Sunrise on Main Boutique in Green Bay is a business with a mission. Sure, it is a wonderful resale shop filled with fashionable and upscale clothing and accessories. But that is a small part of the story.
"It’s not a new idea," explained Joan Johnson, owner. "There are social enterprises all across the country that exist for the purpose of benefiting nonprofit work." And that nonprofit in Reset.Life, an organization dedicated to helping women reset their lives. "Everyone needs to press the reset button at some point in his or her life," Johnson said. "Through Reset.Life, we help women do just that. Whether facing personal or professional transition, women need help navigating those changes in a supportive environment that emphasizes interpersonal connection. Sometimes we think we’re the only ones going through a particular challenge, but we discover that we’re not alone."
She said she became convinced of the need when she spent years working in the corporate and public sector, including 15 years in nonprofit leadership.
In those roles, she became passionate about helping others and found herself gravitating toward meeting the needs of women who might be struggling.
What she found was that there was help available to those in the lower income levels. Those in the higher levels could afford help. But women in the middle were overlooked.
"The women in the middle are stuck," Johnson said. "They don’t quality for state assistance, nor in most cases do they have the means to afford a life coach or a therapist. And even if they could, they would miss out on the support of a group of women who are experiencing similar life changes. I wanted to serve those in the middle."
That includes those who might be experiencing job loss, divorce, workforce re-entry, retirement or serious health challenges. Once she had a concept, she wrote a business plan and developed a business model with programs offering life coaching, career coaching, work experience and enrichment.
Referred to as RISE programs, Johnson said they are designed to help women rise.
"I wanted to incorporate that work into the name of the boutique as well. I also wanted to include our location in the name, thus, Sunrise on Main Boutique was it," she added.
The location houses the boutique and classes. There is a comfortable living room for the courses, and the cost is affordable due to income from the boutique and scholarships. The nonprofit also received several grants to further assist participants.
Although the life coaching classes run for eight weeks, Johnson said they are so beneficial that women often keep meeting.
"In fact, we did a book club after one of the programs ended. Women are really looking at a way to connect with others," Johnson said. "Social isolation is becoming an epidemic, and that’s why we do almost everything in a group format."
In the just over the one year the business has been in existence, comments from participants say she is on the right track.
"The life coaching session has helped move me from just thinking about changing my life to doing it!" one participant said. "The tools, exercises and group accountability have helped me to set goals and create a plan to live a more fulfilled and meaning life — including my health, my relationships, and my career. Thank you!"
Obviously, word of mouth has been a major marketing tool, but Johnson also promotes heavily via social media, the website (www.sunriseonmain.com) and email. She relies on help from volunteers and a diverse board of directors. Her roles include everything from executive management to cleaning the toilets.
"I’m at the point in my career where earning money is not the priority. I value doing something infinitely meaningful with my life and am grateful that I have this opportunity to invest in helping other women," she said.
Johnson also points out that others can help by supporting the boutique with donations of fashionable and upscale clothing that will play a part in helping women "reset" their lives through the RISE programs.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.