Business Spotlight: Women-Owned Businesses on Main Street (Part 2)

October 27, 2020 | Business Spotlight: Women-Owned Businesses on Main Street (Part 2) | 

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 Part 2 in our series. Meet these entrepreneurs below:

Natasha Mathews is the owner of The Gaming Pad in Hudson, North Carolina. The Gaming Pad is a hobby store offering board games, card games, and collectibles. They also have a place for the community to gather to play games. Mathews reports that customers often tell her that they feel they can be themselves when they are at The Gaming Pad. Mathews has been in business for almost 3 years.

Tiffany Rockelle Parker is the owner of Designer Again Consignment in Fort Smith, Arkansas. When asked why she began her business in Fort Smith, Parker says, “Downtown is the hub of a community. I wanted to be a part of that.” Starting her business when she was only 20 years old, Parker has since been in business for 29 years.

Stefanie Westphal-Callahan is the owner of SWS (Styles With Stef) Fashion Company in Fremont, Nebraska. SWS Fashion Company sells unique women’s apparel up to sizes 3X as well as jewelry and skincare/wellness items. Westphal-Callahan was a fashion model as a teenager and has always had a passion for the fashion scene, so when she decided to start her own business, she reports that “opening a women’s apparel store made sense to me.” Westphal-Callahan has been in business for over four years.

Jennifer Sime is the owner of DoodleBugs in Lenoir, North Carolina. Doodlebugs is a boutique specializing in children's clothing and gifts. Sime says she chose to start a small business in Lenior in part to rebuild the downtown. When asked what advice she’d give to a new business owner, Sime advises, “Make sure you have a nitch that is not in your area.” She has been in business for 16 months.

Cecilia E Davoren is the co-owner of ARTESANA Soaps in Camden, Arkansas. Originally from Acapulco, Mexico, Davoren now lives in Arkansas where she has been making natural soaps from local ingredients. Three years ago, she and her daughter-in-law (“YES, in-laws that actually like each other and enjoy planning this adventure together.”) opened a formal business to sell these handmade soap and bath products.

Shannen Knight is the owner of A Sight for Sport Eyes in West Linn, Oregon. A Sight for Sport Eyes offers sports optical and sunglasses. When she was in college, Knight created a business plan for this business idea as a final report for her entrepreneurship class. After receiving her final report, her professor told her he would give her the money to make her business plan a reality. Knight opened A Sight for Sport Eyes when she was 21 and has been in business for 24 years.

Learn more about these business owners and their small business story in the selection of interviews below.
Whether your celebrating Halloween or Día de los Muertos, ARTESANA Soaps offers beautiful soap designs for all occasions. Photo credit: ARTESANA Soaps

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

Mathews: I am a survivor of two traumatic brain injuries which resulted in a stream of other disabilities. I had to relearn how to talk and do simple activities. I was told for 14 years that I couldn't work. All those people who said I couldn’t do something, I wanted to prove them wrong. It took years, but I finally opened my store. Three months after I opened, someone broke in and stole everything. They even took the lightbulbs out of the ceiling. I started over once again, and now I’ve been doing this almost three years.

Parker: I had worked from a young age, so I was more of a worker than student. I started Designer Again when I was just 20. It was a business I could get into with little start-up cost.

Westphal-Callahan: I left the “work force” in 2007 to become a stay-at-home mother. After several years, I felt the call to help “contribute financially” to my family with my spouse, while still being able to create my own hours and be fully engaged in my children’s lives. I was a fashion model in my teen years and have always had a passion for the fashion scene, so opening a women’s apparel store made sense to me. I strive to provide AMAZING customer service, and I love each and every one of my customers.

Sime: I grew up in this small town. My uncle owned a shoe store in our downtown area when I was young and my father was a pharmacist at the local hospital. I had 25+ years in big box retail and wanted to finally work for myself and give that small-town service to the members of the community.

