Danni Nicole’s – Hannibal
“I had no idea I would ever go into business,” admits 44-year-old Mary Short. Today she owns not one, but two women’s clothing stores — both named Danni Nicole’s — on Main Street in downtown Hannibal, Mo.
The path that led Mary to her current entrepreneurial circumstances is a circuitous one.
For the first 20 years of her working life, Mary managed fast food restaurants — Taco Bell and KFC — for a franchisee in the Hannibal area. Next, she worked in patient accounts at a local hospital.
While working at that job tragedy struck Mary’s family. Her younger daughter — Danni Nicole — died suddenly in an automobile accident at 18.
“I did that job for a couple of years,” she says. “I sat at a desk for eight hours a day. I was constantly thinking of Danni. I knew I had to do something to occupy my every moment.”
Mary determined her accounting job was not where she wanted to be. She needed a job to engage her energy and capture her interest. It was then she hit on the idea of starting a retail shop.
Two long-time clothiers in Hannibal had shut their doors. One of them was selling its display racks. With encouragement from her husband Lowell and cooperation from her older daughter Crystal, Mary bought the equipment and put it in temporary storage. Next she sought a store location. She found one that needed a lot of work, in the downtown shopping district. It took six weeks to renovate.
In the interim Mary began a search for financial backing. Unfortunately, every bank in town turned her down. They all told her she needed a business plan.
She turned to the local SBA representative, Bob Newman. He pointed her to Charles Holland, a University of Missouri Extension business specialist in neighboring Monroe County. Holland, who is part the statewide Small Business and Technology Development Centers, jumped at the chance to help his new client.
“I’m not much of a writer, so I was hoping Charles would write the plan for me,” Mary admits sheepishly. “Instead, he did me a favor and made me write the entire thing. It took six months and a lot of counseling meetings with Charles, but I learned a lot and developed a better understanding of exactly where I was going with my business.”
She returned to the banks. They said the plan was good, but they still turned her down.
Mary, discouraged but not defeated, pondered a new approach. Lowell suggested she visit with Spike Ehrhardt, a local businessman who was constantly searching for new ventures to back financially. She talked with Spike and learned he was on the board of F&M Bank and Trust Co. Within days that same bank that had twice turned her down was willing to make the loan. In short order some of the other local lenders were willing to talk, too.
It turned out to be a classic example of the old saw: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” But Mary readily admits the formal business plan she devised with the detailed advice of Charles Holland was the best thing she could have done to prepare herself for running a business.
Addressing the details of the plan and having to answer the specific questions Charles posed for her along the way forced Mary to seriously face all the factors — management, marketing, financing, merchandising and everything else — that make a successful business.
Danni Nicole’s — the store named to honor Mary’s younger daughter — will celebrate its first anniversary in April. Mary keeps the books and pays the bills. Crystal manages the store. They work together on purchasing decisions … with occasional buying trips to the upscale garment district of New York City.
The wholesale merchandisers in the Big Apple try to sell mass quantities of the latest East Coast fashions to the Midwest businesswomen. But Mary and Crystal know their market. They want limited quantities of stylish items that work for women from the Heartland. And you can’t get much more Heartland than Hannibal, Mo.
“We have a good idea of what our customers like. And we want to make sure we have a sufficiently unique selection to reflect each of our valued customers’ individual tastes,” says Mary.
That goal is illustrated by Mary’s decision to open a second store last November. That shop is three doors down the street from the original and caters to a more full-figured clientele.
The two stores complement each other. Each reflects the unique approach of the high-energy mother-daughter duo that leads a staff of seven assistants to serve the discriminating fashion sense of their northeast Missouri customers.
Mary Short, Owner
119 N. Main Street
Hannibal, MO 63401
If you liked this post you might also like: