Celebrate Kent's Women in Business!

Courtney Watt

Franklin School of Dance
152 N. Water St.
(330) 673-5419
franklinschoolofdance.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?
Franklin School of Dance has been in business for business for 83 yrs. I have owned the business for 8 yrs.

2. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
Our dance school is different from others in the area because we are not a competitive studio. We do not participate in any competitions. Our mission is for kids to dance for the pure fun and enjoyment of it. I want to offer a fun relaxed environment for these kids. I love that they can come in, make new friends, laugh, move around, and just be themselves. With so much pressure on kids these days – in school, sports, etc. – I love to be able to offer a stress-free space.

3. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
I started dancing at Franklin School of Dance at age 3, and started teaching there after graduating high school and receiving my teaching certification through Dance Masters of America. In 2011, the previous owner was ready to retire and pass the torch. I knew early on that I wanted to own my own dance studio someday and here was my opportunity. In the summer of 2011, I bought the business. I have had a lot of help along the way. Over that first summer, my aunt would meet me at the studio every day to help with giving the studio a makeover. She helped with cleaning, painting, small repairs, and decorating. My husband has helped with program design, slideshows, and music editing for our recitals. My sister has been my website and T-shirt designer. My parents have been taking tickets and handing out programs at every recital. It is definitely a family-run business.

4. If you have other comments/ideas you’d like to share, please do!
I feel very fortunate to have a dance studio in downtown Kent. We have a very tight-knit community and I think people enjoy supporting our small local businesses. There are so many creative, hard-working business owners here that are doing great things for the people of this area and I am very proud to contribute to that, while also continuing the legacy of a Kent business that’s been around for 83 years.

Michelle Sahr

Off the Wagon & Red Letter Days
152 E. Main St. & 144 E. Main St.
(330) 474-1330
offthewagonshop.com
redletterdayskent.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?
Since 2009

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
I love the ability to be creative in both the way I do business, in goal setting, and in our product offering.

3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
Our shops have a fun and unusual offering of products that makes people laugh, inspires creativity, hands on fun and face to face experiential interactions.

4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?
I feel right at home in Kent. I’ve always been welcomed and never felt anything but appreciation as a business woman in Kent.

5. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?
I think the community of Kent as a whole embraces women in leadership. Because of this I find that working in Kent as both a leader and business owner is enjoyable and welcoming.

6. What is a strength you have that has helped you as a woman in business?
Goal setting and detailed tracking of both goals and financials for my shops has helped me to increase our store sales year after year.

7. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
My Dad and I worked together for many years. He had a lifelong career as a business man and taught me a multitude of competencies that I use regularly.

8. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
I’ve learned that a great leader uses their leadership to teach and mentor others. Giving freedom to people to be creative and even make errors is the most effective way to empower someone and help them learn and love doing it.

Kelly Dietrick

Troppus Projects
141 S. Water St.
(330) 212-8442
troppusprojects.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?
Almost 2 years!

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
As the sole owner/operator of my business, I sort of work alone and for myself, but because of my business model, I also work directly with a variety of artists and for them as well. The latter is pretty easily my favorite part as it means I have ongoing opportunities to learn from other artists and collaborate with them in a variety of ways. I also really love getting to share what I do, and what artists do, with the public.

3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
I think I’m always trying to balance making my art space function as a gallery, but also a place to shop, and even just hang out. Troppus Projects is a small space, but I’m trying to effectively utilize it so as to meet a variety of needs and appeal to a range of patrons. I’m interested in identifying the gaps I see when it comes to contemporary art in our community, and trying to fill them.

4. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?
All of my fellow small business owners, men and women alike. There are a lot of small, independent, local businesses in our growing town and there’s a great sense of comradery that comes from that.

5. What is a strength you have that has helped you as a woman in business?
I think being resourceful and willing to shift my business model, without shifting my goals, values, or sense of integrity serves me pretty well. I hope anyway!

6. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
I have learned that there’s a lot to learn, and I think that’s a good thing to know when it comes to leadership, entrepreneurship, and mentoring.

7. If you have other comments/ideas you’d like to share, please do!
Tremendous thanks to Main Street Kent for cultivating a strong sense of community among our small businesses and the people of Kent.

