Lukas Rix believes in leaving things better than how he found them and is always looking for ways to engage the world to do the same. Born and raised in small Nebraska towns, he attended college at Wayne State where he studied Business Marketing and Management. Always a hard worker, Lukas’s passion for entrepreneurship started at a young age as he created a business mowing lawns while working at his mother’s hair salon, the local grocery store, bar, and mini-mart. While still in high school, he founded the first Rustic Treasures in Lyons, Nebraska, with his aunt.
Mark Kanitz has been accustomed to change his entire life. As his father’s pastoral career took the family from small towns in Nebraska to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and eventually to a town of just over one hundred people in South Dakota, Mark learned the value of thriftiness that included garage sale’ing. But it was not until the classically trained organist traveled to Europe that he began to embrace the diversity of different cultures. As their lives intertwined through love and eventually marriage, Lukas and Mark embraced their common interest in thriftiness by opening their first thrift boutique, Rustic Treasures, in Wayne, Nebraska, in May 2012. Since then, the business has been growing, not just in sales but also in square footage.
Mark says the best advice they received in establishing their business in a town of just five thousand residents was to treat their out-of-town shoppers with great care. “Because our customers have made the commitment to drive long distances to come to our stores, we work hard to make them feel welcome,” he adds. A typical day for the entrepreneurs includes diverse challenges such as negotiating an extended lease, spending thousands of dollars on new inventory, or deciding creative ways to display items. Because they face both five dollar and five thousand dollar decisions on a daily basis, Mark and Lukas have learned to choose their battles.
Mark and Lukas agree that their one constant challenge is their need for more space to display their unique goods. They accept consignment thrift items that range from small Hummel figurines to large furniture pieces. “We focus on using creativity to display items,” Mark says, “We never know what’s coming in our store next, so we need to spread things out.” The owners found a new way to handle that challenge by opening the 1912 Emporium, a retail décor store that also carries antiques, as well as Prairie in Bloom, an offshoot of 1912 Emporium, in Omaha.
The enthusiastic entrepreneurs’ support comes from each other and people in the community who have rallied behind them and their successes to date. Their favorite part of owning a business is the freedom that comes with each new day to move with the market at a pace big box stores cannot. Because Lukas and Mark must currently live and work in two different communities in order to remain successful, they strive to stay positive and focused on their goals as both business owners and partners in life.
Through all their entrepreneurial adventures, Mark and Lukas have learned that good help is hard to find. Because of that, they focus on treating their employees well. Together, and separately, each says they have gained much from pursuing their passion. “Even on those days when we don’t make a lot in sales, we are both happy because we are doing what we love. You don’t have as much burnout with your job if you have a ‘fire in the belly’ for it,” says Mark.
Mark and Lukas advise anyone wanting to pursue their passion to find a way to do it that’s financially sustainable and to always pay attention to what your customers want. “Start small and let it grow organically,” Mark adds, “We’ve seen too many people try to do it all out of the gate and then fail. Stick to what you’re good at.”
Lukas is a born entrepreneur who always wanted to own a business. Mark would never have had the guts to pursue his passion without him. Now that they’re both fully immersed in the thrift boutique store business, they can’t imagine their lives any other way.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.