Small business REAPs benefits by helping the environment in a stylish way

“What to wear?” is every woman’s daily dilemma, and a problem Refined Boutique and Reclaimed Brands, in North Platte, Nebraska, is able to solve.

In 2010, Missy Couse and her husband considered starting a business.

She asked him if it made a difference what they sold. His response was, “no.” However, when she mentioned a boutique, she could tell he was skeptical. He let her run with it.

Like most businesses, the boutique started out very small, in a side space of a salon, and expanded slowly.

In 2013, the venture moved into its own storefront, at 518 N Dewey St., allowing for the launch of Reclaimed Brands, which offers affordable “previously loved” clothing.

“Refined Boutique and Reclaimed Brands offers an experience, which is what shoppers want if they go to a store," said Nancy Flock, loan specialist with the Center for Rural Affairs' Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP). "Merchandising and customer service also play a very important role.”

The boutique offers fashionable outfits and accessories, and caters to a variety of shopping budgets with both brand new items and items ready to be reloved. The business also attracts environmentally conscious consumers concerned with clothing waste.

According to Couse, consumers in North Platte are comforted in knowing they can open the doors of a small business and find just what they are looking for.

And, no matter what side of the store the shopper ends up in, they will receive excellent customer service.

“Customer service has a great impact on success," Couse said. "Having regular hours, networking, featuring new items, hosting promotions, and being creative with displays is also very helpful."

Last year, Couse was at a local craft expo when she and other business owners discussed the concept of a mobile store. A mobile store could be used to increase the number of customers and could be a marketing piece for a storefront. However, challenges could include packing items for a weekend and unpacking when the show is over.

Couse approached Flock, who is very familiar with the concept — her parents owned a traveling storefront curios shop. The duo discussed access to financing, specifically to obtain a trailer which could simplify the mobile store.

“One of the first steps in the financing process is working with business owners to develop a solid business plan and sound financial projections,” Flock said.

REAP was able to provide a loan for a mobile store. Flock also provided one-on-one coaching and technical assistance to fine-tune the business plan.

Planning increased the efficiency of the mobile store, which allowed more time for Couse to focus on ecommerce.

According to Flock, in today’s fast paced, mobile world, ecommerce is a must-have for small businesses.

"It’s a great way to connect with a target market and can also help generate sales, both online and in store," she said.

Future plans for Refined Brands include expanding clothing selections by adding lines of jeans and basic layering tanks.

Couse became interested in small business at a very young age. She created her first venture in the third grade with a business that catered to roller skating. Couse would play a cassette tape with the top hits — after recording the hits each week. She also made pom poms to attach to roller skates.

“I considered charging an admission to skate on a fresh driveway, but that didn’t work out so well, so I sold beverages and snacks instead,” she said.

Others in Couse's family enjoy executing business visions. Over the years, she has learned many tricks of the trade from family — specifically from her grandparents' bar and trucking company and an uncle's marketing and public relations firm.

In total, she has been directly involved with five businesses.

“I get the greatest satisfaction from creating something out of nothing, learning from mistakes, and sharing in success” Couse said.

To browse Reclaimed Brands, check out the website and Facebook page. For information on business loans, click here. To apply for a loan, click here.

At a Glance

Refined Boutique and Reclaimed Brands
518 N Dewey St.
North Platte, NE 69101
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Feature photo: Missy Couse, owner of Refined Boutique and Reclaimed Brands, pictured at her mobile store. Look for it at an event near you. | Photo by Nancy Flock