Blaine County Beacon: Necessity Is the Mother of Entrepreneurship
March 31, 2021
Although most entrepreneurs start businesses out of opportunity, not necessity, the opposite was true for Mandy Harbolt. She was motivated to design and develop Garnet Mountain Boutique because she just couldn't consistently find clothing that suited her. Then, when COVID hit, stores that she loved were going out of business at alarming rates. Many of these brick-and-mortar stores (physical locations) are still suffering.
"With changing trends, I personally was having a hard time finding clothing that fit my body. Pants were never long enough; tops were too short or not professional enough to wear to work. Walking into stores, I struggled to find clothing options for taller women, age-appropriate attire, or even larger sizing options. Many of these 'specialty' items in the bigger retail stores or trendy boutiques are available only online at an added cost."
These conditions led to an entrepreneurial vision: Harbolt had identified a need and started a business to fill that void. Although Garnet Mountain is currently online since Harbolt wants "all customers to remain healthy and beautiful," she claims that once COVID declines, her boutique will have a physical location in Missoula, Montana.
Eventually I hope to have a brick-and-mortar location, but that is still a few years out depending on how the economy turns. I took a risk by opening the online venue first, if that makes any sense. Currently, I am operating out of my home, strictly online shopping only."
Her Boutique's launch date was February 14 when her website officially went live. After thanking everyone for their support during "sneak peeks," Harbolt encouraged all of her customers to tag themselves in any of their purchased clothing because "all women deserve to shine brightly and beautifully from all peaks of life."
In fact, Shine Bright and Beautiful from Every Peak of Life is the Boutique's mission statement. "All women deserve to feel beautiful in their own skin. Having access to a shop where they can purchase quality clothing of all sizes at affordable prices enables every woman to shine beautifully. That's my reward," Harbolt said.
As a new online shop, Garnet Mountain Boutique "takes pride in offering quality products with fair prices," according to Harbolt. The boutique carries sizes S - 3XL.
Amidst her celebration at the launch, Harbolt thanked several people: Karston at Elevated Montana Marketing for helping make her dream come true by designing a logo and website that fits both the vision and mission statement of Garnet Mountain Boutique. "He is amazing to work with," Harbolt said. "Please reach out to him to help your business grow!"
She also thanked Erika from Windy Mill Press for collaborating with her team to create tags for each customer's order. These tags are all handmade, including the deckled-edge cotton paper on which the tags are printed. "Windy Mill Press met all of our expectations, enabling us to create a stunning and unique look for our boutique!" Harbolt exclaimed.
Finally, she thanked Lindsey Steyee, saying: "I am currently working with Lindsey Steyee Photography (Lindsey Buhmann) to promote Lifestyle Biz Photo shoots for professional women. We are incorporating a cross-marketing business to help professional women brand themselves and their businesses with the opportunity of modeling products from Garnet Mountain Boutique during a photo shoot with Lindsey Steyee Photography. We believe in empowering women and their entrepreneurships."
To prepare herself for this business endeavor, Harbolt attended MSU-Billings after graduating from Chinook High School in 2000, seeking a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance with a minor in Economics. Although she didn't finish that degree, she is currently attending Colorado Technical University online to obtain a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Accounting.
"I'm crossing my fingers that I am still on track to start Spring Semester 2022 at Arizona State University (online) seeking my BS in Engineering Management."
While attending school for these business related fields, Harbolt has worked in customer service/financial service jobs. She has drawn on all of these experiences to develop her current business. "I have strong management and communication skills that help me to build a rapport with people. That rapport enables me to ensure my customers feel valued. This is very important to providing a great service to customers while increasing sales goals," she stated.
The aspect of owning a business that has most surprised her is the respect and feedback from customers when they feel valued. "I thought that was just part of service, but customers are so grateful! They also appreciate how products are delivered or presented when they open their packages. I love to inspire women to shine bright and beautiful from every peak of life. I don't want them just buying a certain product or service to fit a trending market," Harbolt explained.
Another surprise actually posed as her greatest challenge. "Shopping for vendors or items is the biggest challenge. Finding a niche in fashion that fits the needs of all customers is a fickle situation. Because new trends happen each season, I try putting myself in another's shoes to bring the right products in during each season. I want my customers to know my products show their individual beauty and unique style-that they're not just another customer."
A believer in hard work and putting in extra effort, Harbolt went on to share a favorite quote by Thomas Edison: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
"There might be a bit of irony to this quote as advice because my grandpa Maurice Harshman owned/operated Chinook's primary electrician business for many years. He modelled that it is important to not pass up a great opportunity just because it takes more effort and work than another."
When she has free time, Harbolt enjoys running endless miles on the trails in Missoula or hiking in the woods with her dog, Jax. She also enjoys spending quality time with her three nieces: Lacey, Josie, and Rosalyn who ensure that Aunt Mandy finds her way back to the Hi-Line fairly regularly. "They are amazing girls that brighten up my life."