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Ciara Stockeland, MODE Franchise: A Fake Success Story?

Ciara Stockeland is promoting herself as a successful entrepreneur and her MODE retail fashion concept as a franchise success story.  But where’s the success behind this “story”?  We invite those promoting the MODE franchise, those heaping on the awards, and those who bought into the MODE franchise whether the hype is justified… or if this is another fake franchise success story.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Com)  Google “Ciara Stockeland” and you’ll see the story of an entrepreneurial superwoman.


Ciara Stockeland testifying before Congress on behalf of small business owners.

Ciara Stockeland accepting a national SCORE small business award at a gala in Washington D.C.

Ciara Stockeland touted by business publications from Fargo Inc. to Entrepreneur as “The Queen of Overstock” who is “reinventing retail” with her discount fashion franchise, MODE.

Ciara Stockeland being recognized as a Dream Big Award finalist.

Ciara Stockeland being interviewed by the International Franchise Association on women in franchising, or sharing her insights on successful franchising on her own blog.

Ciara Stockeland between the colorful rows of designer clothing, looking as Midwestern/suburban wholesome and contemporary as any model in Good Housekeeping or minivan commercials.

And there’s family photo of Jim and Ciara Stockeland and their angelic children… perhaps the only family photo more perfect than the one that come with the frame.

What did this woman do to deserve all of this fame?  you might ask.

And how can I get in on this beautiful success story?

We Searched for the Success in the MODE Success Story.  No Luck So Far…

Ciara StockelandPerusing the MODE franchise disclosure documents (FDD) and website, we had a hard time finding any justification for calling the apparently troubled MODE start-up being a franchise success story.

In 2006, Ciara Stockeland apparently opened a high end maternity clothing store in Fargo, ND called Mama Mia.

According to the MODE creation myth, she was offered a truckload of overstock clothing a trucking company was trying to unload, so she took a temporary space next door and sold it as off-price designer clothing.

The discount concept did better than Mama Mia, so she converted her maternity boutique to an off-price fashion concept and brand called MODE.

Ciara opened a second company-owned MODE in Maple Grove, MN… which closed not long thereafter.

Ciara Stockeland sold franchises in Eagan, Roseville, and Woodbury, Minnesota.

They all closed.

She sold a franchise in Grand Forks, ND.

Ciara’s franchise company reacquired it and the franchisee (Denise Sanders left the system).

She sold franchises in Sioux City, IA, Overland Park & Wichita, KS.

They all closed or rebranded.

Ciara Stockeland sold a franchise to Tracy MacKellar for Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Tracy MacKellar claims Stockeland reneged on her promises to customize the inventory for her southern climate.

Mackellar claims MODE was debiting her account thousands of dollars each month without explanation or authorization.

Mackellar claims she discovered Stockeland was buying from a co-op (not from designers as represented), marking up the inventory 100%, then still charging 7% for royalties and marketing.

Mackellar rebranded and the franchisor sued.

Tracey MacKellar has countersued Mama Mia, Inc. dba MODE for fraud, breach of contract, unlawful sales practices, violations of the North Dakota Franchise Investment Law and the South Carolina Business Opportunity Sales Act.

8 MODE Stores are Open, 9 Mode Stores Were Terminated, Seized or Ceased Operation, and 1 (so far) Resulted in a Lawsuit & Countersuit  

At the risk of sounding like a mean, brutish blogger picking on a perky, award-winning and inspirational female entrepreneur… I have some questions for Ciara Stockeland, MODE corporate employees, MODE mentors, advisors & award presenters as well as current, former and prospective MODE franchisees:

1)  Should a new franchise company with more stores closed than open be regarded as a success… or a failure?

2)  If a franchisor suffers a 50% closure rate, multiple terminations, reacquisitions and at least one lawsuit within its first ten franchises, would the prudent thing to do be to

  1. stop franchising, fix the problems & prove the concept by growing company stores with its own capital, or
  2. continue to encourage others to invest in an unproven franchise concept, maintain primary focus on growing to 75 stores, maintain the appearance of success through phony, paid-for awards (like Franchise Business Review’s FBR50) and forcing lawsuits and gag orders on failed franchisees?

