Ma­con Ex­change gives boost to small busi­ness

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Front Page - BY LINDA S. MOR­RIS lmor­ris@ma­con.com

Sheila Keene had a “very tech­ni­cal ca­reer” for years af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Ge­or­gia Tech with a com­puter sci­ence de­gree be­fore she re­tired and started a whole new ca­reer do­ing some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

“I pro­grammed ro­bots and de­vel­oped soft­ware for a liv- ing,” Keene said.

But she wanted to do some­thing that would make a dif­fer­ence for girls and women af­ter work­ing in a male-dom­i­nated field for such a long time and rais­ing her daugh­ter by her­self, she said. So she taught her­self to paint cre­at­ing mixed-medium art­work fea­tur­ing girls or women along with say­ings like “I am a girl. What’s your su­per power?”

In ad­di­tion to us­ing acrylics, wa­ter­col­ors and other paint, she some­times in­cor­po­rates other ma­te­rial, such as cloth, tulle, cheese­cloth or an­tique hand­ker­chiefs.

Keene said she was ex­cited to learn about the Ma­con Ex­change, a re­tail in­cu­ba­tor at 368 Se­cond St., in down­town

Ma­con, since she was start­ing a new ca­reer and try­ing to es­tab­lish her busi­ness.

The re­tail in­cu­ba­tor was made pos­si­ble by the Down­town Chal­lenge Fund of the Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion of Cen­tral Ge­or­gia. New­Town Ma­con was able to get a $15,000 grant to cre­ate a train­ing pro­gram to help young en­trepreneurs re­fine their busi­ness mod­els and im­prove their like­li­hood for suc­cess while us­ing the Ma­con Ex­change, a pop-shop to test the mar­ket with very lit­tle risk.

The Ma­con Ex­change opened Nov. 2 with 19 “shops” or in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses in­side the build­ing, which is a few doors away from the Hargray Cap­i­tal Theatre.

David Moore, project manger with New­Town Ma­con, said en­trepreneurs fea­tured in the Ex­change had to com­plete an ap­pli­ca­tion and were se­lected from a pool of more than 50 ap­pli­cants. Se­lected ap­pli­cants were re­quired to at­tend work­shops fo­cused on build­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. Top­ics in­cluded brand­ing, track­ing re­turn, writ­ing a busi­ness plan and book­keep­ing.

The busi­nesses cho­sen of­fer a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts in­clud­ing art, crafts, jewelry, food, cloth­ing and bath and body items.

“It was re­ally hard to nar­row it down,” Moore said. The idea was to pick 10-15 ven­dors, but “there were some peo­ple who re­ally stood out. ... We just got a lot of heart-felt ap­pli­ca­tions.”

The hope is the Ex­change will pro­vide the boost en­trepreneurs need to even­tu­ally be able to open their own store fronts down­town.

The Ex­change is open 2 p.m.-8 p.m. Thurs­day-Satur­day and noon-4 p.m. Sun­day through the hol­i­days. It ac­cepts debit and credit cards only.

Cus­tomer Kim Eich­ler drove from north Ma­con to get to the Ex­change shortly af­ter it opened Thurs­day so she could buy a few pack­ages of mac­arons from Le El­e­gant Mac­aron. Eich­ler had vis­ited Le El­e­gant’s pop-up last week­end and was directed to the Ex­change to buy some more.

She likes that the busi­nesses are all lo­cal.

“It’s a com­mu­nity, and you just want to help each other out,” she said.

Keene said that even though it has only been open a week, she al­ready has sold sev­eral items. Her orig­i­nal art­work also is fea­tured on prints, jour­nals and greet­ing cards and those are sell­ing well.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to see if my fla­vor of art will work in a town like Ma­con,” she said. “I have had suc­cess in Asheville, (North Carolina), and I wanted to see if I could gain a wider au­di­ence and to see if my art works in my home­town.”

