Celebrate Female-Owned Businesses in the Brighton-Howell Area

March 8, 2019 | Story by: Amelia Ritter

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Livingston County Convention & Visitors Bureau spoke to some of the female business owners in our communities about their company’s story, inspiration, role models, and advice. A community is stronger when its members build each other up and support each other and that’s what these business owners do. We are proud to have them in the Brighton-Howell Area. Today we celebrate them and all women for their strength, creativity, and ingenuity. 

What obstacles did you face when you started? Who were your biggest supporters and allies?

One obstacle was the negativity of my mom’s husband at the time. I showed him my first Retro-a-go-go! product, a necklace with a retro magazine image showcased in a pendant. He said, “You think someone is actually going to buy that?” Talk about the wind getting knocked out of your sails! I kept going and 14 years later, YES—people actually love and buy our original Retro-a-go-go! products. We ship all around the world and get love letters from happy customers all the time.
-Kirsten Pagacz, Retro-a-go-go!

The obstacles I faced was just gaining enough confidence in myself, knowing that I was good enough to pursue my dreams of baking and having my dream bakery. My biggest supporters were/are my husband, Jason, and my mom, Kristal.
-Chelsea Josefiak, Scratch Sweet Shop

I was new to Brighton, and the area in general, so finding a space that fit my needs was my biggest hurdle. Obviously, my friends and family were huge supporters and knew that I was really following a dream to have a “Main St.” shop centered around cosmetics.
-Kathleen London, London Beauty

Retro-a-go-go!

What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?

The most rewarding part of owning my own business has been interacting with the public. I love having personal connections with some of the most thoughtful people and getting to know their life stories.
-Chelsea Josefiak, Scratch Sweet Shop

Giving generously when my heart feels like it…and not having to ask someone’s permission!
-Kelli McMullen, The Space

The most rewarding part of owning this business is helping people heal. Our mission statement is “Heal Often, Comfort Always”. I feel that it will always be rewarding to a business person if they, “walk the talk”. I strive to live a healthy life and feel the need to pass on invaluable information about natural healing and healthy eating. I also feel that Brighton is my “home” and I have developed great relationships with my customers and fellow Brighton shop owners, restaurateurs, etc. It is rewarding to feel connected to the community.
-Karen Hummer, Natural View Market

When I think about the most rewarding part of owning my own business, the word opportunity comes to mind. I can employ people and mentor them. I can directly influence how profitable the company is. I can sit on two boards for Downtown Brighton. I can collaborate with like-minded business owners. I can be there for my household when my husband or children need me.
-Lisa Nelson, Hush Intimate Apparel

The most rewarding part of owning my business is all of the friends I have made. I have thousands of loyal customers that have grown alongside me. We’ve been through illnesses, marriage and divorce, births and deaths, and graduations to name a few. My customers are truly my family.
-Sue Alderson, Fountain of Youth Skin Renewal Centre

Hush Intimate Apparel

When did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I’ve been in retail for years. I always knew that at some point the stars would align and I could pull all the pieces together. Within the beauty industry right now there is an amazing swell of high performance, women-led and created cosmetic brands. It is really a turning point. I love that 85% of our store hosts these brands and continues to seek them out. It is a wonderful side benefit that many of them are also American made!
-Kathleen London, London Beauty

I always played “store” when I was a little kid. I always ran the shop and my friends were the customers. Some kids play nurse or school, I preferred the shop; so I guess I have been drawn to the whole concept for a mighty long time.
-Kirsten Pagacz, Retro-a-go-go!

I had been teaching yoga for about 10 years for other people and I grew into wanting to do something that was a cumulation of all the things I wanted to see done differently and all the things that I loved!
-Kelli McMullen, The Space

Scratch Sweet Shop

What advice would you give to young women who want to follow a similar path?

Do what comes naturally. Surround yourself with kind and wonderful people. Do something unique and promote your point of difference from the crowd. Keep learning and growing and don’t fear being different. Don’t become bitter and stale. Thrive!
-Kirsten Pagacz, Retro-a-go-go!

Be Brave!  No one will want this as much as you – or should.  It will be a huge adventure with amazing guardians along the way who will be friends, family, strangers, landlords, fellow business owners, and many unsuspecting others. Pick all of their brains, feed on their stories, grow your own little piece of awesome.
-Kathleen London, London Beauty

The advice I would give young women is to be very clear of the reason they are doing this- your deep “why” in starting a company. Many things will test this- details, people, long days, limited financial payout in beginning… There has to be something that anchors you as the turbulence rises.
-Kelli McMullen, The Space

Take the Plunge. Listen to your gut feeling and intuition. They are powerful tools! And most importantly, don’t give up. Build your tribe, be it a small tribe or a large tribe, with your most trusted people, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
-Karen Hummer, Natural View Market

Have a plan, know how much money you need to get started. Plan to work a lot of hours and don’t expect to get a paycheck right away. Know who your competition is and if there is enough market for you to be profitable.
-Sue Alderson, Fountain of Youth Renewal Centre

Kelli McMullen, The Space

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I remember Walter Cronkite being asked this question following his long and prestigious career in journalism. He said the best advice he learned in Boy Scouts when he was a youngster. Their motto applies to today in my business. “Always be prepared.”
-Kirsten Pagacz, Retro-a-go-go!

