Former Mrs. Nebraska Makes a Winning Move
Sale of dress boutique becomes perfect pageant partnership
Confidence and success typically go hand-in-hand. That’s been the experience for Michelle Strom in both her personal and professional life. Growing up as a competitive athlete in gymnastics, Michelle has always welcomed competition. So when her friend asked her to compete in the 2007 Mrs. Nebraska pageant, she agreed. And it paid off by winning the title. Little did she know at the time it would also be the start of a prosperous business career.
Although Michelle was married with two children, she saw the pageant as another form of competition and was eager to train and get back into shape. She had never competed in a pageant before, but she was familiar with it, having helped friends’ daughters who competed. Competing also gave her the opportunity to learn how to become an effective communicator, including how to speak well in public. “It kept me focused and gave me a goal,” she said. “It also got me involved in the community, doing more volunteer work, and put me on a new pathway. It was a fantastic move for me.”
After winning her first pageant, Michelle went on to compete in Mrs. America where she won second runner-up and then to the Mrs. United States pageant in 2009 where she finished in the top five. During her preparation Michelle needed to look for one of the most important pageant elements: the dress. Frustrated by the lack of local options, she started to design and sell pageant dresses out of her home. The home-based business quickly grew, and she opened a store front in Rockbrook Village. Winning Crown Boutique became the premier place to purchase original, one-of-a-kind dresses not just for pageants, but for all special occasion needs.
Michelle competed in just the three pageants and then decided to shift her focus to helping other women, not only those competing in pageants, look and feel their best. With her creative flare, Michelle has a sense for what looks good on each individual. “I have a good attention to detail and have had a lot of success determining just the right gown for customers,” she said. That talent is what continued to grow Winning Crown into a successful business on an international level. In 2013, Michelle was featured for a season on the WE Channel TV show “Obsessed with the Dress.” Filmed at Winning Crown, the show followed Michelle’s process for finding those perfect dresses.
"I wasn't looking for just anyone to take over; I wanted the right person."
Like with many successful businesses, Michelle had grown it to a point where she had met all of her goals. With kids who were now teenagers including a daughter who competes on a traveling gymnastics team, Michelle felt the time had come to focus more on family and be available to attend the out of town meets. After making the decision to sell Winning Crown, she contacted The Firm because she felt they had a personable, one-on-one approach, which is what she wanted. Since finding the right buyer was so important, Michelle decided to do a private listing. “I wasn’t looking for just anyone to take over; I wanted the right person” she explained.
When Michelle finally found that right fit, she said it was because “the buyer had all the right puzzle pieces.” With a daughter who competes in pageants and a business background in accounting, Michelle felt the new owner would be able to run Winning Crown successfully. And the best part is that Michelle will stay on as the boutique’s Creative Director. “I’ll be able to continue to coach girls in pageantry skills out of the store’s current location and help the store with the latest trends, buying merchandise, as well as design dresses,” she said.
Even though Winning Crown has changed hands and they are in the process of transitioning ownership, Michelle said the business model isn’t going to change. In fact, by combining the business expertise of the new owner and Michelle’s creative expertise, she believes that Winning Crown will be even stronger. “Everything that customers know and love about the Winning Crown isn’t going to change,” she said. “We make sure that everyone we dress feels unique, special, and their very best.”
The Firm Deal Review
Stat: On national TV show Obsessed with the Dress
Post-Close: Seller staying as creative director
Lender: Centris Federal Credit Union, O.J. Spooner
Loan Structure: SBA