Over the years, Winmark has been proud to be home to so many strong, female leaders - from 20% of our executive team and Board of Directors to 60% of our leadership team, powerful women have made our five resale brands what they are today.
With half of our stores owned by women, we're celebrating International Women’s Day by highlighting an inspiring mother-daughter franchisee duo, Carol and Olivia Topolski. Since opening a Plato’s Closet® store in 2008 and then a Style Encore® next door in 2016, they’ve built comfortable lifestyles, lasting relationships with customers, a tight-knit team and have given back to community members in need.
The Road to Entrepreneurship
It’s safe to say that entrepreneurship is in Olivia Topolski’s blood. Ever since she can remember, her mom, Carol, wanted to start her own business.
While Olivia was in high school, Carol followed up her years as a paralegal by working in the floral industry. It was there that one of her colleagues suggested she take Olivia, who loved to shop, for Plato’s Closet.
Before long, Olivia got a job working there part-time before she went off to college to study small business management and entrepreneurship. By then, they’d both fallen in love with the resale concept and set off to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams.
Putting the “Family” in Family Business
Olivia is very hands-on at her and her mom’s resale stores, handling all of the operations, inventory and overseeing their nearly 70 employees. Meanwhile, Carol mostly works remotely, helping with the finances and back end of the business. They’ve even brought another family member on board - welcoming Carol’s sister as their bookkeeper and payroll manager.
Just like they run their businesses as a family, Olivia and Carol treat their employees like extended family. From celebrating their birthdays to providing special discounts, positive reinforcement, flexible schedules and supporting them in all their endeavors, it’s no wonder they have long-time employees - even their store manager has been with them for seven years.
Giving Back to Their Community
For Carol and Olivia, one of the most rewarding parts of owning their business has been the opportunity to build connections and give back to their community. One of Olivia’s favorite traditions is hosting their “Take What You Need” event, in which they put all their clearance items out for free in hopes that neighbors in need will come and pick up essential clothing and accessories.
“Sometimes, someone will even reach out to us if there’s a local child or family in need,” Carol explained. “We’ve gotten calls to help victims of house fires and other local tragedies.”
Carol and Olivia also partner with several local organizations and schools, including the Chester County Intermediate Unit Discover Program and Downingtown High School Transition Program, which organize for special needs students to work in their stores and gain real-world skills and experience.
The mother-daughter duo also loves partnering with their local chamber of commerce for fun and festive events, and this spring, they’re looking forward to participating in their community fashion show.
Inspiring the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Though they’d never run a business before, Carol and Olivia have achieved many milestones throughout their years with Winmark, and there’s still much more ahead.
“The transition to entrepreneurship was very simplified,” Carol explained. “Winmark has a great training program that we went to and a lot of tools in place to help you run a successful business.”
Since they started their businesses, close family, friends and colleagues have followed in their footsteps and opened their very own resale stores. Olivia has also transferred many of the skills she’s learned through her business to her personal life.
“I’ve learned so much from running our resale stores,” she explained. “From communicating to planning, thinking ahead and managing people, there are so many lessons that will also help you in your day-to-day life.”
Are you looking to join our strong pool of female executives, leaders and franchisees? Click here to learn more about how you can capitalize off the growing resale industry and give back to your community.