According to Chantelle Harder, one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do is give back to the community that supports their business.
The owner of two Winmark brand stores – Once Upon A Child® and Plato’s Closet® – in Winnipeg, Manitoba and co-owner of two Plato’s Closet stores in Calgary, Alberta has experienced success beyond her bottom line by giving back to her home community of Winnipeg without seeking anything in return.
“I wanted to find ways that I could give back where we give, but there’s nothing returned to us in exchange,” Chantelle said. “There’s no recognition, there’s nothing tangible that we’re getting in return.”
The mother of four children between the ages of 9-14 has been able to do that since she opened her Once Upon A Child store in 2011 after a career in teaching and owning/running an online pharmacy. Here are the ways she helps:
Teddy Bears’ Picnic Contributes to the Health of Children
The annual Teddy Bears’ Picnic, presented by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, helps raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Hospital, which is dedicated to the healthcare of Winnipeg’s youngest population. The picnic is a fun and free educational experience for families with a different activity in each of the 50 tents that occupy Assiniboine Park for a day in late May.
It was easy for Chantelle to see that her Once Upon A Child store, which provides parents a retail location to buy and sell gently used children’s clothes, shoes, toys and baby gear, would be a natural fit as a sponsor for the event. Organizers felt the same way, and she began sponsoring and volunteering at the face-painting tent, called Paw Prints, in 2012.
“Because everything goes toward the Children’s Hospital Foundation,” she said, “it’s a great opportunity to connect with families and do something good for a local charity.”
Merchandise Marked Down to Zero
Chantelle also donates clothes, shoes, accessories and gear to a variety of charitable organizations and families in need, including:
- First Nations community in Manitoba – Chantelle said they’re in dire need of clothing, footwear and outerwear. The donated goods are delivered to a community center, where families pick out what they need and take it home for free. “There’s nothing that comes back to us except for that feeling of doing something wonderful for a community in need here in Manitoba,” she said.
- Survivors of domestic abuse – They are typically children who’ve had to flee their homes. Social agencies now contact Chantelle when there’s a family in need, and she assembles a wardrobe for each victim depending on their age and size.
- Families who’ve lost their home to fire – Chantelle relies on agencies and the word of the survivors’ friends, family and neighbors to let her know what’s needed. The family can then visit her stores to take what they need, free of charge.
- Refugee families – Typically, they’re from warmer countries and not prepared for the cold Manitoba winters, when the temperature many days is below 0 degrees. The donated sweaters, mittens, hats, boots and outerwear can be life-saving. “They can have a start in Canada where they’ll be warm and feel a little bit more at home,” Chantelle said.
Being a Good Neighbor Can Boost Business
Although she does it all without seeking acknowledgment or accolades, Chantelle is rewarded for helping those in need in her community.
For example, she has witnessed her employees, most of whom are between the ages of 16-25, learn the value of charity. She wants them to know that owning a business is not just about making money.
“Business is not just about profit,” Chantelle said. “A lot of what we do in our business is to make the world a better place. It’s important they see that owning a business is not just about making money, it’s about helping people. It’s important for my own kids to see the value of giving back, too. That’s why they come with me to the Teddy Bears’ Picnic to help out and it’s why they deliver clothing to families in need with me.”
And while Chantelle’s motives are purely altruistic, she has seen business improve since giving back. Naturally, local consumers are more likely to frequent businesses who show love for their community.
“There is absolutely a tie to being of service in your community and people noticing that,” she said. “Whether or not you’re seeking that recognition, it happens. I’ve talked to many people who have come to our store because they heard about our donations.”
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