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BIZ CRUSH: Thrift Stylist, Michelle Raven

BIZ crush

Have you ever stumbled upon a business idea so genius that it stops you in your tracks, makes you drop everything just to find out more, drive a few hours just to partake in the genius-ness, and then write a blog post about it because you just want everyone to know?

Enter Michelle (AKA Thrift Stylist exclusively at Arc's Value Village).

She & her team of stylists work on an appointment basis to basically take all the hard work out of thrift shopping. They scour the store (your choice of 5 locations), set aside a curated arrangement of awesome and all you have to do is try it on and buy.

I told you it was genius!

On the day of my appointment I had one foot in the Minneapolis store when I saw Michelle walking towards me- huge beaming smile, the cutest blonde bob, & the most epic neon neoprene skirt I've ever seen in my life. That's when I knew for sure I was in good hands.

The style profile I had filled out prior was ALL over the board- exclaiming that I loved loud floral prints, but was really more of a minimalist. Only heaven (& Michelle) knows how, but she deciphered my crazy brain, pulled an array of fabulousness & I shopped to my heart's content all while receiving outfit ideas & killer styling suggestions.

I walked out with an arm load of new finds (2 pairs of shoes-which I DIYed here, 2 jackets, a pair of jeans, 4 tops, a hunk of vintage fabric & a piece of jewelry) for just over $50. $50!

You chew on that while Michelle tells us more:

Photo by Jasna Burza

What kind of kid were you growing up?

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. Their little house on the lake was my happy place. Inside, it was filled with special trinkets and memorabilia from their nearly 70 years of marriage and travels all over the world. Both were collectors and they especially loved any opportunity to share the rich stories behind the things they collected. My Grandpa collected lots of odd, quirky things; my Grandma did too. But one thing I cherished most that she collected was ceramic creamers – especially unique ones shaped like different animals. She had hundreds of them lining the shelves in her small kitchen. When we slept over at Grandma & Grandpa’s, it was always a special treat for each grandchild to carefully select the creamer they wanted to use for their morning oatmeal or cereal. Grandma would always have a story to tell about how she’d acquired that particular creamer, whether it was a special gift or something she’d picked up at a flea market while traveling.

I think my grandparents’ love of things and the stories the things tell translated into a love of thrifting for me. Every piece in a thrift or vintage shop has a history and a story and there’s something romantic about that. And every once in awhile while I’m secondhand shopping, I’ll stumble upon an old creamer on the shelf just like the ones my grandma used to collect and it brings it all full circle.

Walk us through the process of how you came up with the idea for your business.

One of my first jobs as a teen was as a cashier at the Arc’s Value Village in New Hope; there I developed a love for the eclectic, unpredictable and adventurous world of thrifting.

Over the years, I built a wardrobe full of thrifted finds. What really jazzed me was the ability to create a look that reflected current trends, but wasn’t a cookie-cutter replication of the mannequins at the mall. And what jazzed me even more was the ability to create this unique look for so much less!

When people took notice of my personal style or complimented me on something I wore, I reveled in the opportunity to say, “Thanks, I got it at the thrift store!”

The familiar response I got to that declaration is what inspired me to create the personal shopping service, which is now offered exclusively at Arc’s Value Village. The response was always the same, “I wish I could find things like that at the thrift store; I just don’t have the eye for it,” or “I get so overwhelmed at the thrift store; I just don’t have the patience to sift through all those racks.”

I created this service for that very reason. I wanted to create a service that bridged the thrifting gap, allowing those who have felt overwhelmed, intimidated or uninspired by the thrift experience, another way to engage. I wanted to give those folks a reason to give secondhand a second chance.

Who’s positively influenced your path the most?

I’ve had a lot of mentors and cheerleaders over the years. My mom is one of my biggest fans and always pushes me to do and be better.

Favorite part about being your own boss?

People always assume I am my own boss, but I’m not. I have an incredible boss who I admire a great deal. My boss trusts me to do right by our organization and allows me plenty of free reign to explore & try new ideas to advance our business initiatives.

Most challenging thing about your role?

The independence in my work can be great, but sometimes it’s challenging too. When you’re a remote employee and you’re not always in the office with your colleagues, you can sometimes feel siloed. When I feel that way, I seek out projects where I can work more interactively with others.

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

I make time for creativity and brainstorming. It’s an important part of my workflow. I look at fashion magazines or blogs, I read business articles, I listen to podcasts, I talk to my friends who’s love of ideas and innovation parallel mine.

If you could be a fly on the wall to anyone’s creative space {dead or alive} who would it be?

I can’t even begin to answer this question! I couldn’t think of just one person! But I would love an opportunity to be a fly on the wall in almost anyone’s creative space – it’s so inspiring to observe creatives and learn their process!

Exclusive finds from Arc's Value Village as seen on Instagram

Talk about a failure you’ve learned from.

I can’t think of a specific failure I’ve had (but don’t get me wrong, there’ve been plenty of failures and missteps along the way!). But, thanks to some great career mentors, I’ve learned a few things over the last year or so that have really changed my approach to my work. I have a better understanding now of what kind of leader I want to be and how I can use my influence to lift people up and elevate great ideas and opportunities - and all of that with kindness and grace.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in business?

Being recognize as a 40 Under 40 Honoree by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal was really rewarding for me.

What do you wish you knew when you first started that you know now?

I think until recently, I considered my success a result of a lucky break. I know now that my success is because I am smart, capable and brave and I know how important it is to trust my instincts.

What’s next / What are you most excited about?

I’m excited that my styling team is growing! We’ve recently added several new stylists to our team to meet appointment demand. I’m excited about new opportunities to connect Arc’s Value Village with our local fashion scene.

Photo by Ellen Lawson of City Pages

Time of the day you are most productive:

When my toddler sleeps

The app you couldn’t live without:

Google Drive

Social media outlet you love most:


Favorite account to follow on this outlet:

Favorite Pandora station at the moment:

I prefer talk radio

Who would you like to see featured on a postage stamp?

My girl crush Beyonce

Go to piece in your wardrobe:

For summer, I’m finding myself grabbing for my white denim jeans with a fringed hem quite often

Favorite Netflix binge:

I need something new to binge, recommendations please!

Most amazing thing you’ve ever discovered at Arc’s:

Oh my gosh, there’s no way I could pick just one thing. It’s all relative. Every day there’s something amazing!

See more from Michelle: Instagram | Facebook

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