Davoren: It started as my search for natural products, especially goat milk soap. Since there was nothing close by, I decided to embark on the research of making good quality artisan soap myself. After a couple of years of making soap for myself and my family, people started asking for my soap. Changes in my fulltime job's management made me think about changing jobs. It was then that I decided to give my soap-making hobby a try and make it a business. After a lot of research, I went ahead and opened my business three years ago.

Knight: I did a business plan for this business as my final report in my college entrepreneurship class. My professor told me to do it and said he would give me the money. So here I am. I was going to be a lawyer when I entered college and came out an entrepreneur.

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

Mathews: It's more than a place for people to shop or hang out and play games. It's a community of friends. Customers feel like they have people who like them at The Gaming Pad, and they will open up if they need to talk about something. Knowing somebody cares makes all the difference in the world.

Parker: I’ve won awards, but my biggest success are the people who continue to support me, my team, and my small business

Westphal-Callahan: While I love the ability to create my own schedule, the real joy comes in seeing my customers smile. When a woman enters my store, I make her feel beautiful in every way I can. Seeing the light in a woman’s face when she tries on a piece that makes her feel beautiful is a victory for me in more ways than one!

Sime: Getting to know my customers on a personal level and what their shopping needs are and what they like is what I like most about owning my own business. I also enjoy working for myself and being able to use all the skills I have learned for many years.

Davoren: It is very rewarding listening to customers talk about what a difference our natural products make in their lives. It is also very rewarding to partner with other small business and support each other. One success I am very proud of is the Best Hybrid Soap award we got at the 2019 Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild. It was exhilarating and very humbling to get that award from my peers.

Knight: I like that it is something new and challenging every day. I know all the work I'm putting in is for my own benefit, not for someone else's benefit. I started the business at 21, and it is still here 24 years later. I'm proud of that.
Stefanie Westphal-Callahan outside her small business in Fremont, Nebraska. Photo credit: Stefanie Westphal-Callahan

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

Parker: Downtown is the hub of a community. I wanted to be a part of that. There were a lot of similar stores at the time as well.

Westphal-Callahan: I chose this location because it offers very minimal overhead costs, and is located in my city’s downtown business district, which my great-great grandfather played a huge part in founding well over a hundred years ago.

Sime: I have long family ties in the downtown area, my family has owned businesses in the past and grew up here. Our local downtown area has also been recovering after many years of decline since the furniture manufacturers declined in the 2000s.

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

Mathews: The company that makes Magic the Gathering suspended all in-store play, which affected my business. We can't have official Magic the Gathering tournaments or events.

Davoren: Reopening our storefront with the new "normal" has also been challenging as customers want to touch and smell products (we totally understand). Coming up with the right solution in our line of business has not been easy.

Knight: My business dropped 85% during the lockdowns as there was just no demand for my product. It all has to do with sports and outdoor recreation and when that stopped, so did my business. It is still down 40% because organized sports are still not allowed in many states. I've pivoted in the product I'm selling, but I have trouble trying to create a new marketing message and getting the word out without a lot of funds.
From bibs to bows, DoodleBugs has quite the selection of kids clothing and accessories options. Photo credit: DoodleBugs

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

Mathews: Don't be afraid to take a chance. You might be glad you did.

Parker: Start at the city. Go to the library and get a good tax accountant.

Westphal-Callahan: Believe in yourself and know that you can do ANYTHING when you maintain a positive attitude and provide your customers with an exceptional experience!

Sime: Make sure you have a nitch that is not in your area. Find others that have the same type of business that can help you with startup questions and where to help find vendors. Starting out that is hard to find.

Davoren: Do your homework, market research is of prime importance, assess if opening a business is right for you as it implies commitments and sacrifices. Research the law and learn the basics of accounting and tax requirements as you will have to work closely with your accountant and lawyer.

Knight: Make sure you put together a business plan and have access to capital to last you 2 years. Don't do it part time. You need to be able to devote full time to it as well.

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 1 and Part 3 of our series.