Celebrating Women Business Owners in the Lebanon Valley

March is National Women’s History Month! We’re celebrating amazing female business owners in the Lebanon Valley that are making lasting impacts in the county. These business owners may come from different industries and backgrounds, but they all have a story to share. We had the opportunity to ask these women some questions about their business and learn about their success.

Jane, Owner of Carriage House Style (formerly Cottage at Quentin)

What/Who inspired you to start a business?

My family inspired and supported me to finally make the leap! Being a proprietor of a business has always been a personal goal. Over the course of my career I’ve managed several businesses and supported others in their pursuits and I felt the time was right for me to take the reins.

How did you come up with the idea of your business?

Carriage House Style was an established business when I bought it in 2018. Although this wasn’t an original idea of mine, I felt it was a good fit for my strengths and passions. Plus, there was a huge growth potential. We offer unique, well made, locally handcrafted decor and gifts. With this as our foundation, we are expanding to in-home stying and event planning. Utilizing our outdoor patio area to feature pop-ups by artists/makers, classes and private shopping events. This year we will be offering e-commerce for select items.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Don’t major in the minors…doing it all isn’t sustainable.

Focus on your vision, your message and surround yourself with good people and let them shine.

You have a voice…embrace it’s uniqueness…use it…trust it.

What made you want to keep your business in Lebanon County?

I grew up here…moved to Philly to attend college and lived in an around the city for 25 years. Moving back to my hometown 11 years ago was one of the best life decisions we made as a family. Lebanon County has so much potential and I believe it’s slowly being rediscovered as the gem it was. I’m proud to be a part of this supportive community.

What do you want people to know about you and your business?

When living in Philly I enjoyed ALL the area offered…especially the beautiful boutiques up and down the Main Line. My favorites made me feel welcome, special and even transported. I want you to have the same experience as you walk through our door. Many have said it takes several “laps” to see everything in our displays and we LOVE that. Our talented group of 40 artists and makers are passionate about designing unique and quality creations. We want you to be confident you will find the PERFECT gift, decor for your home, piece of furniture, candle scent or jewelry bauble anytime you shop with us.

Melody, Owner of Lebanon Picture Frame

What/Who inspired you to start a business?

The catalyst for discovering this niche industry was the passing of my grandmother in 1996. Close family members wanted a visual display, in memory of her, presented at the funeral. At the time, I had access to a mat cutter along with an instructional VHS cassette. Challenge accepted.

Time marched on and my interest in visual presentation grew. After working for five years at a local frame shop, I learned that an art gallery and frame shop had opened on Cumberland Street. In December of 1999 Robert Heilman, a local oil painter, opened Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art Gallery (LPF). I began working for Heilman in January of 2000.

I purchased LPF in April of 2008. After playing musical buildings for a few years, the business reopened at 847 Cumberland Street on 07/07/2017. Since then, the business has grown and has become a venue for local artists and patrons for the arts. This year LPF received the “Best of Lebanon” award in the art gallery category.

What made you want to keep your business in Lebanon County?

I chose to keep LPF in the city of Lebanon due to the loyalty and friendship from our customers, the commitment from the artists we support, the underestimated potential of the city, relationships developed with other business owners and the easy commute from home. In essence, I have roots in this community.

LPF provides the cultural experience every community deserves. LPF’s primary business revolves around archival custom framing. We take pride in the fact that we offer professional, high-quality custom framing for two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of art or personal treasures.

In addition to custom framing, LPF provides a desirable art gallery for local artists to exhibit their works. The gallery offers both functional and decorative original artwork. We sell art that includes pottery, glass, jewelry, textiles, works on paper and canvas. Most months LPF participates in First Friday Art Walks. This provides an opportunity for the community to “meet & greet” the featured artist(s) of the month and to purchase original art.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

It has been a long and sometimes extremely difficult time to own and operate a small business. However, I can honestly say that it has been worth it. I love what I do and cherish the support I receive from customers, artists, friends and family. Advice I’d give to future entrepreneurs would be to think about the venture as a long-term investment; it’s not going to happen overnight. Most importantly, harness the power of customer service; it is the life-blood of LPF. You may be your own boss, but you work for your customers.