3)  Ciara seems to attribute store failures to the fact that her franchisees are not her.  In a recent interview, she states:   “I think because when I sold that first store, and even the second, and third, I just figured everyone was me…. I soon came to realize that not everybody is me…”

Could the store failures have another explanation? 

According to the franchisor’s (Mama Mia, Inc.’s) 2017 FDD, 82.5% of the franchisor’s total revenue is derived “from products and services that we acquired from third-party vendors and resold to franchisees, or that we invoiced franchisees for based on third-party vendors we engaged on their behalf.”

So could the problem be that Ciara Stockeland’s business model appears to be to control and mark-up every item, from inventory to business cards, the franchise is required to purchase, then charge a 5% royalty and 1% ad fund fee on on the franchisee’s gross sales?

Could the problem be a little too much Ciara Stockeland, rather than not enough?


MODE Stores Currently Open – 8 MODE Terminated Locations or Franchises – 9
Iowa – 2 locations

Cedar Rapids, (Company-owned)

Sioux City (Tammy & Rick Bertrand)


North Dakota – 4 locations

Bismarck (Birst &  Carlson Holdings, Inc.)

Fargo (Company-owned)

ND Williston (Kim Wenko)


South Dakota – 2 locations

SD  Sioux Falls

SD Rapid City

Iowa – 1 location

IA  Sioux City, IA –  (Leeds Project, LLC)

Kansas – 2 locations

KS  Overland Park, KS  (Hilltop 6)

KS Wichita  (Team Durham Enterprises, Inc.)  LITIGATION

Minnesota – 4 locations

MN Eagan  (Franchisee Bobbi Bush – Rintoul)

MN  Maple Grove (Denise Sanders)

MN Roseville  (RPM Boutique LLC )

MN Woodbury  (RPM Boutique LLC )


North Dakota – 1 Location

ND  Grand Forks  (1st owners: Q & O Enterprises, 2nd: Kay Derry)

South Carolina – 1 Location

SC  Mt. Pleasant  ( Tracey MacKellar, MODE MP, LLC)  LITIGATION







TAGS: Ciara Stockeland, Jim Stockeland, MODE franchise, MODE franchise opportunity, MODE Clothing, MODE discount fashions, MODE franchise complaints, MODE lawsuit, Ciara Stockeland lawsuit, fake franchise news, fake franchise success story, unhappy franchisee




25 thoughts on “Ciara Stockeland, MODE Franchise: A Fake Success Story?

  • Tracy MacKellar

    Thank you for exposing the truth here! Unfortunately, I am one of the many that invested in and believed what I was told about MODE. Turned out to be all wrong!

  • Patty Miranda

    Wow- Nailed it! So nice to see an article that tells the truth instead of building her up as some kind of small business champion.

  • Anonymous

    In my opinion, there is something sinister about a person who chooses to sell a franchise “opportunity” to individuals with full knowledge that most of her franchise stores are struggling. Ciara Stockeland will tell you that she is all about empowering women. She will tell you that she owns a “successful” franchise business. She will tell you that she has a “successful” business model. She won’t tell you that once she convinces you to invest your life savings or put your home on the line, she’ll blame you when your store fails, then threaten you with lawsuits, sue you and bully you through her attorney. She won’t tell you that she pays herself and her corporate staff with the savings of store owners who supplement their stores and make nothing for all of their hard work. She won’t tell you who she really is, and by the time you find out, the emotional and financial price you’ve paid will be more than to had to give.

  • anonymous

    Her success stories also fail to mention she has had 100%+ corporate staff turnover in less than a year!

  • Tracy MacKellar

    Very well said, and completely true!

  • Hahaha – sounds like these two ladies and “anonymous” couldn’t make it in business. Must be some desperate housewives out there who wanted to own something and never work – or their husbands needed them to get a hobby so bought them something. Not to point out the obvious, but looks like you all bought something and weren’t smart enough to make it work. Sob stories! Nobody makes you buy a business, but when it “fails” seems it’s easier to blame someone else. This site is sick!

