- Okay, Kathy – give me the short version: how did you get to this point?
[Kathy chuckles, since clearly, it’s been a long road] From the time I can remember, I’ve had a strong desire to be creative and expressive. I needed to find out how I could develop these passions, so I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburg, where I was exposed to color, design, and texture in new ways. I soon realized I also desperately wanted to be in business as it was something already within me – the hard work, passion, and determination combined with recognizing my God given gifts. This evolution [from being a creative to a creative business owner] felt natural without any blockade of fear as I knew I could always find a way to get around it or get through it. Festoon is a result of all of that.
- Thanks for making it short! So, throughout it all, what was most challenging?
Like anybody’s story, there are always challenges, pitfalls, valleys – it’s never easy. I had to be creative about how to acquire the financial piece of what makes a business. I think it goes back to the realization that as a hard-working person, I could be a single, female homeowner – and so I became one. Having owned my home for 9 years, creating equity, I was able to walk into a bank with a well laid out business plan. The president of the bank, who was also a woman, came to my home and, fortunately, took a chance on me because I had a history of working hard and was determined to not lose everything, paying back the loan in full – which I’ve done. It has not been easy, but obviously all worth it. I’d have to say another challenging piece was deciding on the locations of the stores. It was a lot of research and a leap of faith.
- So, basically, you’re a boss lady. I see you, Kathy! Now, what was most rewarding during your journey?
Hmm, there’s so much! It has been rewarding to see the effect the stores have had on people – experiences while in the store and what customers walk away with. We care about our customers and they can sense it. I’m also gratified that I’ve been able to provide jobs that mean something. I hate even saying ‘job’ because there’s a deeper rooting of what you all do – causing people to feel something, the business to grow, and more; my employees are everything to me. Creating my own line of clothing [made in Lancaster] has also been a highlight in my career as I was able to combine all that I learned through art and design with providing even more jobs in Lancaster. Of course, the icing on the cake continues to be the ability to give back to charities and the community as a whole. It is my hope that Festoon is inspiring and helping the small business, boutique industry in Lancaster.
- That’s awesome and definitely inspiring. Speaking of the community, why did you choose Lancaster and Lititz for your store locations?
This is my home. I grew up on a farm in Manheim 5 miles away from Brighton Village Shoppes, so I knew it like the back of my hand. It was natural. As for Lancaster, I had already lived in the city for 10 years and it was always a place I went to as a young girl; I’d go to market with my mom and grandmother, walk around town... Then, the Hager building was a place I worked as a fashion illustrator [Hager was the location of the first Lancaster Festoon]. It kind of all fell together the way it was supposed to, but Bruce’s (Kathy’s husband) support was huge. We found each other and soon after, I was making the decision to own a business and all that came with it. He saw how crazy I was and how hard I worked and that was it – he was fully on board. Without him, it would’ve been much harder to make it all happen.
- It is clear that Bruce supports you every day – we are all blessed to have him in the Festoon family! We touched on this a little earlier, but something many don’t know about you is just how much you give back to the community. What are some of the charities you are most passionate about?
I love animals and supporting their welfare, so Green Meadow Farm, local rescues, and shelters are a few I’m quite passionate about. I also worked with city kids for 9 years and Native American children for three years. Lifting kids up and giving them a better life has also always been important to me – specific charities include LOHF and Compass Mark. From what I know of my faith, children and animals can’t always protect and/or provide for themselves, and I want to help those who can’t help themselves. Beyond these amazing non-profits, I’m a huge believer in and supporter of LEADS, the Lancaster City Alliance, and our mounted police officers. Each of them creates a positive impact through economic development and safety within our city, so I’m more than happy to support them in any way I can.
- That’s beautiful, Kathy. Thank you for sharing. Switching gears a bit – owning Festoon for 15 years, how has the industry changed and how have you adapted?
Industry changes are more about consumer purchasing patterns. The boutique industry in general hasn’t changed too much in that we, as boutique owners, have stood firm in offering a product that is like no other, one you won’t easily find in the big box stores or online. A boutique owner is a rare breed – we’re more invested than just opening the door and ringing up sales. We are a unique collection of people whose passion runs deep. All of that to say, boutiques haven’t changed but consumer purchasing habits have. How I’ve adapted is digging even deeper into what is available to me – continuing on the path of representing unknown designers and creatives, using local manufacturers and people who love their wares being seen by the public in a touch, feel, and smell atmosphere, and merchandised in a unique story-like way. People want a story behind the product – it’s intriguing. Recently I sat down with a Lancaster candlemaker regarding our anniversary candle. We discussed the specific fragrances, the glass tumbler, and even the ribbon displaying our new logo, which will be tied around each candle – boutiques do that, which puts us in a whole different category. We’re always changing, always working harder, always plowing forward – where there’s a will there’s a way.
- Get it, girl! So, what advice do you have for that young entrepreneur who may want to start their own boutique or small business?
Surround yourself with people who believe in you – whether its friends, family, other entrepreneurs, and/or people simply interested in your vision. They will take the time to hear you, challenge you, and ask you, where do you want to go with this? Also, make sure your passion is REAL! Is this “thing” you want to do going to be exciting to you 10-20 years down the road? The trial by error approach could cost you greatly financially, emotionally… well, it could cost you everything, so there needs to be a driving force with a solid plan. I’d also advise any professional to avoid carrying so much fear that it stops him/her because you’ll never succeed if you allow fear to burden you to the point of being stagnant. At some point you have to make a decision, and then trust that you can make it happen through hard work and time spent. Lastly, there are a ton of resources available – tap into local, sometimes free, opportunities – SCORE and ASSETS are two that come to mind right away.
- Great advice. Now, advise us in fashion. Give me three pro styling tips. Ready, go!
Firstly, Buy a scarf. You can wear it as an accessory for your head, a shawl around your shoulders, a belt around your waist, and at least three different ways around your neck. Second, create your signature and style by being consistent. Whether you are tailored, boho, or just a business dresser, be consistent with your style. Find those pants you just can’t live without that you feel great in every time you put them on. Third, layer your clothing in a way that you always have an end of day look ready to go. And here’s one more, a bonus – don’t ever leave the house without lipstick and a great pair of earrings.
- Now I know I need to purchase a scarf stat! Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
My father always said, rise above it – speaks for itself. The other one, which is in my car, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
- Good ones to keep in mind. Going back to fashion, what line or product are you obsessed with right now?
I am totally obsessed with Magnolia Pearl. A second to that would be Gerties.
- Final question – it’s been 15 years. What are you looking forward to in the next 15?
Oh gosh, ha. In the immediate future, I’m hoping for continued great business. For the longer-term future – I think I want to experience what it would be like to see more of what I believe is creation. I want to see more of the US with my husband and two dogs, specifically out west. I hope to see it through eyes of peace, excitement, and joy, preferably without stress.