Tish, Owner of The Tweed Weasel

What/Who inspired you to start a business?

In 1996, after my third child was born, I wanted to be home for him plus advance my work career. I’ve always enjoyed being creative. I like the heritage and history found in the Lebanon Valley, where I was born and raised. Like others living here, our family is of German and Swiss decent. Great culture with artful frakturs, furniture, and buildings. The primitive art style of early America appealed to me — frontier home styles, rural living, the works. I learned to work with fabric and thread from my paternal grandmother. I was attracted to the art of hooking wool rugs and making textiles, dolls, and home decor. Friends loved it.

How did you come up with the idea of your business?

Before starting our business, and after traveling through New England on vacation one summer, we stopped at Martha’s Vineyard for a day. The small boutiques and eateries there all had very unique cottagey names. We came home from the trip and thought of several names for our new business. Of all the ideas, “The Tweed Weasel” was the most unique and fit nicely with my use of fabrics and wools. We created a logo and used it to get started. Then once we could afford it, we hired a woodcut-style illustrator to create the personality we wanted for the permanent weasel logo. The illustrator we found is known for his artful packaging work with brands like Kraken Rum, Coors Beer, California wineries, and more. To generate more business, we set up displays at local craft shows, then eventually did several national traditional art shows in Valley Forge. We then decided to set up a dedicated storefront in a former small bakery shop next to our Schaefferstown home. When the barn location on Rt. 419/897 became available in the early 2000s, we purchased the property, restored and renovated everything and expanded our gallery. The ‘tulip barn’ is where we continue to operate today – selling our original folk art and primitive antiques nationally, and even internationally, to collectors.

What made you want to start a business in Lebanon County?

The convenience to our Richland home was the biggest factor in the beginning. Then when we moved to the larger barn gallery on the main roadway in Schaefferstown, we quickly realized clients from outside of the Lebanon Valley really loved the charm of our 2,500 square foot space, the quaintness of Schaefferstown, and the rural beauty of the whole Lebanon Valley region. Visitors now see The Tweed Weasel as a destination, not just an interesting stop on the way to somewhere else. But we do enjoy getting plenty of those by-chance folks, too. Another advantage of being here in Lebanon County, is that buying media, like billboards, is way more affordable than in the more populated, more expensive, areas that surround us. Overall, when we step back and look at everything we’ve experienced over the years, we realize that Lebanon County has been the perfect place for our folk art business.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

You need to trust that the future will really work out if you stay focused and have the patience to build your passion into a viable business. Don’t overextend yourself financially. Grow smartly, and as you can afford it re-invest in your business regularly. Having a good local bank, tax accountant, and business advisor can help. Above all, always pay attention to the customer’s personal experience when connecting with you and your business, whether online, on the phone, or in person. You want them to share their positive experiences with friends who may become your clients, too, in the future.

What do you want people to know about you and your business?

We do always want people to know that we make most of the artful items we sell right here. We don’t buy and resell mass-produced imports like many primitive-style gift shops you see everywhere. Clients can buy our ready-made work or commission us to create pieces for special projects they have in mind for themselves or for gift giving. We really enjoy seeing people smile when they purchase our original folky designs made of fabric, wood, fired clay, upcycled gas cans, or rusted steel. After people visit our place for the first time, they seem to enjoy returning each season to see what’s new.

Nanette, Owner of the Downtown Lounge

What/Who inspired you to start a business?

I was inspired to start the business by the loyal customers of the downtown lounge. When the news of the Riley’s closing up shop got out, the amount of customers who felt they were losing a second home inspired me to take the opportunity to continue the tradition band to make it even better. Since the foundation was already in place, my goal was to not only improve on the food and service but also the atmosphere.

What made you want to start a business in Lebanon County?

I was born and raised in Lebanon County and believe it is a great community. I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else. We have a diverse community in Lebanon and I want everybody to feel welcome in our place. We like to say that The Downtown Lounge is a “judgement free zone” so stop in have some great food and make some new friends.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Be prepared to work hard. Nothing in business comes easy. Having a great staff is essential, I am lucky in that aspect.

To explore more businesses in the Lebanon Valley, visit our shopping page.

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