  • “Toby”:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    Despite your intentionally demeaning tone, you are probably right on several counts.

    MODE franchise owners were probably not highly experienced retail professionals. That would hold true for most similar franchises. People who acknowledge their inexperience are the ones who seek the training and guidance of a franchise company. Those who already have industry experience would balk at a $30,000 franchise fee. In turn, franchisors often encourage those with little to no experience, ostensibly because they have “no bad habits to unlearn.” Sometimes, though, it turns out that they prefer inexperienced franchisees because those with industry experience might see through their BS right off. Not saying that’s necessarily true in this case – just in general.

    You are also correct that blaming others for a business failure not uncommon. If we were talking about one or two failures in an otherwise robust system, your claim might make sense. But when more stores are failing than succeeding, a logical person like yourself should conclude that there is something wrong with the system.

    If there’s not something wrong with the system or the model itself, then it would be logical to conclude that there is a problem with the franchisor’s initial screening process, and/or quality control and compliance process.

    Or that they grew faster than they were able to manage.

    Or that the inexperienced franchisor foolishly (or greedily) opened franchises in remote, untested markets instead of growing concentrically closer to home, where she could support franchisees more efficiently and could build name recognition and co-op advertising between stores.

    Either way, when half or more of the stores fail, the buck stops with the franchisor. They either are peddling a flawed business model, selecting the wrong franchisees, not monitoring performance and addressing problems, or all of the above.

    I don’t mean to pick on Ciara, but to see her applying for the IFA Bonnie Levine award and doling out advice on how to franchise when she hasn’t really accomplished anything of note is disturbing and even a little embarrassing.

    For fun, let’s tweak your statement and direct it to Ciara Stockedale: “Not to point out the obvious, but looks like you [built] something and weren’t smart enough to make it work. Sob stories! Nobody makes you [franchise] a business, but when it ‘fails’ seems it’s easier to blame someone else.”

    As for your statement “This site is sick!”… thanks!


  • anonymous

    You are clearly a friend of Jim Stockeland and Ciara Stockeland. I’m sorry you are so misinformed. I know many of the former MODE owners, and I doubt your education would stack up to theirs. Business experience? There was plenty of it! Not a single MODE franchise store has been successful. Shocking information when you see the excessive self promotion of the Stockelands. Still want to stand behind your friends model? There are plenty of stores willing to sell to you. Post your contact info and put your money behind your misguided belief in the Stockelands!

  • anonymous

    Seems quite obvious that Toby is a friend or family member of Jim and Ciara Stockeland. The demeaning tone is familiar! Do tell, what actual knowledge do you have on this topic? There isn’t a single uneducated housewife running a store. Your comments about the educated and hard working women supporting the Stockelands business is shameful. The Stockelands have a failing business on their hands. I hope you are being equally critical of them.

  • Patty Miranda

    Yes, Toby, I am a desperate housewife.

  • Anonymous victim of a failing business model

    Ciara is a liar, actor and salesperson. She will charm you with empty promises spoken in soft tones and puppy dog expressions. She says she wants intelligent, motivated and hard working women. Then she signs them, takes their money and tells them to shut up when they challenge her failing system, telling them “the franchise agreement promises [them] nothing”.

    She hides the truth about exorbitant fees and then justifies it saying that someone has to pay her bills because she barely breaks even each month, not mentioning that she is paying herself a salary that affords her a Cadillac, an upscale home and first-class plane tickets. This is all while the same women who are paying the fees are working 60+ hours a week and borrowing from retirement accounts, savings and college accounts so Ciara can live a comfortable lifestyle and parade around like a mascot.

    Her franchisees are hard working women who are brow beaten into following a “system” that is never proven and is not successful. The franchisees are told they are not following the system and then blamed when they don’t meet minimums. Well, none of the franchises have met minimums because this DOESNT WORK!

