Erin Hente had more in mind than building a successful business. “It’s not so much about just having businesses in the area, it’s about contributing to our community,” says Hente, owner of Maple Grove’s NTY Clothing Exchange and Children’s Orchard.
Hente has been interested in business since she was a child, working in her parents’ convenience store for most of her childhood. “I learned a lot of stuff that I needed to know about running the day-to-day operations of the business,” Hente says. She then received a degree in business and worked as a financial advisor for 10 years.
Sadly, Hente’s life changed when she received a phone call on July 8, 2015, telling her that her husband, Andy, had died when a pontoon float he had been working on exploded. Understandably, she needed to step away from work. “I just wanted to take some time off of work for awhile,” Hente says. “I just needed to take a break.”
During that time off, Hente and her children talked about their future. Andy had always wanted to open up his own custom car shop and planned to begin the process that next year. “He didn’t get to do that,” Hente says. Even after his death, the family still wanted to open a business, “… and we weren’t sure what we were going to do,” she says.
Photo by Rachel Nadeau
With her background in business and finance, Hente began looking at her options. After speaking with friends, she looked into franchise opportunities and found what she was looking for. “I just knew that I would be surrounded by good people who would support my business,” Hente says. From there, she bought Children’s Orchard, but when the opportunity arose to also take on NTY Clothing Exchange, Hente took it.
NTY Clothing Exchange and Children’s Orchard are clothing exchanges, which buy and resell clothing for infants through young adults at a lower price. The grand opening was July 27.
“Another big thing for me was finding local partners that would be able to donate any unsellable items. So when people bring in their clothes, they sell them to us, and we resell them. If we can’t buy something, they have the option to donate.” All of the donations are given to From Me To You — organizations that help children and families.
Hente’s 18-year-old daughter works in the store with her and helps out at the clothing exchange, while her two youngest children try their best to help out, too. “My youngest are 8 and 11,” Hente says. “They help out where they can, for sure. My 11 year old would rather be running the business than working in the business.”
What Hente wants people to understand is that this is more than just a business for her—it’s a way for her to give back the community. “I feel like we’re all here for a bigger purpose,” Hente says.
Through the devastating loss of her husband, Hente created something beautiful. “Something inside me shifted after he died, because it made me see things through a whole new lens,” she says. “And I just didn’t want to have a business to have a business; I wanted to make an impact. I don’t think I would be making the impact as much as I have been if it hadn’t been for him.”