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BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES

The Sari Bazaar

Lexie and Trent Leonhard have long had a heart for serving impoverished and marginalized communities in India. But in 2016, they decided to convert their passion into action. The Leonhards came up with the idea to bring handmade products, created by women in India, to the United States to be sold. In return, the inventors and innovators behind the products are paid a fair wage and offered insurance, retirement funds and classes in business management and English. Popular products are blankets, bags and jewelry, all made from saris that have been repurposed.

After the idea’s conception, however, the Leonhards weren’t sure where to go next. “We both work full-time at other jobs in Eau Claire and know nothing about business management or startup, have no school for it, but we wanted to start this side business to support a cause we really believe in,” Lexie said. She heard about business counseling offered at Western Dairyland and applied shortly after.

“It was such a safe place to say ‘here’s what we want to do, we have no idea [about] any of the steps to get there!’ And if [Karman] mentioned a term or word that we didn’t know, it was okay to say ‘hold on, can you explain that part again?’” Lexie said of her business counseling experience. Western Dairyland also provided the Leonhards with help registering their business, obtaining a selling license and paying first taxes.

Following the business counseling, the Leonhards met with a Business Development Strategist at Western Dairyland to aid with financial organization and bookkeeping practices. “[Jacob] was really good about continuing to follow up with us, too,” Lexie said. "We are thankful for the information and resources we were given, and feel more confident with business ownership after going in not knowing a thing!"

In its first year, The Sari Bazaar even made a profit. “A pretty small profit, but still a successful first full year of no negative!” Lexie said.

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