    Ciara sues franchisees that are already deeply in debt, and then continues to take money from them. She makes money from sales minimum guarantees, settlements from failed stores, and undisclosed fees instead of making money from the success of existing stores. Her business model is backwards. She profits from failure instead of success.

    I hope that anyone who is considering the MODE designer fashions closeout prices franchise finds this and then runs in the other direction. Ciara Stockeland is a con woman. Do NOT buy-in to her lies.

  • Anonymous

    The Stockeland’s are toxic, greedy, prideful and the karma is finally circling back around. MODE and Mama Mia are finally lying to rest in the bed they made. The most unfortunate part is that they are leaving a trail of tears paved by failure and forged by those that believed in them the most.
    It was all a lie. It is disappointing.

    They have ruined lives.
    I don’t know how they look in the mirror each morning much less kneel on Sundays.

  • Anonymous


    Ain’t nobody got time for you! Bye Felicia

  • Anonymous

    The Sioux City store was purchased back from the Bertrand’s and is now a corporate owned store.
    The Bertrand’s confronted Ciara early after opening their store telling her the system doesn’t work and they wanted out. In order to keep the failed store quiet, she bought it from them at a very low and insulting price. They were happy to be done with her and to stop the bleeding.

  • Marah Cuadrado Labey

    As a former owner of two stores, I am so happy to finally see some public information about the reality of Ciara’s business model.

    Based on the fluffy crap posted all over the internet, one would think owning a MODE franchise is a fulfilling experience and a chance to be a part of a growing network of amazing women business owners. That being part of the franchise allows you to own a boutique that has a unique concept which makes it successful. That the franchise fee is paying for the “store support center” as a resource for franchisees who don’t necessarily have retail experience. I wish these facts were true.

    The women (and men) that have and still own MODE stores are truly amazing but seem to have one thing in common. We were all misled into believing MODE was a viable business model and that the stores that were already operating were profitable. I was specifically told that the merchandise we were purchasing from Ciara was available because of the long-standing relationships she had built with designers. I was never told there would be a markup on the inventory so high that making the rent payment for the store would be impossible while keeping the store stocked.

    In the 2+ years that our stores were operating, we never consistently met our sales minimums. The best day we had was our grand opening sales which consisted of mostly friends and family. On multiple occasions, I called Ciara to discuss our situation and ask for help and was assured that if we “stick to the system” we would become profitable.

    We were forced to switch POS systems twice and be the test store for the Revel system which was a complete failure and waste of money.

    We were the first multi-store owners even though the franchise agreement wasn’t written to accommodate multiple stores. We even received a threatening letter from Ciara’s attorney after closing one store to stop using the MODE marks when we still owned another store. She immediately shut down our Facebook page rather than merging it with that of our other store because she was so concerned with preserving the brand (can you really say the word “mode” is a unique brand? Try doing an internet search).

    Anyway, her personal business model seems to be collect franchise fee, make minimum royalties from failing store, pay employees with overly marked up inventory, sue store owner when they are not profitable and close, settle outside of court for another chunk of change, force store owners to sign non-disclosure agreement, move onto the next victim.

    If anything, I hope this stops the next person from buying into her unethical way of doing business.

  • Anonymous

    Can anyone direct me to where the public can access lawsuits filed by and against MODE and/or Jim Stockeland and Ciara Stockeland?

  • Here is the MODE 2017 Franchise Disclosure Document:

    MODE 2017 Franchise Disclosure Document

    This is listed in Item 3 Litigation:

    Mama Mia, Inc., v. MODE MP LLC and Tracy MacKellar, No. 3:16-cv-00433
    (United States District Court for the District of North Dakota).

