Advice For Future Business Owners, From Ten of Saint Louis’ Leading Women

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, we recently had the honor of sitting down with ten successful women who have built thriving businesses throughout the city of Saint Louis. From photographers, to restauranteurs, to consultants, we heard stories of successes, failures, challenges, and victories. Though every path is different, one theme resounds throughout every story: heart. Today, they’re sharing a piece of advice for fellow women who are considering starting a business of their own.

Please also make sure to follow along with us as we highlight one of these inspirational business owners and their story each day, beginning tomorrow, on our Instagram handle: @yelpstl.

Kristen Linares — Thirteenth & Washington

Thirteenth & Washington isn’t just a modern, vintage-inspired downtown hair salon. It’s a salon that’s passionate about supporting local businesses and charities, and one that happens to be owned by an inspiring new mom of twin boys. 

Advice: “It sounds simple, but it’s true: Just do it. Obviously you want to have an idea of what could go wrong, but you can’t dwell on that stuff. You need to just look forward, hustle hard every day, and if you make a mistake one day, you just try harder the next day. It will work out.”

Tatyana Telnikova — HandleBar  & Propaganda

If you’ve ever visited The Grove, there’s a chance you’ve enjoyed a drink or two at HandleBar. If Cherokee Street is more your scene, maybe you’ve enjoyed a Mezcal & Mirrors while sitting at the bar at Propaganda. Tatyana Telnikova is the powerhouse behind both of these St. Louis institutions.

Advice: “I’ve learned that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than asking for permission. Always see the positives in being a woman who owns a business. I’ve had times when people come in and ask, ‘oh so you and your husband do this?’ And people never ask him about me in that way. Or people will say ‘did your dad buy this for you?’ We are changing those stereotypes. Every woman who opens a business and is successful and can hold her own just changes that stereotype a little bit. So I would say, you go do it girl.”

Photo Credit: Raquita Henderson, Pinxit Photo & Cinema

Marissa Q. Paine — Painefree Coaching & Consulting

Painefree Coaching & Consulting is a full-service leadership and organizational effectiveness company providing coaching, training, facilitation, organizational planning, and a full range of change and transition management services.

Advice: “You can’t do business alone. I think there are a lot of women who are gifted and talented, and feel like they have something to give, and they go at it alone. It’s really, really hard to do that. Consider building your team as you start, and get a partner who balances you. They don’t have to do the same thing you do, but business is not meant to be done alone. There’s no big business that’s just one person. Do it, and build that team from the beginning.”

Mary Hennesy & Amy Schafer — Urban Matter

Supporters of the local maker movement, Urban Matter is a home decor and gift boutique located in Dutchtown, owned by Mary Hennesy and Amy Schafer. About half of the artisan-made goods in the store are made right here in Missouri, and men and women alike can find something in this unique space.

Advice: “You will work your a** off, so you better love what you do. When you do have those bad days, be grateful that you have more days that you love what you do than not. Find balance. Don’t compare yourself to other people, because that’s very easy to do (especially with social media.) When you compare yourself to other people, it makes you feel insecure but it also allows yourself to judge other people… and that’s a slippery slope. Competition with yourself is one thing, but competition with other people just sets up a nasty environment. Support other women. Raise each other up. If you do that, your community (and your city) will rise. It’s a ripple effect.”

Susan Logsdon & Amanda Helman — Golden Gems

Golden Gems is a wildly spirited boutique on Cherokee Street, owned by sisters Susan Logsdon and Amanda Helman. Currently only open on Saturdays or by appointment, the space doubles as the sisters’ studio and storefront. Stop by for your feminist fix, whether you’re picking up a sweatshirt, keychain, banner, or another hand-crafted good.

Advice: “Just start your business. We went round and round for years talking about doing something, or starting something, and we never had the perfect idea… and finally we were just like, screw it, let’s do it. You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row right away. Just put it out there and see what happens, learn from it, and make it better if you need to. You’re never going to find a time when the light shines down and it’s perfect. It’s always going to be hard and it’s always going to be a struggle, so push forward and do it.”

