CU Alumna To Give Back To the Community Through an Upscale Thrift Store

By Jordan Grooters on May 23, 2018

Throughout her life, Cornerstone University alumna Lauren Manzer (B.A. ’16) usually got dressed in the morning with a little help from her sister's closet. "She's a shopper and always has the latest and greatest," says Manzer. "I'm known for not spending my money and being an outfit repeater. Of course, when she catches me wearing her clothes…it's not her favorite. A few years ago, out of spite of me wearing her outfit, she jokingly said, 'Why don't you just open up a store called My Sister's Closet and shop there?'"

Manzer never imagined that years later, she would open My Sister's Closet Thrift.

Manzer graduated from Cornerstone in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Video Production. During her years at CU and after graduation, she ran her own wedding film company. "I can not imagine where my life would be at right now had I not attended CU. Not only did I make lifelong friendships and meet my husband, but I've become more well rounded and equipped to start my own business. I gained the confidence I needed to step out into the world and not be afraid to put in work and ask a lot of questions along the way. Stepping into a leadership role means that I need to find mentors who are leadership examples for me."

After getting married in the summer of 2017, Manzer was searching for something new. "Work and life were slowing down," she shares. "For a few weeks, I was feeling like I wanted to pick up a part-time job. Something I was passionate about—either a thrift or home goods store where I could interact with customers, be on my feet and make the store look pretty. I stopped in a few places to see if they would be a good fit. Nothing felt right. On my way home, it hit me. 'You need to create your own store.' And so that day, I created My Sister's Closet."

Thrift store clothes displayed on hangers

My Sister's Closet is an upscale thrift store with clothing and home decor for women. The store is located in Middleville, Mich. Manzer says that her goal is to offer customers the latest trends along with everyday basics at a fraction of the cost of traditional shopping. She wants to help shoppers keep their homes and wardrobes fresh without asking them to break the bank. To gather inventory, she has been thrifting, attending garage sales and collecting donations.

Inspiration comes to Manzer through visiting different stores in West Michigan and all over the country. She says, "I pay attention to the little details and always try to get to know the owners. I ask them several questions to learn what has and hasn't worked for them. Learning from those who have already done it before has been most helpful for me in starting up this business."

Manzer planting small green plants in coffee cups and tea cups

As far as expansion, Manzer's main goal is to give back to the community. "I have big hopes and dreams for this store," she says. "I'm looking forward to giving back to the community I grew up in. I want to host various events like garage sales where anyone can come bring items to sell and make some extra money. Also, I would love to integrate volunteering events, concerts, art classes and any other crazy idea I can think of to involve the community."

"The idea of opening my own store was definitely not my initial plan, but rather it seemed like a fun and challenging adventure further down the road," said Manzer. "The most challenging part of opening the store been figuring out the business side of it. There is a whole lot more to it than picking out paint colors and taking pretty pictures. A lot of research, trial and error, time and money go into starting up a business. It's a lot of work but very much worth it.

"My advice to anyone who has thought about starting up a business would be to just go for it. You don't have to know all there is to know about starting a business before you do. You'll figure it out as you go. I certainly didn't have all the answers before I started. I started meeting and building relationships with people who did have some of the answers I was looking for. I have a business mentor who knows all there is to know about the business side of things. Also, I have a store mentor who has been working in retail since the 1970s and now owns her own store. Do not be afraid to ask questions. I've learned that more times than not, people are more than willing to help you out."

Grand Opening

Sign for My Sister's Closet and assorted thrift store items displayed on rug

Manzer has plans to open the store by the end of July. For updates on My Sister's Closet, you can follow @mysisterscloset.thrift on Instagram or like "My Sister's Closet Thrift" on Facebook.