If you’ve ever wanted tolaunch your own business, it’s agood idea to talk to other successful businesswomen to learn how they got started. How can you figure out what you want to do and then do it all on your own? How does someone take a dream and make it pay? How can a favorite subject in school or something done in everyday life inspire a whole new career? For answers, we turned to three local entrepreneurs to learn the secret of their success.
President and co-owner,
Five Star Wedding Gown
President and co-owner, Five Star Wedding Gown Specialists “Live life to its fullest because this is not a dress rehearsal,” is a personal motto of local businesswoman Sharlene Thum. However, if all the world really were a stage and life were one big dress rehearsal, she would have the perfect gown ready. She would have that outfit carefully cleaned and pressed, altered to fit and then later preserved for a future date. Why? Because as the president and owner of Five Star Wedding Gown Specialists, Sharlene Thum is in the business of beautiful gowns, gorgeous dresses and extraordinary attire. It’s the perfect job for a woman like Thum, who says, “I love what I do.” She has always enjoyed fashion and studied at a prestigious design school in Los Angeles known in the industry as “FIDM” (the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising). “I had a couple of job offers in New York while I was still attending FIDM, but instead of going to New York, I married the love of my life, Richard. We launched our own dry cleaning business, which we still co-own in San Antonio,” she says. That was 32 years ago, and through that Thum became an expert at taking care of bridal gowns, christening gowns, formal wear and more. It was then that she realized there were many other services that her clients needed. So together with her husband, she ventured into a new business. “We decided to open a bridal salon because of the demand for services for this very special clothing,” says Thum.
The wedding gown is the most important garment a woman ever buys, so here brides are given bespoke service. A new gown may be altered, or an antique gown can be painstakingly restored and made to fit a modern bride. A mother’s vintage gown can be cleaned, altered and updated for her daughter — bringing a 1980s dress into the new millennium. The gown is pressed and delivered to the church or the portrait sitting, and when it’s all over, it can be cleaned and perfectly preserved. Even if a dress has been in the closet for 20 years, it still can be cleaned and restored. But Thum handles more than just bridal dresses: She takes care of quinceanera gowns, Fiesta regalia, first communion outfits, bridesmaids’ dresses, couture clothing and fine fabrics. “We are the only licensed and certified MuseumCare™ Preservation Specialist in South Texas,” she says. Although the care of fine clothing is her passion, Thum has other talents and interests, too: “I began playing the cello when I was in the second grade, became a concert cellist and played in competitions all across Los Angeles.” She also loves horses and even rides and competes in dressage.
Thum, who likes to work out and stay in shape, says travel and entertaining are also important to her. Besides her husband, Richard, Thum has another special member of the family: Brutus, an adorable shih tzu. Balancing it all keeps her busy. “At work I oversee all aspects of the business and personally do all of the restoration of vintage and antique gowns,” she says. “I love helping my clients. They mean everything to us — we would not have enjoyed the success that we have had over the last five years since we opened if it were not for the wonderful people and businesses that have believed in us and patronized us. We treasure our relationships with Nordstrom and Julian Gold, along with many other boutiques and bridal salons, which have referred their customers to us for cleaning and preservation.” Thum’s advice for budding entrepreneurs? “Do extensive research and source business professionals before even considering launching your own business or company. It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice,
President and sole owner of
“I was always taught that I could do and be anything I wanted, if I worked hard enough,” says Jo LynnPowell. This life lesson she took to heart. Today, as the owner of a collectibles andgift shop/Christmas store, Collector’s Gallery and Christmas Gallery, Powell is a hard-working product purchasing agent, design coordinator, bookkeeper, marketing agent and sales manager for her company. But it took years of learning, planning, paying attention and long hours to achieve all she has. Still, as an active wife and mother, Powell was no stranger to hard work. “I started my business in 1978 after both of my children were in school,” she says. “Before that, I took business trips with my husband and often shopped during our travels. I especially enjoyed purchasing collectibles and Christmas items. In 1976 I decided to start my own business. It took time because I knew it was important to do extensive product research prior to opening a store.“I began to investigate the retail business profile and determined that I would be competing with established retailers in the area. I believed that I could provide products that local retailers did not offer, so I traveled to other states to find things that were not already available in San Antonio.”
