Running an independent business can be thrilling, but it can also be a lonely endeavor, especially for female owners who double as sole employee.
To help remedy that reality, Chestnut Hill resident Marnie Cullen recently created an informal forum for women entrepreneurs that she’s dubbed Visionary Trust. It’s a chance for members to kick around ideas, get advice and get inspired by what others are doing, including guest speakers.
“There’s a collaborative energy,” says Cullen, who is currently designing her own line of Plexiglas display pieces. “Everybody brings something to the table.”
The group, started in spring, is not tied directly to Chestnut Hill or any particular industry. There are film producers, online entrepreneurs, art gallery owners and interior designers, to name a few. All of them are serious self-starters, says Cullen.
That’s not to say that there are no neighborhood ties.
Eileen Reilly, Chestnut Hill’s retail recruiter, has been an integral part of the group. Reilly is charged with helping to fill vacant storefronts along Germantown Avenue, the neighborhood’s commercial corridor. She finds Visionary Trust to be useful tool in her work.
Her interest is in the group is two-fold. Visionary Trust meetings – there’s been two so far – present her with the opportunity to potentially scope out new tenants. But more importantly, they are a place for businesses she has brought to the Avenue to further insert themselves into the area’s business community.
“I have a hard time after a business is open,” says Reilly. “I help them find the spot, find the Avenue, now I can’t let go – not holding their hand and being that ear.”
For Amse Hammershaib, co-owner of Gravers Lane Gallery, Visionary Trust provides a safe, supportive environment to talk about the world of independent entrepreneurship.
“Women approach things a little different from men and to have that validation that I’m making the right choices, that I can feel strong in this is important to me,” says Hammershaib, whose three business partners are all men.
Hammershaib says having business owners that know one another on the Avenue, for example, makes for a stronger commercial corridor, one where entrepreneurs can cross-promote or cheerlead each other’s businesses.
“It’s a kind of cobweb of outreach,” says Cullen.
Molly Ellis, co-owner of Threadwell in Chestnut Hill, an embroidery business, met Hammershaib through Visionary Trust. It’s the kind of connection she doesn’t always have the time to make during the day while she’s running the Germantown Avenue shop.
“It’s good to get out and sort of take the pulse of the world and not have the world come to me,” says Ellis.