Women biz

Blue Willow Boutique owner Stephanie Campbell speaks at her store's Fall into Fashion Show 2019 Oct. 10 at the Mozingo Conference Center.

The small town of Maryville, taking pride in businesses uniquely local, has provided a platform for entrepreneurs to be successful in the competitive business world. Of the 33 small businesses in Maryville, 20 of them are owned or at least partly-owned by women, a feat several business owners attribute to regular customers that have become like family.

Though every business is likely to go through rough patches, small businesses in Maryville seem to remain strong, sticking through tough economic downfalls, slow times with few customers and lulls in sales. Amid these challenges, the fleet of women who are the face of small business in Maryville are finding new ways to adapt and not only stay on two feet, but dominate the local industry.

One of these motivated women is Keitha Clapp, who has run a local floral shop in Maryville for 16 years with the help of friends, family and employees. Now in the midst of the holiday season, Clapp said there is a lot for Maryville Florists to look forward to.

“I love the small town feel because it is all so family oriented,” Clapp said. “I get to know the customers, not just make floral arrangements. That’s the best part.”

Taking in the sweet smell of her Gardenias, Clapp set out seasonal pink-red poinsettias as soft beams of light peeked through the shop windows. With a husband and two busy daughters, owning a business is not always easy, but Clapp said it is worth the work and sacrifice.

Clapp bought the shop in 2003 and has worked to make it her own since then. She grew up in Ravenwood, Missouri, a small town 13 miles east of Maryville and graduated from Northwest, earning a degree in horticulture.

Her shop is one of 15 local businesses owned by women participating in an upcoming Holiday Shop Hop Dec. 7. Put on by the Downtown Maryville organization, the shop hop showcases local businesses and provides a map for customers to use, which typically brings a good amount of foot traffic to their stores.

Local shoppers enjoy the event because it is convenient for holiday gifts. Sara Coleman, a local shopper and supporter of small business, said she enjoyed all the event has to offer.

“I love going to Maryville Florists and Home by Sonja,” Coleman said. “It’s nice to get so much shopping done at local businesses on one day.”

Stephanie Campbell, president of Downtown Maryville organizes this event each year to support local business and showcase what each has to offer.

“I came to Maryville as an outsider starting my business,” Campbell said. “We are really about showing what’s possible here.”

Campbell is the owner of Blue Willow Boutique, a small business in Maryville that has had enough success to open a second location in St. Joseph, Missouri. She said it is important to support small businesses and shop local because small business provides services large companies can’t.

“Small businesses are about showing other people what is possible,” Campbell said. “My message is when your’re told you can’t do something, then it’s ‘game on,’ because if you work hard at serving your community, then they’ll really see what you can do.”

Of the small businesses participating, one in particular has had a positive experience with the annual shopping event in the past.

La Chic, a women’s cut and color hair salon and seasonal home decor shop sees a lot of foot traffic from locals, as well as people from Kansas City, Missouri, several towns in Iowa and Nebraska during the shop hop.

Owner of La Chic Jennifer Gillespie has owned and operated her small business in Maryville for 12 years. She specializes in cosmetology for women but holds seasonal shopping events throughout the year.

The inside of her shop changes with the seasons as she arranges the decor to fit her three big events throughout the year: spring and summer handbag and jewelry collections, a fall decor collection in September and a Christmas decor collection beginning in October.

Gillespie moved La Chic to Maryville from its previous location in Overland Park, Kansas, where her business got its startup. She was a resident of Overland Park for 17 years, but is originally from Albany, Missouri, and moved to Maryville when she and her husband decided they wanted to raise their children in a small town.

Gillespie said Maryville has been good for business because of the surprising amount of diversity in the small town.

“Part of it is the University,” Gillespie said. “There’s a lot more people in this town than you’d realize.”

However, as a seasonal store owner, Gillespie said she faces unique challenges that other businesses in Maryville don’t.

“Since I specialize in cut and color for women, I am busy doing that, but then when I have my events, I take the hair stuff out,” Gillespie said. “So, I can’t really do that year-round.”

When customers walk into La Chic, the first thing they see is the seasonal collection, which Gillespie arranges herself to fit seasonal trends.

Stores like La Chic face their own unique challenges, such as how one bad season of sales can affect the next season and what the business can offer. Similarly, all small businesses are suffering some recurring issues.

According to Guidant Financial, the largest challenges for small businesses are lack of capital and cash flow, marketing and advertising, time management, administrative work, retention and recruitment of employees and the ability to provide benefits.

Clapp employs two full-time and two part-time employees. Some small businesses in Maryville have fewer, like Home by Sonja, who works on her own.

But even when facing the occasional challenge, businesses in Maryville keep hopes high and go against the grain in conducting business.

Campbell said what keeps her motivated during tough times is knowing she has a community to serve.

“We have an incredible group of customers that depend on us,” Campbell said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about sales, it’s about the people that walk through that door.”

Though hard times are hitting small businesses everywhere, the culture cry of Maryville is still largely “shop local, buy local,” and women owners are showing what that means through success and leadership.

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