Planning paid off. Over the past 34 years, Powell’s business has grown. “We offer a little bit of everything — gifts and collectibles, famous brands like Lladro, Swarovski Crystal, Precious Moments, Trollbeads, Willow Tree, Vera Bradley, Crocs, Yellow Box, Switchflops and more. We have a great selection of home décor, children’s clothing (in our baby department), accessories, shoes, wedding gifts and unique items. We also offer year-round Christmas decor and keep more than 60 decorated and lighted Christmas trees on the floor at all times. We have nativity sets, angels, Santas, nutcrackers, ornaments and everything you’ll want for the holidays. Our specialty is helping our customers pick the perfect gift to give,” says Powell. “I usually get into the store at 9 a.m. and work till 8:30 p.m. or sometimes as late as 10 p.m., but I love it,” she says. “I also spend as much time as possible being with my five grandchildren and my children, and I love to travel,” says Powell, who also considers her customers as family. “They are so much more than just customers to me — they’re friends. My customers are the best in the world. Many have shopped with me for over 30 years, and now their children and grandchildren shop with me too. It’s an honor sharing their lives all these years and knowing their families. I treasure them.”
While Powell is the sole owner of her business, she credits her husband, Richard,and both of her children for all the help they give. “Not only do I get moral support, but both Rick and Kim assist me in keeping my business running on a daily basis. Their knowledge andexperience in business are a ‘life safety net’ to me,” says Powell. “I have the best sales team working with me, too. They are friendly and knowledgeable about our products and have been with me for many years.” As for advice for others, Powell says, “If you plan to start a retail business, expect to spend a minimum of 10 hours a day six days a week if you want to be a success. Retail is not a whimsical, part-time business. We started small and grew slowly every few years, and my store is now 15,000 square feet. Plan on working hard to be a success and stay in business. I love what I do, the people I sell to, and the people I work with. I wouldn’t trade it ever.”
Owner of Parish Photography
It’s always inspiring when a young person discovers the path she was meant to take. Just three years ago Jenna-Beth Lyde was a business major at Trinity University and had never considered a job in photography let alone owning her own studio. Although she had a good eye for art and a knack for taking pictures, she had an even better head for business. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Lyde first worked advising and teaching individuals and groups about financial basics. But then one day she met a man who would change her life, and it wasn’t a boyfriend or husband. It was Charles Parish, a local photographer who had owned his own popular San Antonio studio for 48 years. He wanted to ensure that his life’s business could be passed on to a talented young person he could train, and that person turned out to be Lyde. “I had just graduated when I first met Mr. Parish through networking. He was looking for someone to take over his business. When I was ready to move on from my previous job, I called him.
We decided I would work for him and learn the business to see if it might be a good fit,” says Lyde. Working with Parish was like participating in an old-fashioned apprenticeship. The two shared mutual respect and admiration, and Parish became a friend and mentor. Together he and Lyde photographed weddings, took studio portraits, shot commercial headshots and even did special event coverage. Digital photography was a brave new world, but Lyde learned quickly. All of this was just two years ago, but it didn’t take long before Parish knew Lyde was ready to take the reins. “After only about a year and a half we signed all the paperwork to transition the business ownership to me,” says Lyde, who still relies on Parish’s advice and expertise. “Mr. Parish has a lot of history and experience, and I’m very thankful to be under his mentorship. He knows a lot about photography, but more importantly, he knows a lot about people and relationships.” Parish continues to work as a photographer in Lyde’s studio that still bears his name. “Today my job duties include a little bit of everything — photography, marketing, photoediting, taking care of the finances and more,” says Lyde. Still she makes time for a social life: “I enjoy spending time with my friends and my dog.
I live in an old house built in 1900, so I like doing projects around the house. I also like volunteering with the Junior League and taking advantage of San Antonio’s wonderful culture.” Did Lyde ever dream her degree in business would lead to her owning a photography studio? No. But as young as she is, she’s already learned that success can come from something as simple as trusting your heart and following a friend.