Women’s Business Center Success Stories

Women’s Employment Network Successes

A story of strength.

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A story of perseverance.

Watch Crisanne’s story >


Stacy Dalton: Dalton Ink Custom-Print T-Shirts

Stacy Dalton says she has always done things differently. When deciding on her major at Kansas State, she chose Agribusiness because it was an area she knew nothing about, and she wanted the challenge. At that time, being a female, from Johnson County, in a male-dominated field of study was quite a challenge, but Stacy not only survived — she thrived.

Stacy spent eight years at Gateway in computer sales, but had always dreamed of owning her own business. After being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness 10 years ago, Stacy’s perspective regarding waiting for the “perfect time” to start a business changed, and two businesses were born — Dalton Ink custom t-shirts and Safari Sunset, selling custom-designed safari shirts for hunters. In the fall of 2007, as Stacy was working on the Safari Sunset business, she signed up for the FastTrac NewVenture for Women course offered at the Women’s Business Center. Stacy says the FastTrac planning process, learning about why some businesses succeeded and others didn’t, and knowing when to quit if a business didn’t work were all invaluable as she closed Safari Sunset, and began to grow Dalton Ink.

Stacy’s advice to other small business owners:

  • Trust your instincts and “gut” feelings.
  • Keep your expenses to a bare minimum — you can do more with less than you think.
  • Don’t focus on what your competitors are doing — focus on doing what you do well.
  • Learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  • If something starts to work and you don’t know why — go with it anyway!

Dalton Ink is one of the few custom t-shirt companies around that does digital printing using water-based inks. By using this process as opposed to using traditional-ink printing, it can produce jobs quickly, as well as handle small runs and last-minute add-ons to large orders. Dalton Ink has a loyal customer following which includes Kansas State, Iowa State and Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Ginger Fuller: Ginger Sue’s Restaurant

In an industry with an 85% failure rate in the first year, and the economy at its worst level since the Great Depression, how come Ginger Sue’s restaurant has been so successful since it opened in 2007?

Well, Ginger Sue’s tag line is “Eat Among Friends,” and owners Ginger Fuller and husband/business partner David Bradley have a lot of them. Oh, and did I mention really great food, too?  

Ginger grew up in Liberty, Missouri, and graduated from Liberty High School. She met her husband, David, when they were both working at Houlihan’s restaurant, she as a server and he in management. They both loved the restaurant industry, and the idea of Ginger Sue’s was born.
In the fall of 2006, a friend recommended the FastTrac NewVenture course at the Women’s Business Center. Ginger had a general idea of what kind of restaurant she wanted to open. FastTrac NewVenture helped her prove her concept, and she believes she might not have moved ahead with her business if she hadn’t taken the class, because having the information well organized helped her implement her plan quickly. Ginger Sue’s became a reality in March 2007.
Ginger Sue’s has seen steady growth each year since opening. Ginger credits the great partnership she and her husband David have. “It’s so great to work with someone that you know well, and know you can always trust,” said Ginger. The “third partner” is made up of a loyal customer base and the great people who live in Liberty — ”they really take care of and support their own,” Ginger states. They are considering adding another location in the future.
When asked for advice she might offer to other business owners, Ginger says:
  • Be prepared to work harder than you expected when you own a business.
  • Have a clear understanding of what your business is and stick with it.
  • Do as much preparation as possible before you open your doors.
“I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life, but I’m also having the most fun,” says Ginger.

Jayne Torline: 3 Women and an Oven

Possibly Better than Your Grandma’s Baked Goods... Really

Did you know that the sense of smell can reprise more memories than any other sense? When you walk into 3 Women and an Oven you may immediately think back to the wonderful smells from your mom or grandma’s kitchen, and you will find your mouth watering and your stomach rumbling for those flavors all over again. Seeing the beautiful baked goods in the case at 3 Women and an Oven may also take you back to your wedding day, anniversary or special birthday celebration. 

