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Is Entrepreneurship For a Cause For You?

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                   SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office


If you think setting up a not-for-profit business is for 
you, today's article will give you plenty of information. 
Read about one woman's personal story of success, and 
learn from her experiences. 


Be sure to visit the SoHo News and Tips blog!
SoHo News & Tips Blog



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Is Entrepreneurship For a Cause for You? 

After her two sisters died of breast cancer, 
Barbara Hensley, of Shakopee, Minn., took two 
radical steps. She had a preventative double 
mastectomy and later quit her job to help others 
with the disease. 

Today Mrs. Hensley, 57, operates the Hope Chest 
for Breast Cancer, an upscale thrift store in 
Wayzata, Minn., that contributed more than $55,000 
last year to the Hope Chest for Breast Cancer 
Foundation she also runs. The nonprofit funds 
breast-cancer research, programs and services. She 
expects to open a second store this year in the 
Minneapolis area and plans to franchise 50 Hope 
Chests that can contribute millions more. 

She came upon the idea in tony Sanibel Island, Fla., 
when sprucing up her father's condo there in 2001. 
She asked neighbors what to do with the old pillows 
and bedspreads. They sent her to a church that ran 
a thrift shop. "I walked in and nearly had a heart 
attack when I saw the [high] quality of the items 
for sale," she says.

She'd been looking for ways to help women battling 
breast cancer since her sisters died in the mid-
1990s, she says. "Breast cancer has a tremendous 
effect on your life, even if you don't have to 
worry about how you'll pay for treatment," she 

Mrs. Hensley was a vice president, product 
strategy and management for Ceridian Corp., a 
human-resources company in Minneapolis but knew 
little about starting a fund-raising venture.

Mrs. Hensley returned to Minnesota, quit her job 
and started researching resale stores. Those she 
found in the Twin Cities catered to a low-income 
clientele. She gathered well-to-do women into 
focus groups to learn what they might want from 
an upscale thrift shop. They suggested polite, 
on-time pick-ups, respect for their donations and 
a bright store in a nice part of town where 
customers would enjoy shopping for slightly-worn 
St. John knits. 

Mrs. Hensley invited prominent community members 
to join her board and worked with an attorney who 
donated her time to set up not-for-profit status 
for her foundation. She also searched for a 
location. Once she found the right building, she 
bought it, then spent $100,000 to build it out. 

The store opened in November 2002. It's run by 
four paid experienced retail managers and 
volunteers. Interior designers donate items and 
help with displays, and local merchants drop off 
overstock merchandise. Experts help set prices 
for items like fur coats, jewelry and antiques. 
Other donations sell for one-fourth to half their 
original retail price. "When I tried to donate my 
corporate wardrobe, half my clothes were rejected. 
Now, everything I wear comes from the store," Mrs. 
Hensley says, laughing.

Resources: The National Association of Resale & 
Thrift Shops (NARTS) in St. Clair Shores, Mich., 
sells a "Guide to Opening a Resale Shop" for $45 
to nonmembers on its Web site. The site also has 
listings for events and seminars.

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You can find information on seeking non-for-profit 
status at the Internal Revenue Service's Web site, 
the Council on Foundations and GuideStar, a not-
for-profit research organization. 

Getting started: Setting up a not-for-profit may 
take months, and $5,000 to $15,000 in legal fees, 
says Renee Schoenberg, a partner with the law firm 
DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary US LLP in Chicago. 
Thrift shops like the Hope Chest for Breast Cancer 
must gain 501(c)(3)federal tax exempt status from 
the IRS and also be approved by state agencies. 

NARTS members have started resale shops for $1,000 
to more than $100,000, says Adele Meyer, the group's 
executive director. The most difficult task often 
is finding a low-rent location that your customers 
can find and will visit, she says.

Mrs. Hensley is working with franchise attorneys, 
also on a pro bono basis, to sell Home Chest for 
Breast Cancer franchises to like-minded people who 
would be required to donate 15% to 60% of their 
revenues to the Home Chest for Breast Cancer 
Foundation. Mrs. Hensley estimates that the total 
investment for a Hope Chest for Breast Cancer 
franchise could be $100,000 to $160,000. She says 
she expects to offer the first this summer.

What you can earn: Mrs. Hensley takes a small 
salary from her store, which also pays a modest 
salary to her husband Jay, 60, who recently left 
his corporate job to serve as vice president of 
operations. Her son earns an hourly wage for doing 
the store's pickups and deliveries. She declines 
to specify their pay. Ms. Meyer says that the 
typical payroll of a non-for-profit thrift store 
is 27.8% of net sales, which can range from 
$100,000 to $1 million a year. People who work in 
thrift stores are there for the love of the 
establishment's cause, not the money, Ms. Meyer 

Advantages: Mrs. Hensley says the venture gives 
her "an opportunity to apply my business skills 
and acumen to a cause I am passionate about." 

Downsides: To promote your not-for-profit "you 
must always be in front of people" asking for 
donations, volunteers, event hosts and other 
assistance, says Mrs. Hensley. Running a thrift 
shop is labor intensive, Ms. Meyer says. People 
underestimate the work involved.


Trying to avoid hassles by not going electronic will 
probably cost you money. Everyone is better protected with 
electronic processing because you lessen the chances of 
mistakes and omissions. You should probably just take the 
electronic plunge from the start or expect to pay higher 
discount and transaction fees.

So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let 
me know at mailto:mandi@gophercentral.com 

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