Horizon Bank Business Spotlight Plato’s Closet, Valparaiso

horizon-biz-spotlight-platosAs a customer of Plato’s Closet, Tammy Wendland found that she was able to purchase quality clothes for a reasonable price – but she didn’t know it was a franchise business until she found herself on the Plato’s website looking for store hours. “I trusted the store, and liked the concept,” she says. So, she looked into the opportunity to open a Plato’s. After multiple interviews and conversations with the company, she was approved – and her location in Valparaiso opened in February 2014.

Tammy recently talked with us about her new venture.

Tell us about your business:

Plato’s Closet is the preferred store of fashion-conscious, spending-savvy teens and twenty-somethings. We buy and sell gently used, fashionable, brand-name apparel and accessories. Plato’s Closet puts cash in your pocket, and offers cool stuff at great prices! We’re a franchise business, and each Plato’s Closet location is independently owned and operated.

What sets your business apart:

The items that we buy from our customers, and in return, sell to our customers are very trendy and have been in the stores within the past year to 18 months — yet we’re able to offer them at 50-70% of retail cost. We try to turn our inventory four times a year, with the seasons.

Additionally, we pride ourselves on being able to making buying decisions that ensure we always have fashionable clothes in excellent condition for our customers. Of course, this concept is also environmentally-friendly – which is good for everyone!

We make shopping fun and easy, and our helpful employees make our store very inviting to customers. Plato’s Closet pays cash on the spot for things customers bring to us, and we’ve found that people really appreciate and value that.

Small businesses present challenges. What are some challenges you have faced?

We are very new at this point and have already had the opportunity to face those initial challenges.

In our case, we had to create a space, in our location, that would work and work well for our business plan. We really started from the ground up with designing and finishing the space. Thankfully, we had a great team of contractors that supported us every step of the way, and we could not have done it without them. It was a great experience!

Also, the Plato’s Closet business model relies on following corporate processes. We had to go through rigorous training, to ensure that we buy the right inventory for our customers. Beginning this process has been a challenge, and truly a wonderful one!

We held many hands-on training sessions for staff, too, which included role playing, reading, watching training videos, and even taking them to the mall to expose them to current fashion trends. Keeping up with trends in clothing and accessories will be an ongoing challenge. We look forward to the continual process of learning and teaching, so that we can bring the very best inventory to our customers!

Why did you decide to do business with Horizon Bank?

We first became aware of Horizon Bank during our initial research on area banks.

Our first mission was to try to find a bank that had a strong devotion to the communities it served. We wanted one that was locally owned and operated.

We had read some wonderful things about Horizon Bank, their commitment to the community, and their strong SBA loan-origination numbers. That motivated us to contact our local branch.

We were so fortunate to meet and know Pat McGinley of the Lincolnway branch. From the first phone conversation, and throughout the entire process, Pat has been genuinely interested in our business aspirations and the business itself. Pat has provided superior expertise, guidance, and customer service.

Starting up a small business is an intimidating process, however, with Pat and the team at Horizon Bank behind us every step of the way, we never felt that it was anything we could not conquer! They’ve made it very clear, through their incredible support of their local communities, that they are THE bank to go to for both business or personal needs. Horizon really goes the extra mile and a half to bring dreams to reality – and we’re fortunate to be working with them!