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Community Highlights: Meet Stephanie Milfeld of Z and Q A Children’s Boutique

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Milfeld.

Stephanie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’m Stephanie Milfeld, owner of Z and Q – A Children’s Boutique. I was a teacher for five years when I decided it was no longer for me and went to work for my family’s printing business. While working there, my mom and I began brainstorming about starting a kids clothing line and possibly opening up a location in our hometown of St. Cloud, in central Florida. The store is named after my daughters, Zoe and Quinn. One of our biggest challenges was knowing that we would not be able to support an entire store solely on our clothing designs, at least not right away, and would need to carry other products as well. How on earth would be decided between which brands to carry? There were so many different products and brands that were all unique and special in their own way. I sat down and thought about what was important to me and my core values and it came back to help others. When it dawned on me that we were going to be different. We were going to make a difference with this store, not only in our own lives but in the lives of others as well. We decided from that point on any brand that we carried in our store HAD to give back in some way, shape or form, and we would highlight how they do that in our store. Whether you’re looking for clothing, nursery decor or baby shower gifts, we would have quality items for everyone to enjoy, all while giving back.

As a female entrepreneur and mother of two young girls, I wanted to not only be setting a great example as a businesswoman but also as a humanitarian. It is important for my children to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as we are and we need to give back when we are able to help those in need. Whether that is donating money, products or even time, I want them to know they NEED to help others. I don’t care if you are just opening the door for someone, helping carry a bag or sharing your snack with someone who forgot theirs at school. Just be a good person. By shopping at Z and Q, customers are able to pick up unique products while also feeling good about your purposeful purchase. YOU are making a difference with every dollar spent. When deciding who we should partner with to give back to ourselves, it was a no-brainer that it would have to be someone associated with education. We have partnered with Bookmark Buddies through the Education Foundation of Osceola County.

Bookmark Buddies is a program exclusive to Osceola County and it is a mentor reading program that helps third-grade students improve their reading skills and score at Level 2 or higher on the Florida Standards Assessment Test (FSA). The program recruits volunteer mentors each year that help to improve the reading skills of low-performing students. Mentors meet at the school for thirty minutes a week, one-on-one, throughout the school year. The Bookmark Buddies mentor builds a strong friendship and takes great satisfaction in their student’s success as they begin to gain confidence and improve their reading and writing skills. By partnering with the amazing program, we are able to help provide the tools and books needed to make this program so successful while also directly impacting the students in our community. Over the years, we hope to grow and expand to offer the most amazing collections with wonderful stories of humanitarianism.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
We have had trial and error on what products to carry, what our community will spend money on and what they won’t. We had to figure out where there was missing pieces for products needed in our community and it was honestly a learning process. Everything seems to be flowing we were expanding and thriving and then COVID hit and everything came to a screeching halt. I honestly feel like March-August 2020 was a blur. The COVID pandemic was tough on me mentally, physically, emotionally. You name it. In the beginning, I was like, ok, we are home with two kids. While trying to work and run a business, I got this. I am going to be on a schedule, we are going craft, we were going to learn, we were going to exercise, we were going to do ALL the things. I would do deliveries and live sales, literally whatever I could to keep the store alive. Week 2 or 3, I was like, okay, this is definitely NOT my thing. We were not thriving. We were simply surviving. There had never been a time in my life where I had questioned my own decision-making more than that moment. I was and still am constantly questioning if the decisions I was making regarding myself, my family, my kids is the right one. Am I keeping them safe? Am I doing what is best for them emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, educationally? I am a person who thrives on routine and this pandemic started to break me seriously. Finally, in September, things started to turn around and people were coming out more. The weather was nice and our community supported small businesses over the holidays more than ever and we could not be more thankful for that.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Look around to see what businesses are thriving near you. Make friends. You are not in competition with your community. You are there as an addition to lifting your community as a whole. When the tide rises, all the boats in the dock do as well. Recommend other businesses and speak highly of your community to make people want to come back over and over again. No matter what others tell you, keep trucking along, hold your head high and take risks.

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