By Sam Phillips
In the dimly-lit M Gallery, female entrepreneurs talked about their successes and hardships during a live taping of the City of You podcast on Wednesday.
The podcast is hosted by YSU professor RJ Thompson, who described the City of You series as a rebranding and advertising campaign for Youngstown. On each episode, he interviews professionals and young “go-getters” who are involved in the community.
The first guests at the M gallery were Andrea and Hillary Garland, the sisters who created the fashion blog “Garment Theory” about a year ago.
Hillary, a social media coordinator for the Cafaro Company, knew she wanted to start a project involving fashion. Instead of trying to compete with high-fashion blogs, she featured clothing that can be bought locally for women living on a budget.
“I can read blogs from New York City and Los Angeles, but I can’t afford that $3500 Chanel jacket they are wearing,” she said. “I wanted to read something that is real, that I would be interested in.”
Working on a tight budget, they gathered a team of local photographers, makeup and hair artists who wanted to gain experience and help fellow business owners.
Hillary said the hardest part was figuring out what she wanted to do, but she consulted other bloggers for guidance.
“It makes it rewarding because you can learn from other people and learn from their mistakes, which do happen,” she said.
They are getting noticed by popular businesses — Grove City Outlets hired them to do a photoshoot featuring clothes from six different stores — but they still like to feature small businesses, like The Shop in Hubbard.
As a dietetic student at YSU, Andrea said there is a lot of pressure balancing being an entrepreneur and going to college.
Thompson reassured her she will be a better business owner because she is learning how to manage multiple things at once.
“As an entrepreneur you’re only going to get busier,” Thompson said. “You should find value in that you are carving out your own path. You are not relying on anyone except for yourself for the opportunities and successes you have, and that’s not necessarily something every person let alone active college student can do.”
Stephanie Gilchrist from the Youngstown Business Incubator was the next guest, and she discussed a YBI program she directs called “Women in Entrepreneurship.”
WE was established last year, and it consists of classes and workshops that help women achieve their business goals. Mentorship is a big element of the program, Gilchrist said.
She discussed a problem that many female entrepreneurs face — they have the passion, but they can’t afford to stop working at their full-time jobs.
“The toughest issue they faced was money,” she said. “They’re trying to balance opening up their business with balancing have a family as well.”
Supporting women through financial struggles and helping to fund their businesses is key, she said. She also discussed the misconceptions of new business owners.
“If you say, ‘I want to have a business, but I don’t want no one else telling me what to do. I don’t want to work 9-5 anymore.’ That’s not going to happen,” she said. “As entrepreneur there’s someone always telling you what to do and that’s the customer … It’s not 9-5 it’s 24/7.”
Gilchrist praised the success for the women who have graduated from the WE program, including Danica Hobbs, creator of the Youngstown Sophisticate magazine.
“These women have a passion for the city. And they see the potential the city has, and they don’t want to walk away from it. There is so much opportunity for growth here in Youngstown, Ohio,” she said.
Sarah Conkle, owner of Seraphim Inc., said she was glad she came to the event.
“It showed me that even with an education, mistakes will be made,” she said. “You will move forward and be stronger for it. It gave me a lot of courage and motivation to get my business running because I saw a lot of people here.”