Pam Petrus

Diversa Advertising
155 E. Erie St. (Acorn Alley)
(330) 673-6763
diversainc.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?
40 years

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
Learning the aspects of different markets/industries, the client’s perspective and the products they manufacture is an intriguing challenge and my favorite part of working at the agency.

3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
What sets our agency apart from the others is the quality of service and building long term relationships as well as meeting and exceeding our client’s advertising/marketing goals. In short – no typical agency jargon, but concrete ideas that WORK!

4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?
DIVERSA celebrated 40 years in business this past January. We’ve served many B2B and non-profit organizations over the decades. I will always appreciate their support in building the long lasting relationships in meeting their needs.

5. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?
The advantage of being a woman-owned business in Kent is that you are not alone. It’s refreshing to witness the success of the women-owned businesses in our city. We are especially lucky to have Lori, executive director, of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce who is present to meet the needs of our business through the many Chamber offerings.

6. What is a strength you have that has helped you as a woman in business?
Strength and perseverance has helped me to make it to the 40 year mile marker. The ability to wear many hats and learn to work comfortably and excel in a male dominated business, certainly had its challenges in years past. My motto . . . Don’t give up, don’t give in and never let go of your dream.

7. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
Again – hard work and the strength to not the the barriers that try to block/stop you from being successful. If you’re knocked down, get up, regroup and move forward stronger than ever. The advertising industry is the first to feel the pains when there is a downturn in the economy. From Silicon Valley to 911, industries in these markets were devastated. Clients cut or drop their advertising budget. Being proactive and engaging new business efforts in other markets proved to be successful. Business advice from clients and friends helped me through the lows is business. As a single mother, it was my daughter who gave me the strength to manage the bumps in the road. When you’re “it” you have to do whatever it takes to make it and provide for your family. Hence, the motivation, strength and determination to succeed.

8. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
Leadership is establishing the vision for your business and sharing that vision with your team. The vision may change over the years, but the knowledge and strategies for success as you move forward remain constant. The interns we hire should also be aware of your vision for the company. We need to engage them into the advertising world and give them responsibilities with “real” projects so they can learn and prepare themselves for the world outside the comfort zone of the universities.

Liz Woods

Sugar Rush
138 E. Main St.
 (330) 999-0682
shopsugarrush.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?
Owner of Sugar Rush since August 2017

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
The excitement of customers, of all ages, when they walk in the store. Customers will tell stories from their childhood about what a particular candy meant to them or where they were when they first had it. It’s amazing how a simple piece of candy can spark so much joy and wonderful memories. Customers come in the store happy and they leave happy, it’s a great place to work everyday!

3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
Sugar Rush offers harder to find chocolate, candy and soda that typically isn’t offered in a grocery store or gas station. We have a nice selection of Japanese and European as well as retro and are constantly looking for new products. Our large selection of bulk candy is a fun way to try a little bit of everything. We have expanded our craft soda selection and have everything thing from “wacky” soda like Butter flavored to Ramune from Japan and classics like Ginger Beer.

4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?
One of the main reasons we chose to open Sugar Rush in Kent is because of the small town feel. The Kent community, as well as other business owners, have been very supportive and welcoming, always willing to give advice or a helping hand. They want you to succeed!

Emma Kennell

Carnaby Street Style
100 E. Erie St.
(330) 677-2992
carnabystreetstyle.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?
We have been in business in Kent for 6 years!

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
Every day is different and it always keeps me on my toes.

3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
I hope that our customer service sets us apart. We strive to have great customer service and provide our clientele with a great experience every time that they come into the store. Many of our customers have become great friends.

4. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
Running a small business doesn’t come without it’s challenges and having a support system has been crucial. Our business is truly family owned and operated and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the love and support of my wonderful family. My father, Jonathan, has always been a great businessman and mentors me with wisdom and guidance. My mother, Lesley, always has a listening ear, a creative idea and is my right hand. My sister, Kate, is one of my biggest cheerleaders. And my very understanding husband and children are incredibly supportive of our small business lifestyle- Carnaby Street Style really is our second home.

5. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
Over the course of the past six years, I have definitely learned the importance of mentoring others. I hope that I can be a positive role model in the lives of our employees, young vendors who are just starting out, and students at KSU. I wouldn’t be where I am without the experience I gained prior to opening the business and the experience I’ve acquired since, and I hope I can share just a little of that experience with others.

Laura Streit

Belli & Streit Orthodontics
1551 S. Water St.
(330) 673-6411
bellistreitsmiles.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?

