Yolanda Coleman compares herself to the little engine that could. Others might see a similarity to David and Goliath. Still more could suggest the story of Erin Brockovich. These analogies are all appropriate for a woman who, within one year, confronted some of the biggest fears of small business owners everywhere and whose dream, determination, and support system helped her survive and thrive.
She signed the lease for her Racine, Wisconsin, brick-and mortar store—Plush Clothing, LLC—in the beginning of February 2019. By the middle of February, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While she was encouraged to put the store on hold, Yolanda decided she was “going to move forward.” That meant pushing through surgery, chemo, and radiation in order to serve her clientele. “It was very, very rough,” she mentions.
“So pretty much all of 2019 I’m just trying to stay alive,” says Yolanda. Still, she adds, “I felt it was more important for me to have this store open so those [full-figured] women could come and shop and have a place for themselves.”
Then Covid hit in early 2020 and the store was shut down for some months. After reopening, Yolanda explains, “It was slow at first, and it’s just starting to build back up.”
The double hit Yolanda took would leave some people speechless. Her reaction? “Well, I will say family and team is everything. I made it because I am a strong, strong believer in what I have going on here.”
Plush Clothing is what she has going on and it’s for plus-size, curvy women. She considers Plush Clothing the “missing piece in the retail industry.” It’s a boutique that offers trendy, reasonably-priced clothing for sizes 0X to 6X. A visit to her site’s gallery gives a sampling of what she has available: tops, bottoms, jeans, blazers, jackets, dresses, leggings, sweaters, and shorts. Fashion accessories are also on hand.
While many of her customers still prefer touching and viewing the clothing in person at the 409 Main Street shop, Yolanda, wisely, also provides for online ordering. In fact, the website boasts, “We’ve Got Our Ship Together. All Orders Over $75 Receive Free Shipping.”
She recognizes the importance of an online presence. Yolanda created Plush Clothing’s website—she’s working on redoing it as well as switching her host from GoDaddy to Shopify—and creates posts for her social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram,and LinkedIn.
Remember earlier in this story when Yolanda shared she’s a strong believer in her business? She’s not the only one. In February of this year, Plush Clothing was one of 30 entrepreneurs who received a Fiserv Back2Business COVID-19 relief program $10,000 grant. It was awarded in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks. This is what Yolanda has to say about being a grant recipient:
Being a new business, people don’t know who you are. So there are a lot of things you have to do to get them to know you even exist and trust you enough to actually come and do business with you. So then when you put a pandemic on top of that, it’s just really hard. But when you have people out there who care enough—and, in one case, care enough to give us $10,000—I was at a loss for words. I really was, because it was just awesome to see there are a lot of caring people out there in the world.
For over 28 years, Yolanda managed specialty chains as well as big box establishments, yet she always had a desire, a dream, to own her own store. To help realize that dream, she says, “family and team is everything.” That, of course, includes her husband, Corey Coleman, and her associate, Theresa. She says, “A good support system is always going to be your best friend.”
Yolanda sums up the past two years by commenting, “To me, I feel like I’ve been through the worst. Now there’s nothing but good things coming forward.”
Yolanda’s motto for women is Be Plush…Pretty, Lovely, Unique, Sexy, and Happy. “This is especially important for women of certain sizes,” says Yolanda, “because a lot of them, due to their size, may have lower self-esteem, may feel as though they’re not as worthy or they’re not as pretty. I believe all sizes are beautiful.”
Just before publication of this article, Yolanda had this great news to share:
Plush Clothing was the winner of the second Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) Main Street Mini-Makeover Contest. The store will have its Grand Reopening on Monday, November 8, with a ribbon cutting ceremony from 4:45-5:15pm.
In October, Plush Clothing had its First Annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser. Proceeds raised from the sale of breast cancer merchandise at the store will go to an individual (not an organization) who is battling cancer. Also, Yolanda had $1 raffles for people to win different prizes (see the post on her Facebook page). At the Grand Reopening, the winner of Yolanda’s first fundraiser will be named (the family knows who won, but it will be a total surprise to the individual); the 4 people who won prizes from the $1 raffle will also be on hand to receive their gifts.