Heidi Cordes said she always has had the entrepreneurial spirit, and when she walked into a Lillians store, she fell in love with the atmosphere.
“It felt like being welcomed into someone’s home,” she said.
Cordes said she enjoys entertaining and welcoming people into her own home, “and the whole feeling behind the Lillians franchise just fit who I was.”
Happily situated in her career with a consulting firm here in Cedar Rapids, and not looking to make a job change, she found herself researching the opportunities with the franchise, and the idea blossomed.
“The franchise was very small with 30 stores in all, and only 2 stores in the Midwest,” she said.
She wrote a business plan, received a Small Business Administration loan, did all her own merchandise buying, located the building, designed its interior and opened her doors in October 2014.
Recently Cordes had the opportunity to buy out her franchise, making her Marion store “100 percent local and independently owned,” she said.
The shop carries items, including clothing, footwear, accessories and handbags, that are designed to appeal to women of all sizes from extra small through 3X.
“We don’t get a lot of young teens in here,” she said. “Our main age group is a good mix of women ranging from upper 20s to their 60s. Last week I sold a pair of leggings to a lady in her 80s and it worked well for her with her long tunic.”
The shop is open five days a week, and Cordes runs it with the help of seven full- and part-time employees.
“I don’t reorder things,” she said, “except for the basic essentials that I carry, so when something is gone, it’s gone.” Cordes says she only stocks six to eight pieces of any particular style.
Cordes, who has a business administration degree with an emphasis on marketing, said the most important things when deciding to start a business are being organized and making sure you have a business plan in place.
“Being in the retail business is different than other types of businesses,” she said. “It is critical to know the right time to introduce your new line of clothing. You need to know when to stop shopping and stocking for winter, and when to bring out the spring things because there is a period of time where people are done buying for winter.”
She laughs when she admits that trial and error were her best resource.
“Everything I’ve done with this business was hard at first because I left a business where everybody came to me for the answers. But now everybody was looking to me for answers in this new venture and I had to figure it out,” she said.
“You don’t quit, you just keep finding the answers as you go along. You have to be flexible in business and make the best of the changes as they come.”
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AT A GLANCE
Owner: Heidi Cordes
Address: 710 10th Street, Marion
Phone: (319) 200-4214