Dr. Stephen Belli has been in practice since 1992, and I joined him in 2012, becoming a partner in 2017.

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
Running a business gives you the freedom to explore new ideas with people who motivate and inspire you. I love having the ability to choose the team I work with every day. Seeing the finished product that we have created together is very rewarding.
3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
Dr. Belli and I have created a team who shares the same core values. We all have the same practice philosophy: treat the patients like they are your children. With that motto, decision making is very easy.
4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?
Kent feels like home to me. Having spent eight years at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I immediately felt the similarity between the downtown shops, the eclectic environment, and the college-town atmosphere. Being a woman in business has its own set of challenges, but a city like Kent makes it easier to branch out and make the necessary connections. Despite being a Wolverine in the Buckeye state, Kent has received me with open arms!
5. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?
Kent is a community that values creativity and originality, and sometimes to be a businesswoman you need to approach challenges in a unique way. Many of the community-based programs we have at Belli & Streit Orthodontics could not be done in other towns, so I feel that I have had an opportunity to make a positive impact on the community I practice in.
6. What is a strength you have that has helped you as a woman in business?

My greatest strength is having the ability to multi-task with great focus on the task at hand. Many women lead busy lives due to the combination of family and career obligations that we have, and focus is key to making sure everything comes together in the right way.
7. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
My parents showed me what it meant to work hard towards a goal, step by step and day after day. I have a supportive husband who understands the demands of my job, and he allows me to be who I am in every sense of the word. My work family is the best team I’ve ever been a part of and they continue to grow with me and my vision.
8. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
A career in orthodontics is a journey. You learn to be a leader from those who have led you along the way. You get to mentor people who remind you of who you were, so many years ago. Orthodontics is based in science, but much of the job is focused on making connections with the people around you. Like everything else in life it is people who make all the difference.

Eser Kalkavan

Troy Grille
118 E. Main St.
(330) 474-1661
troygrille.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?


We’ve owned Troy for 7 years
2. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?

All our food is best quality, daily, healthy and fresh and we have a lot of options in our menu that are unique. Even if you can find similar offerings, ours is always outstanding that’s what our customers always say about us! We make everything homemade such as our Falafel which we don’t any ready food from the stores.
3. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?

I didn’t see any advantages of being a woman in Kent. You can’t trick Kent community and it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman if you do your job good in Kent, they will always support you.
4. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?

We get where we are today by working so hard and keeping our high quality. We created a very wide range of menu for each of customers especially for vegans and vegetarians. We chose the hardest way for advertisement by hardly using social media or distributing any menus. We waited patiently for our customers to recommend each other about us. It was so hard and it took 3 years but now we achieved our goal and have a lot of precious customers. We can’t thank them enough for supporting us. We always believe that wherever you are, if you serve something good and different, customers will always find you.
5. If you have other comments/ideas you’d like to share, please do!

Kent is a great diverse community and it’s been really exciting to be a part of it. We hope to be in this community for many years with new projects.

Gwen Rosenberg
Popped!

Popped!
175 E. Erie St.
(330) 678-1893
shoppopped.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?


I’ve owned Popped! for 7 years.
2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?

My favorite part of owning a business is the creative control I have over products and steering the direction of our business. I especially enjoy creating new confections and the constant learning that’s involved in crafting new candies. When it comes to business growth and direction, being able to decide what’s right for our family business is a great feeling.
3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?

Our popcorn, confections and ice cream are all made in small batches, by hand, using the very best available ingredients, many of which are locally sourced. All of our recipes are ones I’ve developed over the years and are unique to Popped!
4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?

Very well! Kent is a fantastic community that supports all range of entrepreneurs.
5. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?

Kent is a great place for anyone to own a buisiness- the cost of living is low, there are great resources for families, an excellent school system and the university contributes to the vibrancy and provides a stream of new customers. We also have wonderful natural attractions like the Cuyahoga river and hike and bike trail.
6. What is a strength you have that has helped you as a woman in business?

A sense of humor and perseverance.
7. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
Coffee, hard-work and grit. My family.
8. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

Everyone has something to bring to to the table- every person has a unique perspective that is valuable. The best entrepreneurs recognize their faults and strengths and the best leaders identify the strengths in others, and give them the opportunity to use those strengths.
9 years
2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?

Independence and controlling my own destiny.
3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?

