Marissa Marklewitz, owner of Wild At Heart, held a number of retail jobs as a teenager, but she never expected to own her own retail business.
In college, Marklewitz was an exercise science major and planned to work in sports medicine. Her father and grandfather, however, have always been in business.
“I grew up around it and had lots of advice,” Marklewitz said.
And she’s always been good at color and fashion. So when her daughter was born, Marklewitz went to work for Wild At Heart’s previous owner.
“When she was ready to sell, she asked if I was interested,” Marklewitz said. She was.
Marklewitz, 30, took over the business in June 2007. Late last year, she moved the store into expanded space at 2110 N. Maize Road.
“This space has a lot of potential,” she said. “It has an upstairs as well.”
The store carries women’s clothing, accessories, gifts and gourmet food items. She focuses on apparel she calls a “step up” from business casual.
“We work with a lot of corporate women, bankers, lawyers, who maybe don’t have to dress in suits anymore,” she said.
She also focuses on customer service and unique products.
“We support a lot of local artists,”
She grew up in Estes Park, Colo., attended Tabor College and graduated from Wichita State University. She is married to Andrew, and they have two children, a 7-year-old and a 16-month-old.
When not working, Marklewitz likes to spend time with the family, take walks and ride bikes.
What do you like best about being the in business?
“I love helping people with that difficult shopping trip. A lot of women do not like to shop because they feel badly about themselves — if they don’t fit the size they think they should or things don’t fit, (or) they don’t know how to find the correct style that fits their body type. I love to help people find things that fit.
“I really focus on helping women feel good about themselves and making shopping an easy, fun experience.”
What’s the biggest challenge?
“I’m a busy mom, too. I have two kids. … Knowing how to be a mom and a business woman has been a challenge. … And finding the niche that has really worked for our customers.
“Really, figuring the mix that really works for us has probably been the biggest challenge. I’m a people pleaser, and I want everyone to be happy.”
What’s going to market like? How do you like it?
“I like the organizational part of it. I’m good with color. I can look at all the lines and say this pair of pants is going to go great with this sweater. … Most people do think market is just a big, fun shopping trip. But it’s very organized and very complex. We’re planning for six to nine months in advance. We don’t know what the weather’s going to do or what the economy is going to do. (And) there’s so much stuff to choose from.”
So what are the popular items this holiday season?
“Most scarves have been the huge hit this year. I cannot even keep them in. It has been crazy. Sweaters, and sweater dresses, (and) boots.
“It’s been about accessories. When things are a little tough, you can get an accessory that goes with lots of different things, and you feel like you’re getting a good investment piece.”
What’s your best advice for someone wanting to open a business?
“Do your research first. From bad experiences and good, there are things I wish I had known and wish I had put more investigation into it before I bought the business.… Have good research and good counsel behind you before you jump in. … (Sometimes) you have to learn the hard way, which I think every business owner does.
“The Small Business Development Center at Wichita State has been the most valuable resource for us to figure things out.”