When Kritsten Kerr, Manager of The Mercantile in Titusville, looked around her incubator on a crisp October day, she made a realization — all the businesses in The Merc are either owned or co-owned by women.
The women in charge are all in different stages of life. Some have other jobs, some have kids, but they share positivity and giving each other the support that they need.
The Merc brought the women business owners together to celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month.
“This is my happy place,” said Tabby Designs owner Tina Phillips.
The Merc, located at 105 South Franklin Street, is a small business incubator that allows buddingentrepreneurs to start their dream businesses with less risk.
The stores are smaller, but it offers a less risky way for someone to open the business of their dreams.
“You can’t get any smaller than these small businesses,” said Lisa Straub, owner of Pawsitive Vibes Pet Boutique, one of the newer members of The Merc family.
Currently in The Merc is Pawsitive Vibes Pet Boutique, owned by Lisa Straub; Moon Rooster’s Boutique, owned by Treva Graham; Tabby Designs, owned by Tina Phillips; Sprinklez, owned by Alisha Edebrun-Bidish and Coffee Days, owned by Peyton Miller.
The other two businesses, Curbside StrEAT Co. and G&K Designs are co-owned by women. The space is also managed by a woman, who knows how to help the other business owners succeed.
In the U.S., only 19% of businesses are owned by women. According to Forbes, two of the barriers keeping women from owning their own business are fear of failure and inadequate support systems.
Without ever having these barriers in mind, Kerr and The Merc have created a space that naturally lessens those barriers.
“We are our own worst critics,” said Graham. However with other women cheering you on, the inner critic starts to fade.
The community aspect of The Merc takes care of the lack of support systems. The women themselves help with fear of failure and the balancing of responsibilities.
“We want to empower each other to do well,” said Phillips.
Graham took it a step further, saying that without the empowering spirit of The Merc, “I would never have done this without the atmosphere.”
An example of the culture that the incubator has fostered is what the shoppers do when they wait. Peyton Miller, 19-year-old owner of Coffee Days, said that when her customers are waiting on their drinks, she sees them go over to Tabby Designs and take a look at what is on the rack outside the store.
“We always recommend the other businesses,” said Phillips.
When Kerr set out to fill the incubator, it never crossed her mind to fill it with businesses owned by women.
“It wasn’t intentional. It just happened,” said Kerr.
However, since that realization Kerr has seen the business owners really come together. While talking about the family that The Merc has created, the other women had a fun little conversation of their own.
“I guess I’m the grandma,” said Graham. “Well that makes me the great-aunt,” said Straub.
All the women business owners have gone through a lot to get to this point.
Straub opened the business after raising kids that went off to college. Phillips just saw her kids enter middle school. The women have maternal instincts, and when it comes to The Merc, those instincts kick in to help Miller.
At 19, Miller is the youngest business owner in The Merc, and maybe even in all of Titusville. After graduating from high school she took a risk and bought Coffee Days.
What seemed daunting at first quickly became very manageable.
“Having other girls in here makes it much less intimidating,” said Miller. “I love seeing girls succeed.”
The Merc has not only created a space for women to succeed, it has also created a place where they can be happy and have a laugh.
Many of the women said that when they open up their shop in the morning, the rest of the day doesn’t feel like work.
This feeling starts with Kerr, someone that the business owners praised. “She is a good cheerleader and believes in us,” said Phillips.
With Kerr at the helm and the other women there with their businesses, the future of The Merc is bright.
If you want to support these businesses, or just see the space, The Merc is hosting a free Trick-or-Treat and costume contest on Sunday.
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.