Erin Joy — Black Dress Partners

Black Dress Partners is a business consulting and coaching organization that helps emerging and evolving women business owners strategize, prioritize, and improve organizational performance.

Advice: “First and foremost, you’re wise to be thinking about starting a business, and wise to be thinking about it for some time. Entrepreneurship is hard. You have to be good at everything; you have to be good at marketing, management, product development, finance, strategy, logistics, Human Resources, and technology… you have to be able to either do or lead all of those functions. You’re smart to think about it — keep thinking about it. Build a network of a couple of people that you can run your concepts by, and develop your concepts. Consider working with an organization like SCORE; they’re business people with extraordinary experience who want to give free counsel. Also, trust your gut. While you have to be very pragmatic in your approach when thinking about starting a new business, you also have to follow your passion, and balance the two.”

Tamara Keefe — Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery

Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery is serving up handcrafted ice cream made from 100% all natural ingredients in both the Lafayette Square and the Demun neighborhoods. Whether it’s the 16-18% butterfat ratio, or the fact that many flavors contain our favorite types of booze, Tamara Keefe has created a brand and product that’s hard to ignore.

Advice: “Do a lot of due diligence. I also always say, it’ll take you twice as long, and cost twice as much as you think, so be prepared for that.”

Photo Credit: Walter van Dusen

Raquita Henderson — Pinxit Photo & Cinema

Whether she’s capturing moments at a wedding or taking photos of growing families, Raquita Henderson does it with heart. Her passion is “people,” and her goal is to truly invest in those she’s working with. 

Advice: “My advice is contradictory. In one breath, I’ll tell you to do it, jump off the cliff, run after it, try it… the worst thing that happens is you fall down and you have to get back up. And in another breath I’ll tell you to research. Learn as much as you can about the industry that you want to get into. Also, never put all of your eggs in one basket. If you have the opportunity to open a business that’s great, but diversify your income as much as possible; don’t have everything in one place. And don’t get so caught up in trying to learn it all that you forget to jump. You can figure it out on the way down. You can build a parachute while you fall.”

Jenny Rearick & Sloan Coleman — Tiny Little Monster

With an idea that started in their basement, the owners of Shrewsbury’s Tiny Little Monster have turned a passion project into a booming business. Stop by or place an order online for custom t-shirts, kids clothing, baby onesies, branded promotional items, and more.

Advice: “Do the business plan. Figure out why you want to make what you want to make, and how you’re going to make money from it. We’re a good team because Sloan is outgoing and has lots of ideas, and I’m more on the conservative side of risk. She’s the opposite, so we have a good happy medium. The business plan was definitely worth doing. We got this book from the library on how to build a business plan in 24 hours. After we had the book, we had to take an 11-hour road trip, so we took it with us. We talked through the questions and the answers on the drive, and that really helped us figure out where we wanted to go.”

Brittany Sarhage — Rudy’s Flower Truck

You’re going to want to keep an eye on Rudy’s official schedule, because these flowers are worth following. Owner Brittany Sarhage is passionate about bringing beautiful, unique flowers to various neighborhoods throughout the city of St. Louis, and you’ll often find her parked outside of local coffee shops and restaurants.

Advice: “Do it. But do your research. I had a lot of people asking me hard questions at first, and I didn’t have answers to them. And if you want your friends and your family to be supportive of you, you need to be able to answer those hard questions, because they’re just looking out for you. Doing your research on your market and the area that you want to be in is smart. Also, consider what kind of gap you’re filling and what kind of value you’re adding to your community. You need to make sure you’re adding something, or people aren’t going to come. Also, understand your ‘why,’ as in, why you want to do this. There are going to be tough times when you doubt yourself, and you have to have that ‘why’ to fall back on so that you can keep going forward. Lastly, have a strong support system. I had two girlfriends who were always like, ‘you can do anything.’ Have someone who is your cheerleader who believes in you.”