At Northwest Iowa Community College, we pride ourselves on meeting the needs of our communities. One of our goals is to keep NCC alumni local, or at least in the state of Iowa. With over 8,300 of our approximately 12,200 alumni living in Iowa, and over 50% of these alumni living in our 4 ½ county service area, it seems we are doing a good job of upholding this goal.
Alissa Jager, alum of NCC’s Clerical Accounting Diploma (2015) and Associate of Arts: Business Degree (2016), is a prime example of an outstanding alum who decided to stay local and plant her business right here in the heart of NCC’s service territory.
Her business, Alissa Ryan Boutique, is located in downtown Sheldon. Its doors opened in August of 2016 (3 months after Alissa’s graduation), and sales have been steady ever since! Speaking with Alissa, you can hear the excitement she has when talking about her business, the plans she has for the future, and the journey of how she got to this point.
Alissa’s story begins in high school where she held a part-time job working retail at Rockman’s Clothing in downtown Sheldon. She loved retail work! Assisting customers in finding clothing they looked and felt great in was one of her favorite parts. Although she loved her part-time job in retail, she never imagined it would benefit her so much down the road. At that point in her life, the idea of a career in retail never even crossed her mind.
Fast-forward a few years. Alissa was attending her first semester of college at South Dakota State University. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, and most days, she wasn’t sure if SDSU was even the right place for her. Alissa was oftentimes overwhelmed by the huge class sizes and the cost of attending college. She decided to stick it out a full semester, but had many thoughts about moving back home.
As the end of her first semester at SDSU neared, Alissa made the decision to move back to Northwest Iowa. She saw many benefits in this, such as saving money on her college tuition bill, having the option to work more, and continuing her education at NCC. Although Alissa was still very unsure about her future plans, she chose to major in Accounting and Business. She saw these skills as very valuable, despite her undecided career aspirations.
Within the first few weeks at NCC, Alissa knew she made the right choice. She was enjoying the small class sizes and the relationships she was building with her instructors and classmates. She also appreciated that she could pay her entire semester bill without having to take out any student loans! “The tuition rates at NCC were very affordable, and I was very thankful as I also received a scholarship!” Alissa had also started a new job at Revolution Consignment in downtown Sheldon.
Alissa graduated with her Clerical Accounting Diploma in 2015. She continued for one more year to broaden her knowledge in the business realm and graduated in 2016 with her Associate Degree in Business. At this time, Alissa had no idea what life after graduation had in store for her. She pictured herself in an office setting, possibly in bookkeeping, finance, or insurance. On the day of her graduation ceremony, Alissa remembers her mom asking her, “What are you going to do now?” This question led Alissa to begin considering all of the possibilities.
Alissa thought briefly about opening her own boutique, but it always seemed like more of a fantasy. Her parents encouraged her to go after this dream and began assisting Alissa in looking for business properties. After much searching, they found the perfect property. Alissa knew she would need to act fast and decided to purchase the location. At this point she had no idea where to begin. If you ask Alissa, the entire period from graduation to opening day was a blur!
After taking possession of the building, Alissa left for her first market experience in Dallas, TX. The Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market is where she would purchase the first products for her inventory. She explains this entire experience as being exciting but extremely overwhelming. “There were a lot of things to think about before arriving at market. I had to set my budget, think about my audience and consumer profile, and have a basic idea of the style and options I wanted to have available. On top of all of this, I also had to consider what would sell in small town Northwest Iowa. My goal was to have a large range of items for individuals of all ages. I wanted people to come to my store to find something different and find new things, not the items that could be found everywhere else.”
While Alissa was off absorbing this first market experience, her dad and sister were hard at work gutting the inside of her new property. Prior to Alissa taking ownership the location was a hair salon, and Alissa still receives reminders of this. “To this day, people still stop in for haircuts!” With that being said, it wasn’t exactly set up for a boutique to move into the space. A LOT had to be done before opening day! Luckily for Alissa, her dad knew a lot about renovations, and they were able to do almost everything themselves.
Alissa returned from market excited, motivated, and ready for opening day! Between June and August of 2016, Alissa and her family worked day and night to complete the renovation. Alissa remembers the Sheldon Chamber & Development Corporation stopping by about a week prior to opening day. She recalls very vividly their state of shock when they visited and nothing was set up, no inventory was in the store, and her grand opening was only a few days away. Due to the fact that Alissa had so many resources and people to help her, everything came together just in time.
Alissa recalls her opening day as being one of the most exhilarating moments in this journey. “Opening day at Alissa Ryan Boutique was awesome!” It was busy, exciting, and an overall success. After her first day in business, she was already worried about running out of inventory! She enjoyed meeting her customers, seeing many familiar faces, and witnessing how much everyone was enjoying the day. There were many times throughout opening day that she had to remind herself that all of this was a reality.
Rewind to that first semester at SDSU. At that time, Alissa never imagined she would be the owner of her very own boutique. It all started with her decision to move back to her hometown and attend Northwest Iowa Community College.
Alissa Ryan Boutique has been in business for over two years now. Although the business has already outgrown its original space, Alissa is making it work and has a lot of ideas for growth. Between the daily grind of in-store sales, online sales, participation at various events throughout the area, and tux sales during prom and wedding seasons, it is pretty clear that Alissa Ryan Boutique is still experiencing success, and according to Alissa, that success is going to stay right here in Northwest Iowa.
To find out more call 800-352-4907, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at nwicc.edu. At NCC – Your Success is Our Story!