Business Spotlight: Women-Owned Businesses on Main Street (Part 1)

October 24, 2020 | Business Spotlight: Women-Owned Businesses on Main Street (Part 1) | 

October is Women’s Small Business Month! In celebration of the month, we are spotlighting women-owned businesses in our Main Street districts. Today, we are featuring selections from a series of interviews with small business owners in the retail sector across the U.S. Meet these entrepreneurial retailers below:

Stephanie Hale is the owner of Urban Oak on 66 in Yukon, Oklahoma. Urban Oak on 66 is part clothing boutique and part salon. Born and raised in Yukon, Hale says she never doubted this would be the community where she grew up and grew her business. She has been in the retail industry for three years.

Amber Norris
is the owner of Specialty Design Company in Roxboro, North Carolina. Specialty Design Company specializes in retail, clothing, gifts, embroidery, and personalization. For those just starting their own business, Norris advises, “Start small and build your customer base through social media.” She has been in business for eight years.

Sara Putman
is the owner of Bookish: An Indie Shop For Folks Who Read in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They are an independent bookstore in downtown Fort Smith working to create a community of readers who welcome conversations, diversity, and believe in the power of books to change lives. They have been in operation for two years.

Candida Baxter
is the owner of Blue-4u Boutique in Fremont, Nebraska. Blue-4u Boutique is a women’s boutique and clothing store. Her opening delayed due to COVID, she has now been open for three months. She now reports, “I have found my women’s boutique business is a much-needed addition to the city!”

Chelsea Brosterhous
is the owner of The Hanger Boutique, LLC in Klamath Falls, Oregon. They provide affordable fashion for women, juniors, and babies as well as offer home décor and gifts for all tastes and price points. In 2017, they were awarded the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award by The Klamath County Chamber of Commerce. They have been in business for just about four years.

Tammie Beckner
is the owner of Prairie Sky Antiques & Vintage LLC in Falls City, Nebraska. Prairie Sky is committed to providing fine antiques, vintage goods, and quality collectibles at reasonable prices. “Antique dealers were recycling long before it became the norm,” states Beckner’s business’s webpage. She has been in business for 18 months.

Learn more about these business owners and their small business story in the interviews below.

Inside Prairie Sky Antiques in Falls City, Nebraska. Photo credit: Tammie Beckner

What drew you to owning your own small business? Why did you become a small business owner?

Hale: I became a small business owner because I have two girls and felt like it was a great way to show them how empowering woman-owned business can be!

Norris: I became a small business owner so I could spend more time with my family and make my own hours.

Putman: I was an educator for 15 years before deciding to open a business. Honestly, it was the work of others like me working to make Fort Smith better that inspired me to join in. That, and the belief that if a city is going to thrive, it has to have a cultural hub—a bookstore—to help usher in local authors and students who read.

Baxter: I enjoy fashion, to say the least. I started my boutique online and found my current bricks-and-mortar location three months ago. Empowering women of all ages is what my company is about.

Brosterhous: Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I have always wanted to own my own business. In 2017, there were not any downtown boutiques that offered affordable fashion and decor for all. I wanted to create something unique and give back to this community that I was born and raised in. I also love exploring downtown areas when I travel. I wanted to create that experience here in Klamath Falls for travelers and locals alike.

Beckner: I was selling in an antique mall when the owner sold the business. The new owner took the business in a different direction. I decided to open my own shop to fill the void.

What do you like most about owning and running your own business? Any particular successes you’d like to share?

Hale: I have been so taken aback by my community and the support we have received during the pandemic. We have had a few setbacks, but for the most part, with the community support, we are back on track! It has been so overwhelming to see the support.

Norris: Customer interaction and the friendships made through business.

Putman: I like the creativity of it all. It's fun to find ways to engage our community and to try to set ourselves apart from other things going on around us. It is often challenging, but when we have a bookstore (or a zoom room) full of people talking about a book or an author, it's THE BEST!

Baxter: I love the feeling someone gets leaving here after I’ve helped them find a look! Giving women confidence through fashion/style is what drives me. Success to me is my repeat-customers that love coming in to talk and visit, check out the new items, and possibly find something they can't live without.

