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  • 24 September 2015
  • Tracy Spahr

Small Business Owners and SCORE Mentors: The Perfect Fit

Every woman has that special pair of jeans. The perfect fit. The jeans that make her look and feel good. Ciara Stockeland knows how a good pair of jeans can make a woman a feel attractive and confident.

Ciara is the owner and franchisor of MODE and the recipient of the 2015 SCORE Award for Outstanding Franchise - Small Business. MODE, a retail shop that specializes in selling designer fashion at closeout prices, opened in 2007. With the help of SCORE, a national non-profit that provides free business mentoring to entrepreneurs, Ciara was able to create a business model that offered franchising opportunities and now has 11 franchise locations. Ciara was recognized for her achievements during the SCORE Awards Gala on September 17 in Washington, DC.

Ciara says she continues to use The UPS Store because of the convenience and expert customer service


With no retail experience but coming from a family of entrepreneurs, the desire to own something she could call her own was in Ciara’s blood. In 2006, Ciara opened a high-end maternity clothing store. While running the store, she was approached by a company with a large quantity of designer overstock product that needed to be liquidated. Ciara saw this as a pop-up shop opportunity, rented a space next to her current business, and began selling the apparel at a discount price. The appeal of the pop-up store grabbed the attention of shoppers in the community and quickly MODE was born. Later, Ciara decided the best approach would be to close her maternity clothing store and move forward with MODE.

Ciara saw something special in the response of her community and “wanted to not just own one store but build a brand.” She sought advice from a local business owner who referred her to SCORE and explained how SCORE helped start and grow their business. Ciara was able to find not one, but two mentors who met with her and shared expertise on building a business and pursuing franchise opportunities.

“My SCORE experience has been nothing but fantastic. The countless hours and energy that both Larry Tessler and Jim Philpot, (my mentors) have put into me and my endeavors is absolutely amazing,” Ciara explains. “Both Larry and Jim have a wealth of knowledge and experience and they are a great part of why MODE is where it is today.”

Conveniently located in the same strip mall as the Corporate MODE Store and the MODE University Training Center, The UPS Store provides Ciara with all the print products and services she needs, such as franchise manuals and special marketing materials. She also uses The UPS Store as a drop off for the hundreds of packages she ships. Ciara says she continues to use The UPS Store because of the convenience and expert customer service, and because the staff there understands the needs and style of MODE’s business.

Ciara was able to start her business because of mentors and plans to give back by mentoring others. Mentoring is about sharing mistakes and successes, helping to create a plan, and advising someone else on how to achieve their goals. Ciara’s advice to future entrepreneurs is to ask questions and find a mentor – or two – or three! She says aspiring entrepreneurs should be willing to take advice and prepared to be a successful business leader that’s willing to listen and re-route.

With a goal of opening 75 MODE stores by 2024, Ciara will continue to learn and grow in her professional career. She remains excited to continue her journey of creating a franchise culture built for success.

For more information on MODE, visit For more information on the SCORE Awards visit:

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