The best advice is from my father. Through my childhood and into adulthood, my father would always say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” That sticks with me like glue. Another piece of advice was from a very successful businessman, who once said to me, “stay humble and never lose touch.” It’s very profound when you make those words part of your life.
-Karen Hummer, Natural View Market

Take things one day at a time. One project at a time. When you’re at the store “be” at the store. When you’re at home, “be” at home!
-Ashley Van Gilder, White Barn Designs Co.

When you open a business, it takes three years to figure out what you’re doing and it takes the next three years to pay for the mistakes you made when you didn’t know what you were doing!
-Sue Alderson, Fountain of Youth Skin Renewal Centre

Kathleen London, London Beauty

What do you think is most important about female leadership, especially in today’s society?

Female leadership is important in today’s society. There aren’t as many female-owned businesses, but they’re growing. I think that it’s important to have a balance in leadership for the younger generations, and having female leadership show the younger female generations that there’s hope in accomplishing their dreams of owning businesses, or becoming a leader of there own.
-Chelsea Josefiak, Scratch Sweet Shop

Women are in touch with their feelings and with other women. We have a remarkable ability to express our thoughts and emotions, which lends itself to good relationships and strong communication. Women understand women!
-Karen Hummer, Natural View Market

Leadership is a perspective that allows for space, tolerance, kindness, and ideas.  These are things that flourish when we allow for the feminine qualities in our nature to expand and grow.  As a woman, I don’t lead to exclude but to include – to expand the tribe, the community, the world.
-Kathleen London, London Beauty

For me, what is most important about female leadership is important in any leader: integrity, compassion, and authenticity.
-Lisa Nelson, Hush Intimate Apparel

When I was a little girl, I would have never DREAMED of being an entrepreneur, that was a “man’s job”. I hope society has shifted enough, where little girls can now dream of creating something powerful and influential, with their OWN bare hands.
-Ashley Van Gilder, White Barn Designs Co.

Karen Hummer, Natural View Market

Who are your role models?

There are many that are personal, like the list of fearless women in my family circle, but additionally women like Georgia O’Keefe, Frieda Kahlo, Martha Graham, George Elliot, Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Amelia Earhart, and Coco Chanel. These women lived and created beyond who they were at times when it was little appreciated.
-Kathleen London, London Beauty

Oprah, Glennon Doyle Melton, and Brené Brown
-Kelli McMullen, The Space

That’s a big question for me because you can learn so much from all the people in your life. But, if I had to pick a few: Jesus, Michelle Bouhana (who passed away last year), Barb Binkley, and Pam McConeghy – who aren’t that much older than I am, but have been in their business careers longer.
-Lisa Nelson, Hush Intimate Apparel 

Joanna Gaines, and my husband. The two most ambitious, hardworking, and motivated people I know.
-Ashley Van Gilder, White Barn Designs Co.

White Barn Designs Co.

What are your proudest moments?

Opening our business in downtown historic Howell while running a successful website. Soon we will be recognized at the Capital in Lansing for outstanding contributions and support of Genesis House in Fowlerville. We work with the mentally disabled and provide them a good working environment where everyone contributes. Afterall, it’s not about what you can’t do in life, it’s about what you can do. We are all about Can Do here! We’ve also worked with major licenses like Ford General Motors, Bettie Page, and General Mills. Continuing to do creative work and produce amazing products with amazing people makes me proud every day!
-Kirsten Pagacz, Retro-a-go-go!

My proudest moments, by far, are watching people get the benefits of this practice- a release, a light bulb moment, students of mine becoming teachers, women helping women, collaborating, and sweaty hugs! Hugs- yes lots of them!
-Kelli McMullen, The Space

The day one of my employees told me that I was the best boss she ever had, the day Hush made someone’s to-do list, all the times people compliment the store and my staff, and the day my daughter asked me for my “expert” advice on a school project.
-Lisa Nelson, Hush Intimate Apparel

Hearing customers tell me what my store has done for our town.
-Ashley Van Gilder, White Barn Designs Co.

Fountain of Youth Skin Renewal Centre

Some submissions have been edited for clarity.


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