What happens when an ICU nurse decides to start a new chapter in her life? After serving patients for thirty years, Sue Hosier began serving her community through volunteer work and quickly realized she wanted to do more. That's how she founded Angel Concept
, a nonprofit boutique in the heart of the action in downtown Littleton.
Angel Concept opened ten years ago with a group of volunteers, and is now a thriving small business that provides women in need of support with a soft place to land, job training, and a community to wrap them in hope. The nonprofit will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary with in-store giveaways and deals through Saturday, October 15. We reached out to Hosier to learn more about this special place that is doing such empowering work.
Westword: Could you please describe the business?
To the average shopper, Angel Concept looks like a regular, lovely boutique, but our real mission is to help women get back to work. The women are referred from other agencies and paid while they’re working for us, and they work with our volunteers for their training. We also donate 5 percent of a sale to a charity, and the customer picks which organization will receive the funds. All of the organizations help women in the Denver area, and the board reassesses the list every year. Some of the current organizations include Women’s Bean Project
, Florence Crittenton
, The Delores Project
— and customers can also elect [to have] the donation go back to the work at Angel Concept.
What types of products will people find in the shop?
We have gifts for everyone! The first floor is all brand-new items, like women's clothing, lots of socks, household gifts. We have a beautiful baby section, really wonderful children’s books, stuffed animals. And then on the lower level, everything is donated by our patrons, and it's more like a thrift shop.
When and how did you get into this work?
We moved here from Chicago after my kids were grown. I had worked as a nurse for thirty years, and my husband said, "You don’t have to work," but I just hated not going to work. I started volunteering for things like the 9 Health Fair
, and then I wanted more. Shopping is fun, and I thought that we could give money to charity, give them job training, and help other women to get back to work. I live in Conifer, and I found a group of women to volunteer with me. None of us knew what we were doing, but we did it, thanks to a lot of determination. And we have only gotten better. Unlike my old job, the people who come into the shop don’t need IV’s here, they just need to shop. We are not affiliated with politics or religion, and are just trying to do good things.
How long do the women who are placed there stay with you?
Founder Sue Hosier (far right) with volunteer staff and board.
Originally it was for three months, now usually about four. If they stay with us, they always
get a job, and they want to stay. We thought we were going to teach people how to work, but mostly what has happened is we find that they’ve been through so much, they have no confidence. We help give that confidence back to them, and if they think they can do it, they can. It’s incredible to watch a woman grow into feeling she can do it. They are in the most supportive environment, and they have to go find a job. We help them with the résumé process, and they know they can work again by the time they leave, and they usually have a job before they leave us.
We’ve had people from eighteen all the way up to 62 years old work with us. We've had people drive as far as Bailey to come to work here, and I have found that the farther they have to go [and] the more challenges they face, the more determined they are to work. We work with three to four women a quarter, and we put our whole heart into the people who are here.
Can you please describe the values of the business?
We believe in helping every woman who wants another chance. We are kind, supportive and as fair as we can be. I wanted a location that would be easy for people to get to, and Littleton is on the train and bus route, and it's safe. The entire staff is volunteers, and the only people who get paid are the manager and the trainees. And just like a regular retail shop, all of the new product is purchased.
Are you looking for volunteers?
We have incredible volunteers and can always use more! If somebody wants to come volunteer for helping with inventory, especially at Christmas time, we definitely need help.
Do you serve a particular group of people?
Most of the women are dealing with drinking and drug issues; they might have detoxed, been to jail, been homeless, but they’re trying really, really hard. They are referred by different programs, and we don’t have social workers, so we work in tandem with another agency to do our best.
What are some of the challenges of having a small business that most folks don’t know about?
I had never worked retail before this. People don’t understand how hard people work. Nobody is gonna die if I don’t it, but it is hard work, a lot of physical and energetic labor. Everybody doing a good job is working really hard. Because we are a nonprofit, we can’t do e-commerce, as we are restricted as to how much we can mark things up. People are always telling us we could go higher, but we're not allowed to.
How do you want customers to feel in your business?
Fall mitten and hat display.
I would like them to understand it’s gonna make a difference. It not only helps the charity, but also to keep the program going. It may actually save somebody’s life.
What is a small business achievement you’re really proud of?
I’m proud of the women who have come to us and tried. Even the ones who haven’t reached what they wanted to, they tried. It’s hard. And that we survived the pandemic! I'm 66 and have multiple sclerosis — I'm tired! But the very first time somebody walked in and said, "This is my favorite store," my heart melted. It’s taken a long time to get it.
Why should people support small businesses?
Little shops and nonprofit organizations are an important part of this country. If you just have big-box stores, it’s a whole different feel, and when you support small business, you’re supporting the little guys who are working their butt off. I joke that we could soon start to charge admission to the shop as if it's a museum and say that this is what a store used to look like before Amazon!
What is your favorite product/service you provide?
Our children’s books are wonderful. We sell a lot of books. We have really good children’s books. I have two grandsons and I'm tired of snaps, so we carry [baby clothes] with magnets, and I will ask for the ones with the magnets!
What are some small businesses you support?
Children's section at Angel Concept.
We’re very lucky that the businesses around here are very nice, and I love all our local businesses. iN-TEA
is a tea shop a block away.
How do most customers find you?
Mostly foot traffic, and we have lots of repeat customers — folks who, every time they come to town, they come here. Our customers are very loyal, and they also bring nice stuff to donate. When we opened, [I was told], 'You can’t mix the new and the second-hand things.' But some people can’t afford new stuff, and people love thrifting. There aren't too many old town areas to wander anymore, so we're lucky here.
Tell us about your ten-year anniversary celebration.
It is a week-long celebration going from October 8th through the 15th in the shop, and we'll have raffles, specials, gift certificates and prizes. We're celebrating that we’ve survived a pandemic and are still trying. We're getting old, but we’re still trying. One of our boardmembers, Randi, has been with me since before we opened; she helped me apply for nonprofit status, has been with us the whole ride, and is still here almost every Sunday.
2510 Main Street, Litttleton