Dar­lene Mur­phy owns Freestyle Art & De­sign, which also has a spot at the Ex­change. She started out paint­ing and draw­ing, and do­ing metal fab­ri­ca­tion, “but I’ve kind of nar­rowed it down to jewelry, frankly be­cause jewelry sells best and it’s eas­ier to trans­port,” she said. Her jewelry is made of ster­ling sil­ver and cop­per and most of the cop­per is sal­vaged from wire.

She also sells her jewelry at sev­eral Mid­dle Ge­or­gia out­door mar­kets when she can. She has been in this busi­ness full time for more than two years af­ter “dab­bling with it” for sev­eral years. She also cus­tom makes some pieces if peo­ple want a dif­fer­ent stone or a dif­fer­ent size.

“I’ve al­ways wanted a re­tail space down­town,” Mur­phy said. “It was a dream, but with my in­come, what were the chances?”

So, the Ex­change gives her that space, and the shop own­ers don’t have to be there all the time.

The Ex­change is staffed by Tracy Choo who pro­cesses pay­ments and tracks the sales records for the busi­nesses.

An­other busi­ness at the Ex­change, Lux Leo­nis Skin Care, is owned by Ania Ry­narzewska, who is a Mercer Univer­sity pro­fes­sor in the busi­ness school teach­ing mar­ket­ing re­search.

“I’ve al­ways had a pas­sion for skin care, and I also have a farm and I have goats,” so she in­cor­po­rates goat’s milk and other farm raised items in her prod­ucts.

“Of course with my re­search back­ground, I have done tons of re­search on in­gre­di­ents,” Ry­narzewska said. “So I com­bined this with a lit­tle bit of tra­di­tional wis­dom, the pas­sion for nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents and I de­cided to start a com­pany with this.”

Also, be­cause of her back­ground, she hopes the Ex­change will help to­wards a goal of grow­ing the busi­ness enough to be able to pro­vide jobs for other peo­ple.

MA­CON EX­CHANGE FALL 2018 VEN­DORS

Art

Kath­leen Jones of Kath Stu­dio (il­lus­tra­tions and paint­ings)

Es­ton Jen­nings of Sam and Cider Art & Il­lus­tra­tions (draw­ings/ paint­ings)

Sheila Keene or Art by Sheila Mae ( paint­ings) Crafts

Rhonda Miller of Thoughts Speak (greet­ing cards)

Heidi Cli­n­ite of Em­ber May­pop Shop (Small paint­ings, crafts)

Cather­ine Beatty of Wreaths & Bows by Cather­ine

Jewelry

Sara Hen­ton of Eclec­tic Chic{k}

Dar­lene Mur­phy of Freestyle Art & De­sign

Chris­tele Ni­co­las of Caris­tele Jewelry

Ivory Collins of I&K Bou­tique

Food

Ebony Tyson of Le El­e­gant Mac­aron (Mac­arons)

Steve Nofs of Sham­rock Api­aries (Lo­cal honey)

Chris McDaniel of The Saavy Smoker (Rubs)

Mac Bry­don of Bear Food (Gourmet peanuts) Cloth­ing

Der­rick Ken­drick of DKDe­signs42 (T-shirts and art)

James My­ers of Vik­torcage. (T-shirts and hood­ies)

Bath & Body Prod­ucts

Ania Ry­narzewska of Lux Leo­nis Skin Care

La­markis Craw­ford and Stephanie Wil­liams of Soul Nat­u­ral Body Care

Other

Molly Wilkins and Eu­ge­nia McWil­liams of South­ern Bon Vi­vant (Can­dles, jewelry, body & body prod­ucts)

JENNA EASON jea­son@ma­con.com

Tracy Choo, store as­so­ciate at the Ma­con Ex­change, takes a bag of mac­arons from cus­tomer Kim Eich­ler on Thurs­day to ring up her pur­chase. “Ev­ery­body loves them,” Eich­ler says.

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