and I know that we will be able to provide more small business opportunities and more jobs for more women. As our stores numbers grow, so does our team at our corporate office and I am delighted to be able to expand our team and our talents.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? At top challenge for me is growth. So many things can affect the growth that we have planned for this business, be it the economy, the interest or the woman power to sustain such an operation. I rely on my faith and hard work to assure me that we are in the right place and are doing the right things to pave our way to a bigger and more recognized brand. Our growth has not been by chance, we have put in a lot of work, sought out a lot of guidance from mentors and yes, we have failed from time to time. I am not shy about this with my team as I want them to know that success does not come over night and that we have had to be creative in the past to make due. This is all a part of our story and we must keep that at the forefront as we change, grow and transition into a larger company.
Who is your most important role model? Many women have and continue to serve as role models for me in life, but one in particular continues to inspire me, Cam Leedahl. I am friends with Melody, Cam’s daughter and as a little girl I would go to the Leedahl farm to work cattle and play outside on open farmland until I was so tired that the bed looked magical! Cam is a women like no other! She is a very generous woman, hospitable and thoughtful and I have always looked to Cam as a wonderful example of what a wife, mother and friend should be. Cam wears many hats, including running the business side of their family business, book author and volunteer for many boards and projects she supports. She’s not afraid to speak her mind but does so with a thoughtful intelligence and stops at nothing to achieve her goals. Cam gives to others but always sets and articulates her personal boundaries, giving a great example of what a true work/life balance should look like. She is someone I have and will continue to look up to!
Edited by The Story Exchange