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Community First: PLU alum supports local sellers and town with 3 Sisters Market

Community First: PLU alum supports local sellers and town with 3 Sisters Market

Posted by:
August 25, 2021
By Veronica Craker, video by Silong Chhun
Marketing and Communications

For Whidbey Island business owner Roshel Donwen ’17, her close-knit island community is everything. She finds fulfillment in running her store, 3 Sisters Market, providing local food and goods to the people she considers family.

“The best part about running and owning 3 Sisters Market is the connection to our community that we have,” she says. “Everything we sell is local, so I know specifically, any customer that comes in and buys a product from us is directly supporting our community here locally.”

The business major operates the market in Coupeville, Washington with the help of her family. The business sells their farm grass-fed beef, all-natural pork, grass-fed lamb, all-natural chicken and eggs. Customers can also purchase meat, dairy,  produce and goods from other farmers and sellers located in the Pacific Northwest. 

“We are so community-based, and something important to us is being able to provide local, wholesome, good products to our community,” Donwen says. “That includes all the meat we raise, but any other products that we carry in here. The pie, the ice cream, the veggies —it is all local.” 

It is evident how much pride and a sense of responsibility Donwen has in her work. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many grocery stores were struggling to keep shelves filled as customers raced to stock up while quarantining. This put a strain on many businesses and farmers. Donwen says she and her team worked hard to ensure her customers still had access to local food and that her suppliers —local farmers — had a place to sell their goods.

“For some of our local vendors, this was their only outlet to sell products,” she said.  

Becoming a Lute

Donwen transferred from Bellevue College to PLU for the opportunity to play volleyball and earn her business degree. She says she always knew she would return to Whidbey Island and work for the family business in some capacity. She just wasn’t certain what that would entail.  

“My first degree is in accounting, so I always had the intention of coming back and doing the finances,” she said. “When I went to PLU, I got my degree in business and that’s what I really use today.”

Aside from managing the store’s finances and staff, Donwen takes a hands-on approach to the look and feel of the store. 

“I took a marketing class, and a lot of our marketing was focused on colors, your target audience, and how you display your items. Well, I do that every day. I love it,” she said. “I stand there in the store and I always tell my girls ‘don’t put a dark-colored product with a dark-colored basket. No one’s going to see it.’ It’s so minor but these little things make a huge difference for the customer to visualize the item.”

Staying Connected

Donwen has utilized connections made at PLU to help run her business. When it came to overhauling her website, she realized she was in over her head and needed expert help. So she reached out to a former classmate who became a digital designer to build her website. Donwen says her friend worked on the website “at a cost that was really reasonable to a small business.”

Between her classroom training and built connections, Donwen also credits her time as a student-athlete for helping her lead her staff. 

“Being involved with my teammates, that really reflects today in my leadership with my employees at my store,” she said. “I treat them more like we’re a team. I’m not your boss and I don’t like being called your boss. I’m your captain, I’m your leader. I will take you, help you, guide you.”

Today, you can find Donwen inside 3 Sisters Market smiling and laughing as she helps customers shop for their local goods. She’s always ready to offer a recipe suggestion or show off some of the new art pieces decorating the store walls. Donwen says she enjoyed her time away from her hometown but was happy to return with the knowledge and skills she gained at PLU. 

“When I look back at my time at PLU, it was something special,” she says. “It was a time that you can connect with your teammates, your community, your professors, something I bring back into my real life to be able to connect, to be a part of a community. And I really believe that’s what PLU is all about.”