    On December 29, 2016, we initiated a lawsuit against former franchisee MODE MP LLC (“MODE MP”) and MODE MP’s principal member and guarantor of the franchise agreement, Tracy MacKellar (“MacKellar”), arising out of defendants’ material breaches of the franchise agreement and personal guaranty thereof and continued operation of an infringing competitive business in violation of federal trademark and unfair competition laws and the franchise agreement. We seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining defendants from their continuing infringement of the MODE trade names and trademarks and ordering defendants to comply with their posttermination obligations under the franchise agreement. We further seek damages arising out of defendants’ unlawful infringement and unfair competition, treble damages for their willful and intentional misconduct, damages arising out of their breaches of the franchise agreement and
    personal guaranty thereof, including lost future Continuing Royalties, and an award of costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees. On January 31, 2017, defendants filed
    counterclaims against us for (1) breach of contract, (2) actual fraud, (3) violations of the North Dakota Franchise Investment Law, (4) violations of the North Dakota Unlawful Sales or
    Advertising Practices Act, and (5) violations of the South Carolina Business Opportunities Act. Defendants’ counterclaims arise out of allegations, among others, that we misrepresented or concealed that we marked up prices on products franchisees are required to purchase from us under the franchise agreement; that we misrepresented that it purchased products directly from
    designers and manufacturers; that we failed to allow defendants to sell products suitable for their franchised location. Defendants seek unspecified damages including damages to be proved at
    trial, treble damages, costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorneys’ fees, rescission of the franchise agreement and personal guaranty thereof, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, and
    the right to amend their claims to seek exemplary damages. On February 21, 2017, we moved to dismiss the defendants’ counterclaims, which motion is pending.

    Other than the above disclosed action, no litigation is required to be disclosed in this Item.”

    We have obtained the complaint and counter complaint from the PACER legal database. The complaint has what you.d expect, but the answer and counterclaim has some interesting allegations, such as that MODE simply sources inventory from an online broker service and marks it up 100% to the franchisee:


    Mama Mia (MODE) v. MacKellar Initial Complaint


    MacKellar v. MODE Franchisor Answer and Counterclaim

    There may be non-franchise related litigation that may be listed in the court searches of individual counties.

  • Anonymous

    ****MODE Franchise Update****
    More stores closing…..

    Rapid City, SD – rebranding 4/24/17
    Grand Forks, ND – rebranding 5/1/17
    Sioux Falls, SD – Closing 5/1/17
    Bismarck, ND – has been for sale for 1 year, and want to close.

    Two stores have Law Suits.

    So, this “emerging Franchise” went from 12 Franchised Stores down to 2 Franchised Stores, all her “key” employees left within a 8 month time frame? What’s wrong with this picture??

  • Patricia Miranda

    ****Update – Bismarck store closing 4/29/17****

  • Anonymous

    So this leaves only 2 Franchised Stores? Wow from 12 down to 2. How is this an “emerging franchise” I guess that’s the question?

  • Anonymous

    So, let me get this straight. Since franchising in 2010, MODE and Ciara Stockeland have gone from 14 Franchised stores to 2 in a years time? Sounds like some criminal mind is scamming hard working women out of college funds, retirement nest eggs, and leaving nothing but a huge bank debt. Sounds like maybe some federal prison time for Fraud would be in order here for Mrs. Stockeland.

    Maple Grove, MN (First Franchised Store, Closed!!! was an epic fail, owners are still paying off debt from Ciara Stockeland)
    Eagan, MN – Closed 2015
    Overland Park, KS – Closed 2016
    Sioux City, IA – Closed 2016 (Ciara Stockeland bought this store back for a mere $40k)
    Roseville, MN – Closed 2016
    Mount Pleasant, SC – Closed 2016 (owner rebranded, and currently in law suit with Ciara Stockeland)
    Woodbury, MN – Closed 2017
    Wichita, KS – Closed 2017 (owner rebranded, and currently in law suit with Ciara Stockeland)
    Bismarck, ND – Closed 2017
    Rapid City, SD – Closed 2017 (owner is rebranding and currently in negotiations with Ciara Stockeland)
    Sioux Falls, SD – Closed 2017
    Grand Forks, ND – Clolsed 2017 (owner is rebranding and currently in negotiations with Ciara Stockeland)

    So how is this Franchise considered a “Top Franchise”?? You have 12 stores that have failed Ciara Stockeland’s “Proven Business Model”, because this is what she sells you! A bag of goods, a failed business model, and tons of debt!!!