Brosterhous: I love meeting and making friends with all of the customers that come through our doors. We will hit one million dollars in sales this year: a collaborative milestone that is solely because of our customers! Pretty awesome for a little boutique that’s been in business for less than four years.

Beckner: I enjoy the interaction with customers, hunting for items to sell in my shop, and setting up the displays.

Urban Oak on 66 is Halloween-ready this season. Photo credit: Urban Oak on 66

Why did you choose to locate your business where you did?

Norris: We <3 Main Street. I have dreamed of having a store on Main Street since I was a little girl.

Baxter: I choose Fremont mainly because it is where I live now. Finding downtown Fremont was a gem. It has so much potential and character—I knew I wanted to be downtown! The location on Main Street I am in now used to be a quaint little bakery with big window panels to display. I have transformed my little space into a cozy place for women to shop and enjoy a cup of coffee (free in-house).

Brosterhous: I would never have opened a brick-and-mortar boutique without it being in a historic part of downtown with great foot traffic. Being located next to a bagel shop that shares a door is a HUGE plus too. Coffee and shopping make a good pair.

How has COVID-19 affected your business, and what resources would be most helpful to you?

Hale: We had to close for six weeks and lost around $25,000 in revenue. We applied and got the PPP Loan, so I was able to pay my employees. It was helpful to be able to keep my girls on.

Putman: COVID has changed the way people shop in our store. Instead of browsing for books and coming in to ask what we are reading, they are interacting with our social media and buying books that they see others discuss online. Having a platform that would allow readers to purchase the items we showcase on social media would be huge for us.

Brosterhous: COVID-19 did shut down our brick-and-mortar business for a short time, but our online store remained open. We were shown so much local support on our website that I put my employees back to work during the shutdown! One day, we almost broke our record number of in-store shoppers with over 70 online orders in one day! So even though sales were down because of COVID, we are so humbled and grateful. 

How has your Main Street program support you over the years?

Hale: Our Main Street program has been very supportive and providing lots of resources. Our Main Street director has done everything she can to get business on Main. Even in the pandemic, she was giving us resources and materials to help us through the tough time!

Norris: Our Main Street program has helped me out the most with advertising.

Putman: The Main Street program has offered webinars and financial advice during the pandemic. We had visitors who came when we first opened to offer advice on our set-up and curb appeal, which was very helpful.

Exciting events hosted virtually by Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read include a kid's book club (left) and author conversations via Zoom (right). Photo credit: Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read

What advice would you give to others about how to start a business?

Hale: Starting a business is all about relationships and hard work! Every day, I give it all I got. When you own your own business, it is all the time. Every day you need to hustle!

Putman: Do you research beforehand. See if there is a need for what you have to offer. If so, make it the best avenue to get that product as possible. It's also important to place value on what you do. My team and I are all readers and believe wholeheartedly in what we do.

Baxter: Starting a business is a roller coaster of emotions and events! Be prepared for it to not go as planned. But my best advice is, "You are either all in or all out. Don't be halfway committed!"

Brosterhous: Write down your ideas, brainstorm them with others, and do listen. But follow your dreams, even if others tell you it won’t work or not to do it. Be original, innovative, and strong. Owning and running a business isn’t for the faint of heart.

Beckner: Do your research before jumping in. The internet is a good source of information, but also ask for advice from other business owners in your area.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Hale: The women I am surrounded by inspire me every day to do all I can to make this business work. They are my inspiration.

Putman: Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on my business for a few minutes. I'm really proud of it.

Baxter: I would like to thank the community and the women of the community for first welcoming me so warmly to downtown Fremont. But then secondly for the business, advice, and support I have received as a business and as a woman new to Fremont. Thank you!

Brosterhous: I want to thank everyone who has shopped The Hanger Boutique and followed our journey as we have grown from a small little online shop to a booming boutique in beautiful downtown Klamath Falls. Because of you, our future is forever at 634 Main Street.

Beckner: I have enjoyed the past 18 months and hopefully will be able to continue growing my business in the coming years.

Thank you to these six small business owners for sharing their small business stories with us! Want to hear more small business stories from women around the Network? Meet more women small business owners in Part 2 and Part 3 of our series.