For Jodi Larson, owner of Willa June in Victoria, owning a business was always something she wanted to do. “ My business partner and I started our marketing company in 2011, but a store was the original dream.” As a Waconia resident, and at the time, working from home, “everything was a distance (Eden Prairie or further)”, Jodi says. “We thought as the area developed that many others must feel the same. We loved the idea of being in a walkable downtown so when we found space in Victoria, it was perfect for what we wanted to create.”
The vision for Willa June started with Jodi feeling that she was too old for stores and too young for stores. “I was also sick of having multiple wardrobes (work, weekend, going out, etc…). I wanted to create a boutique with classic pieces that you could mix and match and truly fit the reality of our lifestyles.”
It may have seemed far from reality at one time but when Larson lost her dad in March of 2015 after a five-year illness, the question of “why would I wait?” became more and more prevalent in her mind. Jodi’s parents worked the same job their whole lives and saved everything for retirement. “He got sick right before he retired. My takeaway was I never wanted to wonder ‘what if?’ I wanted to follow every dream I could, even if I failed.”
Her dream for creating an authentic and vibrant community store with relatable lines became more real on May 1st, 2015 when the two owners signed the letter of intent for their storefront. Her purpose was driven deep with a desire to give women versatile and quality clothing they felt incredible in and looked forward to wearing.
“I try to stay as classic as possible, and I choose brands where I stand by the quality. I
want the pieces to be in your closet for years. Some of my favorite brands are Gentle Fawn,
Perfect White Tee and Pistola.”
Over the years, Jodi has grown into the role as sole owner and an established business in the community. “I never anticipated the connection that I would make with customers. I love how open women are and how much we can learn from each other. As a business owner you can always second guess yourself so the customers who tell us that they love the shop, and the assortment offered, is appreciated more than I can express. It is the boost I need to keep going on the hard days.”
One thing that connected Jodi on a deeper level was her giving spirit and willingness to share obstacles in her life and business. She shares her story of her son Leo being in the NICU and the great faith she had to have in the doctors and nurses to ensure he came through. In November 2018, Jodi shared this story with Eden Prairie Lifestyle. “We have had so many women come in with their NICU graduates and share their story through me sharing ours with others.”
Jodi felt so supported during that difficult time and feels so passionately about their work, that she gives back two times a year (Mother’s Day and Small Business Saturday) to Children’s Hospital NICU in honor of her healthy son. “This past year we also contributed to an amazing organization, Corner House MN. I choose organizations where I have a personal connection to and feel I can do the most good.”
Through many obstacles and even Covid, the store has become a thriving community establishment for women to shop locally. “I think we as women need to be comfortable in our own skin and fashion plays a huge role in that. We are told every day through various media outlets that we need to look a certain way; that aging is something to fear. Personally, the shop has truly helped me to define my style and I now stick with it. I love being able to help other women find clothing that makes them feel confident and good.” Lucky us to reap the benefits.
“I think we as women need to be comfortable in our own skin and fashion plays a huge role in that."