Mindy Hoppe of Design Theory 19 opens up her office and her industry to aspiring young designers. The Business News photo by Jerry Rhoden

Youth, students are big focus of Hoppe’s volunteer efforts

Mindy Hoppe says that helping has always been second nature to her, so it’s by design that she gives back to the Greater Wausau community

“Volunteering is about helping out. Growing up, if someone asked me to help, my hand always went up,” said Hoppe, whose business and home are in Ringle, which is west of Wausau.

A 20-year resident of the area, Hoppe’s introduction to volunteering as a professional took form upon learning about opportunities through the United Way of Marathon County. In addition, during the past seven years or so, she has made a concerted effort to contribute to the interior-design community by creating continuing education and networking opportunities.

It’s a nice blend for Hoppe, owner and interior designer of Design Theory 19, a veteranand woman-owned business. She admits it takes some juggling as she balances home (husband Brandon, son Aiden, 14, and daughter, Madelyn, 11), the design firm and volunteer activities. “When the kids were littler, I was able to bring them with me to volunteer for events I learned about through the United Way – often as a family,” she said. “Volunteering for me has largely been about helping out as I can.”

Hoppe carves out pockets of time to work events, help with initiatives and other volunteer needs she learns about via e-newsletters and word of mouth. The former owner of her design firm started her on that path by introducing her to the United Way of Marathon County. “I quickly learned the United Way is a great place to start and I joined the Emerging Leaders,” she said. “It opened my eyes to opportunities and learning where my passion falls.”

Serving on the Emerging Leaders led her to support a number of causes ranging from collecting book donations for schools to prepping and serving food at a local church to working an event table offering arts and crafts to children of low-income households — all involving her children in some capacity.

“Family time is important to me, so I like being able to do things for the community as a family,” she said. “I hope the kids at events like those will remember our acts of kindness and realize there is support in the community for them.”

Students are at the heart of Hoppe’s volunteerism with the Fairy Godmothers Inc., a nonprofit with which she’s involved in Central Wisconsin. The nonprofit provides prom dresses and accessories to young women in Central Wisconsin. Local high school guidance counselors identify students who would benefit from Cinderella’s Closet. Each spring, Hoppe marks her calendar to be part of the effort to ensure young ladies have the prom dress, shoes and purse for this important high school experience.

“It works like ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ in that the girls register for time shots and are able to choose from big ball gowns and slim cut dresses, pick a few out, try them on and choose one,” she said. “Every time a girl picks a dress, we ring a cowbell and everyone stops and claps. It gives me a huge smile to be part of their journey of picking things out and taking them home that day.”

Hoppe also canvasses clearance sales after the holidays to pick up items to help the Fairy Godmothers restock their supply, too.

Students are at the heart of Hoppe’s efforts to mentor through her design business, be it through job shadowing, Junior Achievement and Girl Scout troop-event hosting or internships. She often shares what her firm does for interior design in construction because it’s a male-dominated industry.

“I do a lot with a local Girl Scouts troop that asked me to speak as an entrepreneur and woman-owned business and share my journey with them. I share how I was in the military for eight years and that helped me get grounded in who I am and what I believe in and make good decisions,” she said.

She hosts job shadowing with college and high school students alike, and welcomes Junior Achievement as well because she believes in “getting a hold of kids at a young age to share what we do,” she said.

Hoppe has completed five job shadows for students interested in exploring the interiordesign field prior to high school graduation and has welcomed several senior interior design students as well — including three additional interns in 2020 to ensure they could obtain the internships they needed to graduate in spring 2021.

n spring 2021. On a professional forefront, she initiated offering continuing education opportunities twice a year for local professionals seeking to maintain accreditation in their industry. “Education is very important to us as designers and to networking as well,” she said. “The majority of CEUs are offered in bigger areas such as Milwaukee. Being able to offer local opportunities for 50 to 60 people each year — and growing — is amazing.”

Last fall, Hoppe began serving as American Society of Interior Design’s (ASID) government affairs assistant ambassador in the Wausau community and recently was nominated for consideration as Wisconsin’s director of education for ASID, a responsibility requiring organizing opportunities for industry members to secure five CEUs this year.

For Hoppe’s it’s an ever-evolving mix of opportunities that come and go that she automatically puts on her calendar and balances her work around. “Fortunately, my husband is very supportive,” she said. “He knows my personality and has a lot of patience and support for what I’m doing.”

It’s support she tries to extend to her community of the past 20 years. Her thought process is that if she gives one hour more this month than last, that’s still better than last month. “It’s not a keeping score thing; it’s about going and being grateful for someone I met or a life that I touched,” she said. “Even if it’s just that one time or one person, you can make a difference.”

“People here are just good people, people willing to help you if you need help, assistance or a referral, and people who really value the family environment we have here,” she said. “I try to invest back into the community because it gives us so much.”