April Bobbish had just launched her own business selling skin care products when she got the idea: a holiday vendor fair exclusively featuring local businesses owned by women.
After all, Bobbish knew other women running their own businesses in Mehlville, Affton, Fenton and other South St. Louis County neighborhoods. She watched on Facebook as friends posted photos of jewelry, hair design and other products or services they were selling.
“I just wanted to support small, local business and women in small business,” said Bobbish, who is an independent consultant with Apriori Beauty. “They wear so many hats these days and need the help.”
Just a few weeks into her new business and just a month before Christmas, Bobbish returned to Facebook to announce her idea for the Stop, Shop and Support vendor fair, a two-day shopping extravaganza benefitting the Jefferson County Pet Food Pantry (also a local, woman-owned business.)
Once the event was online, “it kind of took off,” Bobbish said. She originally expected four or five women to sell their products at a one-day event, but more than 20 women have signed up to sell, give demonstrations and give out free samples both Saturday and Sunday.
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“She’s just one person trying to do this not only for herself but for her friends,” said Melani Heinze, owner of Salon Inertia in Affton. Heinze plans to consult on hairstyles and sell products at this weekend’s fair. “It’s hard for me to take a Saturday off in December to do this, but I think it’ll be a really cool thing to do.”
Stop, Shop and Support has unearthed a new economic perspective Heinze calls the end of “the employee mentality,” where women launch independent, entrepreneurial businesses rather than try to balance full-time work with raising a family, especially as job openings remain scarce.
“With the economy the way it is now, going to a four-year school and getting a job is not necessarily the only route to monetary happiness,” Heinze said. “There are a lot of ways to make money, creative ways to supplement their income. Women have these opportunities where they don’t necessarily have to leave the house or worry about the effect it is going to have on their family and their role at home because they can work this in and feel like they are contributing.”
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites make this even easier, giving entrepreneurial women a way to reach out to clients without spending money on advertising. Even this weekend’s event was organized and advertised primarily on Facebook.
“We are so blessed to have the marketing option we do now with Facebook and tweeting and blogging and all the social media components that allow us to spread the word and have it go viral,” said Kim Tucker, owner of Haute Haus Fashions LLC and a Fenton resident who used to live in Oakville.
Tucker, who will be selling handbags and wallets at Stop, Shop & Support, said her online network of fellow businesswomen was like a sisterhood, supporting and learning from one another.
“I don’t think there’s a woman alive who decides to go into business for herself unless there’s something driving her,” Tucker said. “People do business with you for your why, not your how, not your what. When you get to that why, it goes from a little, tiny why to, ‘Nothing is going to stop me.’”
There’s no telling how many shoppers Stop, Shop & Support will draw, but the women involved talk about it like it’s already a success for giving independent South County businesswomen a new community.
“There’s something really powerful when you get women together with a can-do spirit,” Tucker said.
Vendors include Apriori Beauty, Scentsy, It Works Wraps, Lia Sophia Jewelry, Salon Inertia, Pure Romance, 31 Gifts, Moonlight Cupcakes (Sunday only), ChocWhits Candy & Favors, Haute Haus, Flamm Realty, AMS Photography, FacePaintingstl Samantha, The Clear Bag Store, Pampered Chef, and Tupperware.
Vendors will also donate goods for a raffle benefiting the Jefferson County Pet Food Pantry, which helps provide food to families in need. Attendees may bring pet food to donate.