Alumni Spotlight: Heather McAtee
A UND alumna from a town with a population of just over 1,300 takes her business worldwide.
In a town like Rolla, North Dakota with a population of just over 1,300, there aren't a lot of places to go shopping.
“Growing up there, I didn't have many places to shop,” said Rolla native, Heather McAtee, “so I shopped online boutiques.”
McAtee's parents, also born and raised near Rolla, were both business owners.
“So I just sort of knew I wanted to start a business one day,” said McAtee.
Which is why McAtee decided to get her degree in entrepreneurship at the University of North Dakota College of Business & Public Administration.
While sitting in an entrepreneurship class her senior year, McAtee transformed an idea into a senior project, a project that would come to fruition just a few months after graduation: Key Bliss Boutique.
Key Bliss Boutique was started in June of 2014 by McAtee and her class project partner, Jessica Bollinger, as an e-commerce website. As a frequent online shopper, McAtee knew most online boutiques were based out of the Southern States, not the Midwest.
“So that was just kind of my goal,” said McAtee, now the sole Owner of Key Bliss Boutique, “to start this online boutique based out of the Midwest that could reach all 50 states and ship to all 50 states.”
In the same class she turned her idea into something more, McAtee’s UND CoBPA professor gave her what she deems her best piece of advice.
“Trust your gut and really go for it! Start in a way that you can afford to fail,” said McAtee. “The professors were the greatest mentors. They helped us get started, gave us a lot of resources and we did a lot of networking through them,” she added.
McAtee took her professor’s advice and started out with just an e-commerce website to avoid any sort of overhead.
“We started in the basement of my college house, so the expenses were minimal,” she said with a laugh.
In March of 2015, just nine months after achieving her goal of shipping to all 50 states, an opportunity came up with a brick and mortar location in Grand Forks and McAtee jumped on it.
"The location was perfect,” said McAtee, “and it was just ingrained in our brains from business school that the location has got to be perfect in order for your business to succeed.”
Though storefronts weren't the initial plan, McAtee now owns two locations: one in Grand Forks, and one in Minot, North Dakota.
“The stores are doing really great but online will always be our number one because the sky’s the limit. There are so many people you can reach all over the United States and in other countries, it’s always my number one focus to push the online and get ourselves out there, and not just to the bubble of North Dakota,” said McAtee.
Though busy, McAtee said she loves what she does.
“My favorite part of the job is the variety. I love running a business and being creative, but most importantly I love helping people,” said McAtee. “Nothing makes me happier than when people come back and say they had the best experience and they were treated so well, so they continually come back.”
A blissful shopping experience, time and time again.