By Brittany Wiley
BAPA Business Liaison
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we reached out to some of Beverly/Morgan Park’s most established female entrepreneurs. These women have helped shape our business community into what it is today. Looking back at their history in our neighborhood, we want to know about the obstacles they’ve faced, their finest achievements, and what they love about running their business in this community.
The women entrepreneurs are Joan Each Rowan, Everything’s Relative Salon & Spa; Barbara Lindsay-Marsh, Let’s Get Poppin; Deb Gawrys, Connections Learning Center; Beverly Lynch, Running Excels; and Robin Harmon, RMH Interiors.
BW: What was the pulse of the community regarding women-owned businesses when you opened?
Joan: I opened Everything’s Relative in 1994. Women were not getting business loans easily from banks at that time! I was fortunate. I had a dear friend who worked at Standard Bank, and he gave me a signature loan on my reputation and my W2 forms. I am forever grateful for his trust and kindness! It was not easy for women to get business loans! Especially any business that would service women only.
Barbara: My business opened in September 1995. The feedback I received from people in the community as well as some family members was, “This is not going to be successful.” The ideas of many people stated that, not just becoming an entrepreneur, but the type of business I was opening: Give it up and keep your secure job.
Deb: I opened in April of 2004. Because I am in education, I don’t think the community gave my gender a whole lot of thought. Most teachers are women. What I do remember is having a hard time with vendors or outside people taking me seriously. Sometimes I would have my husband call and leave messages so people would call me back. For instance, I had a difficult time getting realtors to return my phone calls. If my husband called, they called right back.
BW: What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Bev: Appreciate the resources we have in the neighborhood. The Villager and Beverly Review are always willing to write a piece about the business services you provide and offer advertising opportunities. Get involved with Beverly Area Planning Association, Morgan Park/Beverly Hills Business Association and reach out to the 19th Ward for any assistance. These organizations have been key with the support they provide.
Joan: Know that you are going to be afraid to take the leap, smart people know they’re taking a chance. Look fear in the face and do the thing you think you cannot do. You can do it and it is exhilarating! Do your research and study the success of others in your field. Always network with people in your field who look more successful than you. Treat your employees with the respect they deserve! Train them continuously. Learn from them; they bring so much to the table. Most importantly, give back to your community! The love you give is the love you get!
Robin: Timing is everything. Just because you love doing a particular activity does not mean you need to make it a business. Join my not-for-profit entrepreneur group that I host every last Friday of the month for women and minority business. We provide support, tips, encouragement, networking and great advice for new, mid- and an advanced-level entrepreneur.
BW: Share one of your favorite business memories or greatest achievements.
Robin: My greatest achievement is the day I could afford to pay and hired my first employee. That was the first time I thought, “Hey I am actually running a business here!”
Barbara: One of my favorite business memories was when I traveled to Aruba and met eight families from eight different states who brought Let’s Get Poppin’s popcorn with them.
Bev: One of the greatest achievements of Running Excels is the running group. The group has evolved over the 12 years, but the route has always stayed the same. Currently, the group runs together on Saturday morning at 7 a.m., meeting at the southeast corner of 103rd and Western. Many lifelong friendships have evolved that may never have been established without runners coming together from all over.
Deb: Knowing that we helped someone’s child is the greatest memory and achievement!! I am proud to say we have had many, many “thank yous.”
BW: What is your favorite thing about owning a business in Beverly/Morgan Park?
Joan: Morgan Park/Beverly Hills supports small businesses like no other. I have had many salons over the years, all in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, they were all supported by people from Beverly!
Deb: I grew up in this neighborhood- graduated from Kellogg and then McAuley. I have always had a special place in my heart for Beverly and was so excited to move back here with my husband to raise our two children. I love that I have been able to service so many families in the area.
Bev: The greatest success of Running Excels is the support we receive from our customers. Although we are a destination place and have customers from out of the neighborhood, the residents of Morgan Park and Beverly have kept us open.