  • One of the lucky ones

    Toby, AKA Ciara Stockland’s little post above shows a small glimpse of the self-promoting, pretentious, condescending & narcissistic person she is. After dealing with her a few years ago, I had the misfortune of getting an uplose, personal & much larger glimpse of those same unattractive flaws.

    A close friend, who is a successful business person, & I were seriously thinking of buying the GF MODE store from the current owners. So we met with Ciara, & She peddled a good story in the beginning; but the STORY quickly started to fall apart.

    We signed a preliminary intent to purchase agreement with the current owners, contingent on financing, on a Tuesday evening. By Thursday afternoon, we had completed more paperwork, found 2 potential locations & made an appointment with our banker for that Friday….but apparently that wasn’t moving fast enough for Ciara. Thursday afternoon she sent a rude & somewhat threatening email, accusing us of not getting things done in a timely manner, not being serious, & questioning our ability to run a business.

    I replied explaining that, as she should understand, there is only so fast things can move, & that we were not going to rush the process just to appease her. She had her assistant reply, & she was very cordial, understanding & apologetic.

    From then on, emails went back & forth. Ciara would say one thing one day, & another thing the next. I was constantly having to resend past emails to point out her inconsistencies & changing stories.

    My partner & I wanted to ensure we would have some say in running the business, including the location. We wanted to be downtown GF. Ciara was absolutely against that, even going so far as to say “downtown is dying & Kitsona isn’t doing very good”. It was all I could do not to start laughing when she said that!!! She clearly knew nothing about the GF culture, but in her mind she knew/knows everything, just ask her.

    In the end, she determined we weren’t business savvy enough to own her franchise, & proceded to take the then current owners to the financial cleaners (she screwed them over horribly), she sold the franchise to someone she could easily control, & had them pay a great deal to open a new store completely away from any other retail. The store faces away from the closest main highway, with no signage to attract passing cars that likely have no idea it’s even there. Since 2015 there has been at least 2 more owners (that I’m aware of- there could be even more) so she’s sold the GF franchise a minimum of 4 times, but I’m not even sure if it’s still open? Ciara clearly made a HAUL on selling her franchises, her training (which is required & costs more than $6K), her equipment, signage, & furniture among other things, and it adds up to tens of thousands of dollars each time!!

    So yes she WAS successful BEFORE filing bankruptcy in Jan 2018…..but only for selling franchises, repeatedly & in multiple locations. And at hiring good lawyers who happily sued the poor people who were tricked into buying her lies. I wonder if she’ll be able to pay that lawyer now…,to defend her & Jim???

  • Anonymous

    She is a failed entrepreneur! You are so lucky you didn’t get tangled in the web of disaster! She was a take the money and run kinda gal! Such a disgrace! Now she claims to be a Business Coach! Really, who are you kidding? She is running a shady business OPX, trying to sell last years stock to poor Boutique owners as a boxed set! I wonder if she hid those assets from the bankruptcy courts? I feel sorry for the poor souls who are going to get caught up in her tangled web of Business Coaching

  • One of the lucky ones

    I absolutely agree with you!! She’s a narcissistic predator, & I’m so grateful we were able to get out unscathed!

    She did NOT like when I would point out her changing stories in emails I had kept from her, & she did not like that we weren’t willing to follow her blindly or take her word at face value. I always did my research & would push back whenI knew what she was saying was incorrect &/or untrue.

    She isn’t business savvy, nor is she intimidating….. but she is a good salesman & an excellent scam artist. She will be keeping Karma very busy in the time to come!!

  • As the daughter of one of the franchisees i can tell you first hand the struggle of seeing your mother cry every night because she feels attacked by several of the MODE corp minions. After being in legal battles for a year we got an email from ciaras attorney on dec 22nd 2017 saying they want to drop the lawsuit and want it all done by the new year (because she’s filing for bankruptcy and is now being sued by the state i do believe). During the process we also got our MODE facebook page back that my mom worked her butt off to grow and paid her own money to push (had about 10k likes).

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