Over nine years ago, Jayne Torline and two business partners determined there was a need and great potential for a high-quality boutique bakery in Johnson County, Kansas. They heard from consumers who were becoming increasingly aware of the ingredients going into their food and their demand for products using all-natural, as well as local, ingredients. After two years of baking in their homes and the demand for their goods increasing rapidly, they opened their store in southern Overland Park, Kansas. But 3 Women and an Oven didn’t limit themselves to the local market. After being featured in Midwest Living magazine, they decided to expand and will begin shipping nationwide soon. 
Jayne has these pearls of wisdom to offer to other business owners:
  • When determining pricing, you have to keep emotions out of the decision. Focus on labor, cost of goods, profit, and market trends. If you’re selling out of a product and can’t keep up with the demand for it, look at raising your price.
  • Hire people who are smarter than you.
  • Learn to listen — to your customers, your partners and your employees.
  • Check your ego at the door. It’s not about you, it’s about the customer as well as the product and service that you offer.
Jayne says they are fortunate that the slow economy hasn’t affected them negatively, and since beginning in 2002, their business has grown 20% annually. The future looks bright with the possibility of an expansion. Their wedding cake business is rapidly growing. Business is great. 
If you are in southern Johnson County, Kansas, drop by and marvel at the beautiful baked goods — they are truly works of art. One thing for sure, once you have tasted 3 Women and an Oven’s cakes, cookies, breads and so much more, you will go back again and again, and you, like so many before you, will be a customer for life.

Jennifer Meents: AAA Screening Service

Henry Ford said, “Quality is doing it right when no one is looking.”

Jennifer Meents, owner of AAA Screening Service, agrees with Henry Ford, and this represents AAA Screening’s approach to providing exceptional service to their clients.

Jennifer grew up in an entrepreneurial family, and always wanted to be a business owner as well. She’s a person who likes to know why things work the way they do, and how “all the pieces fit together” in a successful business.

Eight years ago, Jennifer bought AAA Screening Service, which provides background checks on tenants to property managers, as well as pre-employment screenings for prospective employers. Over the past eight years, AAA Screening Service has screened more than 400,000 tenants and employees.
Jennifer took advantage of services offered by the Women’s Business Center, such as the FastTrac NewVenture course, and a peer-to-peer mentoring roundtable of which she’s been a member for several years. She finds roundtable membership particularly beneficial, as they meet monthly and share their good business practices and ideas. Her business growth has been strong, and she gives some of that credit to what she has learned from the group.
Her advice to other business owners — don’t be afraid to tackle things you’re not good at!
It appears that Jennifer has found out how a successful business works, and “how all the pieces fit together”!

Rachel Ronan: Kiwi Creative

Rachel Ronan is a local product, and a great example of Midwest creativity. Rachel graduated from the University of Kansas with a design degree with an emphasis in visual communication and graphic design. She began her career as creative director with a trade association in the aviation industry. Rachel loved the work, the organization and the creative opportunities, and was employed there for 12 years. During this time, she was also doing freelance graphic design projects and that business was growing. Rachel did some serious thinking, and Kiwi Creative became a reality.

After being in business for about six months, she signed up for FastTrac NewVenture for Women, an entrepreneurial course offered by the Women’s Business Center. She knew there was much more to running a business than the artistic part she loved, and she was introduced to financials, pricing, cash flow, etc. It was such a positive experience that she still promotes the class to other new and prospective business owners.
Kiwi Creative offers services such as advertising, branding, catalogs and packaging. Kiwi Mail is an email marketing service offered by Kiwi Creative as well.
Advice offered by Rachel:
  • Network, network, network.
  • Set up online bill-paying for your business early on — big time-saver.
  • Visit several networking organizations, chambers, etc., before joining.
  • If you’re employed, and have a definite date for starting your business, do as much of the preparation as possible during that time (i.e., website, legal entity, licensing) so you can hit the ground running when you launch your business.

Sharon Rensenhouse: Mano’s Corporate Gifts

Sharon Rensenhouse, owner of Mano’s Corporate Gifts, is proud of her business growth and accomplishments. In 1982 she was a single mom and needed an income to support herself and her son. She had friends who owned nut-roasting operations in the South who needed help getting their product distributed in the Midwest. Sharon became their distributor. Her good reputation spread, and soon the nut growers and roasters began asking her to send gifts to their clients and add more food gift items as well. This was the beginning of her company, Nutcracker Sweets, a holiday gift company. The company has had slow, steady growth every year since its beginning, with the exception of 2009 and 2010.

