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Sara Stonecipher, MISRED Outfitters
Photograph: Zack WittmanSara Stonecipher, MISRED Outfitters

Sara Stonecipher proves that small businesses can make a big impact

The key to success for the St. Petersburg native and owner of MISRED Outfitters is helping local entrepreneurs thrive

Written by Jackie Gutierrez-Jones for Time Out, in association with Florida Lottery

Sara Stonecipher, owner of MISRED Outfitters in St. Petersburg, Florida, grew up in the area and studied hospitality management at the University of Central Florida before launching herself headfirst into the fashion industry.

She opened Misred in 2010 with $17,000 in savings and tried clothing design, online sales, and floor change planning and distribution. She even opened (and subsequently closed) a second location on her entrepreneurial journey. “All of those growth plans turned out to be stifling,” says Stonecipher. “But I learned a ton and never gave up.”

What inspired you to open MISRED?

My mom had a consignment boutique in downtown St. Pete when I was growing up. That’s when I was bit by the boutique bug. But it wasn't until I became burned out at my corporate jobs that I decided to revisit my small business dream.

Who were some of the mentors or teachers that had an impact on your career?

My mom was a huge mentor to me. She was a local small business pioneer way before St. Pete was cool. She started her shop on the now-famous Beach Drive when the historic Vinoy hotel was vacant and in ruins. The year she opened, St. Pete was a ghost town after all the professionals went home at 5pm. There was no nightlife, tourism, or thriving arts culture. Yet she saw something no one else did. She opened her store in 1991 and immediately ran for president of the downtown business association, hoping to be a part of the change she knew St. Pete could be.

Today, I try to follow in her footsteps, continuing the legacy of being a champion for small businesses in St. Pete. I created and was president of the Central Arts District, where my shop is today. I have been on countless small business boards and forums throughout the years, working closely with the city to ensure small businesses continue to thrive in our now not-so-sleepy little town.

What are some of the most impactful advice you received from your mentors?

My mom's actions always showed me that just because you are a small business, doesn't mean you can't make a big impact. I carry that with me today as I continue to help other small businesses thrive through my YouTube channel. I firmly believe that a rising tide helps all boats and that helping others is the real key to success.

Sara Stonecipher, MISRED Outfitters
Photograph: Zack WittmanSara Stonecipher, MISRED Outfitters

What challenges have you faced while launching your business?

By far my biggest challenge has been keeping up with the rapidly changing environment our small town has recently seen. Ten years ago, rent was cheap, and the cost of living was reasonable. Today, retail rents are on par with NYC and million-dollar condos line the once-empty lots. We’ve spent a lot of time studying who our new customer is and how we can optimize their experience inside of our shop. We jokingly say that since its inception, MISRED has changed everything about itself, except for the name. As scary as that has been, I believe implementing these changes according to our shifting ecosystem has been the single factor that’s allowed us to thrive for the past 13 years.

What's in store for MISRED's future?

We recently opened a MISRED premium department — kind of a store within a store. Our first premium brand is Farm Rio, an amazing eco-conscious brand focusing on amazing cuts, prints, and colors! Their pieces are highly collectible, which has made MISRED a destination for those seeking it out. We plan to bring in more brands like these, continuing our effort to be the local “Anthropologie Alternative.”

What's the most important piece of advice would you give to someone about to embark on the small business journey?

In today's environment, my biggest piece of advice would be to know your customer inside and out! Know their hobbies, where they vacation, workout, and get their coffee. Are they primarily students, moms, or urban professionals? What are their hopes, dreams, and disposable income brackets? This is how you will provide the highest quality experience to your customers, which, in turn, creates lasting success for your brand.

MISRED Outfitters
Photograph: Zack Wittman
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