My personal connection to my customers. I get to know what they like, and they know they’ll be happy with whatever i whip up. I think that faith is pretty special.
4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?

With open arms. I crowdfunded my first food trailer with much support from my Kent customer base.
5. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?

The same as being a business man in Kent. The community believes in and supports those it loves!
6. What is a strength you have that has helped you as a woman in business?

Polish fortitude! Nothing is impossible with enough will power.

Jessica Ryan

Handcrafted
175 E. Erie St.
(330) 968-6317
handcraftedkent.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?


We have been open since May 2018.
2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?

Handcrafted has given me the unique opportunity to support multiple local Ohio only businesses. Some of them are hobbyists with amazing talent, while others are making a career out of their art, all of which I believe help enhance our community.
3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?

Handcrafted offers all handmade items from artists all around the state of Ohio. While the majority of our store is made up of smaller gift items, we also sell furniture from Ohio Hardwood Furniture, and we offer paint classes, and kids art discovery classes.
4. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?

There is a large community of Female business owners here in Kent all of which have been nothing but supportive to me and my business. We all want to see everyone succeed. The support that other small business owners share makes Kent a unique community, one that I am proud to be a part of.
5. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?

My business building blocks go all the way back to high school, I was a member of the DECA program at Roosevelt. From there I branched off into a Hospitality degree, that led me to running a few restaurants at Kent State. After leaving Kent State I pursued an opportunity to open my own business, and thus, with the support of my friends and family, Handcrafted was born.

Julie Brandle

President – Metis Construction
175 E. Erie St.
(330) 677-7333
metisconstruction.com

1. How long have you been in business in Kent?

2019 is the 10 year anniversary of our business.

2. What’s your favorite part of running your own business?

Working with our fantastic team to provide awesome service for our clients. Each member brings knowledge and experiences that others can gain from and the company is better because of the team as a whole.

3. What makes your business different from others with similar offerings?
Taking those extra steps to be a resource for both clients and those who may go another direction. If we can help someone make an educated choice on a service, building method, or design we have accomplished what we set out to do, whether they select Metis or another company, though we ALWAYS prefer they select Metis 😉

4. How has Kent received you as a woman in business?

The Kent community put out the welcome mat for us years ago when we moved into Acorn Alley II from the Brimfield Clock Tower building. We are grateful for those who have engaged Metis and entrusted us with their construction projects from interior renovations to ground up construction. We have also made wonderful ‘Friends of Metis’, who share our business story, provide referrals, and encourage our success. We are also proud to be involved in our communities where we live and work in philanthropy. We enjoy giving back where we are able to make a difference, taking special pride in engaging our team on projects or programs that incorporate our skills and equipment/tools/vehicles.

5. What would you consider an advantage of being a business woman in Kent?

Whether a man or woman, Kent has excellent economic development opportunities available that include the Kent city departments, chamber of commerce, and Portage Development Board. As a new member we look forward to getting more involved with MSK, another excellent asset for community growth.

6. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?

I’ve appreciated the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals throughout my career, especially in the construction industry. Those women who paved the road for women like me to do what we do and the men who supported, championed, and added to my professional education along the way. I’m constantly learning and open to new experiences to better myself, as well as our company, pursuing challenges on the basis of what’s best for Metis, not what’s best for me, many times stepping outside of my comfort zone. I learned very early on from my first job, or my first volunteer effort the team is always better together.

7. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

Entrepreneurship I most equate with sacrifice. You sacrifice income, time with your family, and sometimes your health considering the stress, lack of sleep and other healthy habits you set aside for the time spent working on the health of your company. I’d say you work hard, but I know so many who do that no matter who owns the company. I suppose I think of it as for the success of the company, individual success of the team members rests squarely on an owners shoulders to make smart decisions, secure new business, and take appropriate amounts of risk to grow the business- among so many other things. You can’t be afraid to make, be held accountable, or suffer the consequences of tough decisions. Its definitely not for the faint hearted. I think that speaks to leadership as well. Leadership is more than sitting behind a desk and directing and delegating. To me its about getting in and working alongside, getting your hands dirty so to speak. Its about seeing what you can do to assist to make someones job easier or strategizing together to find a better way. When I think about mentorship I’ve been blessed along my journey to mentor and be mentored. There are so many benefits to being on both sides of mentorship, both are privileges.