ME: What is your undergraduate degree in and what did you originally want to do with it?
Melissa: I graduated with a Communications degree with an emphasis in Public Relations from The University of Tennessee at Martin. I assumed I would work for a PR firm even though that never seemed like a good fit for me.
ME: How did you discover your passion for fashion?
Melissa: Growing up with a single mom, I was 1 of 3 girls. We often didn’t have the money for new clothes. I wore a lot of hand-me-downs that usually didn’t fit and weren’t my first choice. It wasn’t until a few years after college that I discovered consignment and thrift stores. I was fascinated that you could find gently used and sometimes new clothing for a fraction of the cost. It was during this time that I became truly excited about fashion.
ME: How did you come to own your very own shop?
Melissa: In early 2010, I felt God leading me to open a store that would give women the opportunity to afford an amazing wardrobe even on a shoe string budget. I often say that I felt like I was hearing “Collect for it and they will come.” Much like in the movie Field of Dreams, it was a persistent voice. For almost a year, I collected clothing, accessories and racks, and obsessively worked on a business plan for a store I didn’t have yet.
After much praying on what direction to take next, a friend’s brother-in-law had won a free seat in a 6 week class on how to write a business plan. Knowing I wanted to open a store, they gave me the free seat. After the class, I felt more confident and ready to find a location. I had a local real estate agent show me several properties but it wasn’t until I walked into our current location that I knew it was where I was suppose to be. After being turned down by 3 local banks for a small business loan, I had 2 private parties that were willing to invest in Sugar Plum.
This month Sugar Plum Consignments celebrates 6 years and has almost 8,000 consignors. I am still so thankful for all those who helped get me started. I am also incredibly thankful for all those who keep Sugar Plum going, especially my wonderful staff and my store manager, Alice Dean, who makes small miracles happen everyday. Not to mention, my sweet husband and loving family for supporting me all these years!
ME: Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years?
Melissa: A year ago, we started dedicating every month to a local charity or group that needs assistance. During that month, we collect donations of items they are in need of as well as match monetary donations that we receive. My biggest hope is that in 5 years, Sugar Plum is able to make an even bigger positive impact in the community and able to influence other local businesses to create their own community outreach program.
Personally, I hope I am able to spend as much quality time with my family as I am able to do now.
(She has a select collection of designer items as well!)
ME: What is your favorite quote?
Melissa: I have so many but right now this is one of my favorites by Cassie Kelley: “You don’t have to chase what God has sent.” It reminds me to embrace my gifts and that someone else’s path is not for me.