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Local entrepreneurs celebrate Small Business Saturday

Damn! Gina owner Gina Kowalski and jewelry maker Brandon Bass made and sold their macrame and beaded jewelry at Rumors Boutique's Small Business Saturday market on Nov. 24. This was their first time publicly selling their products.

Nervous energy filled The Baxter Bar & Arcade as vendors from across the Triangle waited for customers to wander into the makeshift market. 

With holiday shopping beginning, local store owners were eager to get their name out and meet new customers.

Rumors Boutique hosted its second-annual Small Business Saturday market on Saturday to showcase the work of these local entrepreneurs. The market featured 16 vendors with products ranging from hand-crafted jewelry and clothing to kombucha. 

“We picked people that all of my customers would like to shop with, too, so this way they get to shop directly from them and support them,” Rumors co-owner Casey Longyear said. “We don’t keep anything from any of the sales; the vendors don’t have to pay anything to be a part of this, and Baxter’s doesn’t charge us anything to be here. It really is the community coming together to support small business.”

For many small business owners, having large Black Friday sales cost more than they’re worth. Sarah Fountain, owner of Porch Opossum Art Experiments, said she can’t afford to offer price reductions that compete with larger stores. 

“I had a lady message me and ask if I was running any deals, and I really can’t afford to,” Fountain said. “Everything is already priced as low as I can.”

Rumors also chose to abstain from Black Friday sales this year, instead offering a $1 sidewalk sale with all proceeds going to the LGBT Center of Raleigh in addition to their normal prices. 

Longyear started the Small Business Saturday market after the success of Jaws Fest, a punk rock flea market held over Memorial Day Weekend that started three years ago in Chapel Hill. 

She said the market is good for small vendors because they do not have to pay to set up a table. The market also allows customers to meet the designers of the products, which Longyear said can help increase sales. 

Shops of all kinds participated in this year’s market. While some owners run their businesses full-time, others sell their products in addition to being a student or working other jobs. 

After running Porch Opossum Art Experiments for nearly five years, Fountain recently transitioned to making upcycled tie-dye and other art full-time. She said though it is difficult at times, she is happy with her decision.

“I absolutely love it,” Fountain said. “I can do what’s important to me at that time. I can have control over the process and the environmental impact of what I’m doing.”

Tessa McGuire, a 17-year-old high school student at Eno River Academy, said she began making her own earrings as a hobby. She now runs Honeybee Designs and sells her jewelry at Rumors and on Depop, an online marketplace. 

McGuire used the Saturday market to introduce her new line of polymer clay earrings, hoping to gauge customers’ interest in the new designs. 

Similarly, Gina Kowalski said she opened Damn! Gina after making macrame jewelry to relieve stress. She said she had high hopes for the market, which was her first, and she was eager to meet other vendors.

“There is so much creativity and intelligence and passion in Carrboro,” Kowalski said. 

Though it can be difficult to succeed as a small business owner, Longyear said Chapel Hill and Carrboro provide small businesses with space to thrive. 

“Not trying to be like the mall retailers is a good thing,” Longyear said. “This community is very supportive of small business.”


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