Success Story: Tina North, Owner of Moss Envy

MyTalk 107.1 Entrepreneur of the Month for October

For nearly a decade, Tina North created beautiful things from found items that others had thrown away; she transformed trash into treasures. And while this concept originated out of a desire to give unique gifts on a tight budget, Tina discovered her niche. The market for sustainable products had begun to boom and Tina began her foray into eco-entrepreneurship. In 2006, her business Re Gifts was born.

One year later, Re Gifts was transformed into an Uptown Minneapolis retail store called Twin Cities Green. In addition to one-of-a-kind gift items, Twin Cities Green offered environmentally friendly home goods, furniture, mattresses and more. The green community embraced the concept and local shoppers did, too.

Despite the support that Twin Cities Green received from the community, the first few years were not easy, especially during the recession. "We had to work hard for every dollar," Tina recalled. "There wasn't extra money for merchandising or marketing, so we did everything ourselves—from creating displays to handing out flyers to people on the streets."

There were staffing issues in those early years as well. Tina, her husband and her mom were the only employees, and they worked many long hours. There were problems with the building, too. The ceiling leaked and the landlord was slow to respond to repair requests. But the challenges were not insurmountable and Twin Cities Green netted a profit every year.

Much of the business's success was due to Tina's keen ability to provide her customers what they wanted. As the preferences of the green community evolved, Tina took a more refined approach to the products she offered, and applied the same methodology to the store. Re-branded and relocated, Moss Envy opened its doors in a fresh new space near Lake Calhoun in 2010, and profits continue to grow.

WomenVenture has played a critical part in Tina's success. She worked with the agency from the get-go, initially for help writing a business plan, managing her finances and developing marketing strategies. As the business has grown, Tina secured funding from WomenVenture and participated in classes that addressed the challenges of an expanding enterprise. She became a part of a community of female entrepreneurs. And throughout her journey, Tina has worked one-on-one with a business consultant to help guide her.

Tina and her team are preparing to open a second location in the near future, and she says she could not imagine going through the process without WomenVenture. "Our consultant has been like a mom to the business," Tina said. "She cares about Moss Envy like she is a member of the family. She helps me find the confidence I need to move forward. She is committed to providing me with the tools and resources I need to make my dream a reality."