Due to the steady growth of her business, Sharon decided two years ago to take the next big steps to grow the business substantially. She converted her holiday gift business, Nutcracker Sweets, to a year-round business enterprise — and Mano’s Corporate Gifts took life. She obtained a liquor license to enable her to include wine in her gift baskets and increased her promotional products line, which provides for greater expansion. She purchased equipment to etch custom logos, artwork and lettering on the wine bottles that go in her baskets. At the same time, she bought a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in the West Bottoms and invested heavily in equipment and people to further the growth of Mano’s. She’s also added more year-round gift options to provide her clients with more options.
Over the next five years Sharon plans on increasing revenues sizably by adding sales professionals focused on mid-sized towns throughout the heartland. She also continues to perfect her online mail order technology through her commercial website, ManosGifts.com.
When asked about things she would have done differently, or advice she’d give other business owners, these are what she offered:
  • She would approach hiring differently and trust her instincts more.
  • She wouldn’t spend as much money on printed material without a lot more follow-up with the recipients.
  • And she’d be more careful about working with internet marketing companies — some aren’t ethical.
As for the origin of the name, Mano’s — when her father saw her mother for the first time, he exclaimed “Man, Oh Man” because she was just so beautiful. The name stuck with her mother for the rest of her days, and Sharon chose that name to honor her. A great story, and a great company!

Julia Morgan: Frankie & Jules Fashion-Forward Attire

When Julia Morgan decided she wanted to make a career out of selling really cool women’s clothing and accessories, she was well prepared. She wanted to own her own business, and had grown up in a family of business owners. So Julia set about educating herself.

Julia graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in marketing and retail management. She also set out to get as much “hands-on” experience as possible. She did that by working for several different retail clothing stores in both sales and management positions.

In 2006, “Frankie & Jules — Fashion-Forward Attire” became a reality. The business got its start selling clothing lines at the annual Holiday Mart and other shows, as well as at parties in private homes. The business grew rapidly. In 2008, when she decided to open a “bricks and mortar” location, her dad, who is a builder, helped her find and remodel a unique building in southern Johnson County just a few blocks south of 151st St. and Quivira Rd. Her business has continued to grow. In fact, in 2010 when so many businesses were struggling to keep their doors open, Julia had her best sales year ever. She believe that some of this was due to her unique “destination location.” Women could take a little drive, find a reasonably priced item, and feel like they had “a little getaway.” Other things that helped were using Facebook as a way to show new styles, and store promotions. The store was also named Best New Boutique by 435 South Magazine in 2010.
Julia credits the help she got from many sources — her family, a woman business owner in Manhattan, Kansas and the Women’s Business Center. At the Center, Julia took advantage of services such as private consulting, and completed the FastTrac NewVenture for Women course. She’s positive that the FastTrac class and consulting she received had a huge influence on her success. She says, ”When someone starts asking me for advice about starting or running a business, I always refer them to the Women’s Business Center and recommend the FastTrac NewVenture class. 
So make the short drive out to Frankie & Jules. The shop is full of fun and affordable clothing and accessories, and you will definitely be glad you made the trip.
Beginning in May, Frankie & Jules will also be open the first Monday of every month from 12:00–5:00 p.m.

Krista Williamson: K2W Workshops on Home Repair

Want Your Own Business: Krista Says “Just Do It”

In 2008, Krista Williamson, founder and owner of K2W Workshops, had a good job. Krista, who throughout her life has loved learning how things were made and how they worked, was a project manager for a company that designed and built museum exhibits. She began thinking about how she could combine the project management and building skills she had acquired with her desire to share that knowledge with women — helping them be more self-reliant. In her research, Krista found that workshops to teach women how to do basic home improvements were basically non-existent. She decided to make the entrepreneurial leap into business ownership and started K2W Workshops.  

One of the first things Krista did was to enroll in FastTrac NewVenture for Women, a 10-week entrepreneurial course offered at the Women’s Business Center. Krista found all aspects covered by the class valuable, however the section on determining start-up costs was particularly useful. Krista still uses the same spreadsheet in determining costs for current workshops. While she probably would have started the business without taking FastTrac, the completion of the class helped her decide to keep moving ahead. 
The first workshop K2W offered was a basic home repair workshop. As her clientele grew, she began offering project-specific workshops, such as “Tiling 101,” “Beginning Electrical,” “Cabinet Replacement,” “Maintaining Your Home” and several others. These workshops are “hands-on,” and offered at her shop in Overland Park. Krista says that she has a large number of return customers — once they get one class under their tool belts, and their confidence increases, they want to come back and learn additional skills. As word spread regarding the workshops she offered, men began asking to attend her sessions. But while her clientele has broadened, Krista’s focus has remained on helping women.
Krista’s advice to other entrepreneurs: “If you’re hiring contractors, ask lots of questions to make sure you’ve got the right fit,” and if you have that burning desire to have your own business, “just do it”!
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