First-time biz owner turns love of scrapbooking into $100,000 a year.
By Chuck Green
Kate Rothacker had been relatively content working in a scrapbook store and teaching. The idea of starting a business had never really seemed like, well, a chapter in that book.
“I suppose, informally, starting a business was on my mind because, almost as soon as I started scrap-booking, I began to host informal get-togethers at my home for friends to work on pages,” said Rothacker, owner of CozyCropHouse, a home set up for small-group weekend scrap-booking retreats. When she relocated to Pennsylvania, she found that the activity was still new to many people. “They didn’t know what scrap-booking was, so I began to conduct informal workshops at my home and offered to teach it to a woman’s group at church,” said Rothacker.
She said she learned as she went. “After my first experience renting a house for the weekend for a scrap-booking event, I started thinking there must be a way to have a place already set up. I think the biggest thing is that we were a small-group event and there already were hotels out there with 30-50-100 guests, so that was one thing. The other was the expense. It seemed to me that people like me were not as easily able to afford a weekend as we’d like, so I wanted to try to cut costs so that it would be more within the budget of people to be able to get away.”
Rothacker started by partnering with a local bed & breakfast, where she filled an empty period of the year, January, typically the owner’s downtime. “At the same time, she was helping me by giving me an affordable place to set up. So that was the first thing, looking for a small, local place,” owned by a friend from church.
Ultimately, because there are only so many weeks in a month, “we quickly filled up and some of my guests were asking about other times of the year, which were not available to me at the B&B.”
One challenge was that the set-up involved was so labor-intensive. The space had to be converted to more of a scrapping environment, which meant removing furniture and then setting up the floor spaces and lighting, and that was just a matter of hard work. Finding a location where we could leave everything set up was another issue.
From there, Rothacker put out the word out on event pages in the scrapbook industry, then “we just took spaces until the event sold out. Each year, the group wanted to return, so we added another weekend at a time until they were all filled.” She said she also contracted with vendors to have some scrapbook supplies onsite, so that either a direct sales company or an independent scrapbook supplies salesperson would set up. A byproduct of those relationships: the salespeople also would bring in business through their own customer bases, she said.
She did one small group retreat in a hotel because of the need to use their food services operation, “but we weren’t able to keep the prices as low as we wanted, so it wasn’t a long-term solution. It was more out of our control, with things like the thermostat looking up, so we wanted to bring it a little closer to home, where we’d have more direct control over issues like that.” So she started searching for rental properties and passed one on her way to a part-time job. I noticed the property was for sale. I looked at it and thought it was perfect, and I wound up leasing it.”
If you are a woman who needs assistance in getting your new venture off the ground, visit the sba.gov website to learn about their resources for women’s businesses.The SBA and the Office of Women’s Business Ownership collaborate with many organizations to make the best possible resources available to women entrepreneurs. Whether you are a woman interested in starting a business, applying for a business loan, finding government contracting opportunities, or improving an existing business, this page is a good point of reference for you. Another major group to contact is The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). This group is a federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues of importance to women business owners. The council’s mission is to promote bold initiatives, policies and programs designed to support women’s business enterprises at all stages of development in the public and private sector–from start-up to success to significance.
COZY CROP HOUSE AT-A-GLANCE
Cozy Crop House is based in Lititz, Pennsylvania. The website is: www.CozyCropHouse.com.
Cozy Crop House is a home set up for small-group weekend scrapbooking retreats, where girlfriends can escape for a few days to enjoy crafting together without life’s routine interruptions. The home environment and small group size create a cozy atmosphere, and we provide tools, supplies and classes for their paper crafting hobbies. The company sales are $100,000.