Business women push for networking, local economy

The first Progressive Shopping Day, this Saturday, aims to promote local businesses. From left are Carol Wells, Christy Greene, Jennifer Ferrell, Nora Siemsen, Susan Anderson, Nacona McDowell, Tracy Taylor and Kim Sumner. (Christine Bolaños Photo)

The first Progressive Shopping Day, this Saturday, aims to promote local businesses. From left are Carol Wells, Christy Greene, Jennifer Ferrell, Nora Siemsen, Susan Anderson, Nacona McDowell, Tracy Taylor and Kim Sumner. (Christine Bolaños Photo)

By Christine Bolaños

A group of Liberty Hill business owners wants to unite local women in business for networking and economic purposes.

Nora Siemsen, owner of All Stems from Sophia, opened her floral shop in February and quickly noticed the need for a business-oriented group in Liberty Hill focused on women. She and other women business-owners acknowledged the opportunities available through the Women in Business group within the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce. However, Siemsen wants to hone in on recruiting more women business owners for a common, community goal.

“I’m hoping that by the women in this community working together we build a stronger community,” Siemsen said.

She thought the first step in starting her endeavor was to brainstorm ideas with fellow women business owners in Liberty Hill. Siemsen thought of starting a day aimed at promoting female-owned businesses in the community. After talking with others, the concept officially became Progressive Shopping Day, a Saturday where shoppers can visit all participating stores and meet with business owners. Participating business owners have a chance to meet with their customers while helping promote each other’s businesses.

The event is Saturday, July 16. Customers will begin their day at Red Brick Java where they will receive their progressive shopping discount card.

Each participating shop will have specials for the day. The discount card is effective through Dec. 31 for one return visit. Each retailer will offer individually established discounts.

Participating shops include All Stems from Sophia, 2023 Loop 332; Two Brand It, 921 Loop 332; Hobo Junction, 3000 RR 1869; Indian Mound Ranch, 12805 W. SH 29; Living the Dream Market, 13651 W. SH 29, Ste. D; Bluebonnet Boutique, 13740 W. Hwy. 29 #2; and Red Brick Java, 13951 W. Hwy. 29.

“They’ll start out at Red Brick Java where they will receive a card with logos of all seven businesses involved in this Progressive Shopping Day,” Siemsen said.

The goal is for shoppers to visit every location in order to get a stamp and exclusive savings. If the event proves a success, participating business owners plan to hold a Progressive Shopping Day regularly, and perhaps, quarterly.

Shoppers will be supplied a map directing them to all the stores. (See map on Page 10.)

Some of the locations will offer complimentary refreshments.

“Three of us are new in town so it’s giving us an opportunity to be introduced to the community,” Siemsen said. She said the Progressive Shopping Day event will serve as an open house for this new business in particular.

Though all participating business owners have varying backgrounds they have all unified in their recruitment and networking efforts.

“I’ve been doing flowers for over 25 years,” Siemsen said. “This is where I live and there hadn’t been a florist in Liberty Hill for over a year. I started pursuing buildings and things. God laid it in my hands.”

All Stems from Sophia provide full service for weddings, anniversary parties and special events. The store includes chocolates, stuffed animals, gift items, jewelry and handmade personal greeting cards.

Kim Sumner owns Living the Dream Market and describes herself as a “self-made stylist.” She offers all hair services and also owns a family clothing retail store.

“This is about women in business uniting together,” Sumner said. “Liberty Hill is a growing community. Why not show the power of women who are all like-minded.”

She thinks the event could have a great economic impact. She imagines a stay-at-home mother encouraged to try entrepreneurship after hearing about Progressive Shopping Day and the women behind it.

Jennifer Ferrell and Kathy Frazier own Two Brand It, a custom T-shirt shop and women’s boutique.

“We house a clothing boutique at the front of our shop,” Ferrell said. “We just got a bunch of new merchandise. A lot of it is summer fun stuff.”

Items include Liberty Hill Panther gear and merchandise aimed at teenagers. The store also sells Southern Grace Jewelry and Austin boots.

The custom T-shirt has been in operation since 2013 and the boutique was added in July 2015.

Ferrell said when Siemson approached her about Progressive Shopping Day she was immediately drawn to the event because the shop is located in downtown, which does not see frequent shopping traffic.

“It’s going to give people the idea they can shop in the area in which they live,” she said. “I have lived here my entire life. From the time I was a little girl, the closest mall was in Barton Creek or Highland Mall. To know there is quality clothing and quality food five minutes from my house is exciting and fun.”

Ferrell became an entrepreneur after years of being a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to work again but only if she had control of her own career.

Christy Greene opened Red Brick Java in April 2011 offering customers coffee espresso and most recently, Hawaiian Shaved Ice.

“I think it will entrust our current resident to know that they can shop local,” Green said of the Progressive Shopping Day event.

Greene said her business is more a family-owned than a woman-owned business.

“It takes my two daughters, my husband, myself,” Greene said. “I’m a strong believer that everything you need is right here. I also support my local businesses.”

Susan Anderson runs Indian Mound Ranch, which hosts the community’s farmers market. The market offers local, natural and handmade items.

“I had 500 tomatoes I wanted to sell and I didn’t want to work for corporate anymore,” Anderson said. So she became an entrepreneur and became an independent business woman.

“So many want to be healthier and be a part of this community,” she said. “This is a great way to coordinate vendors. I have 16 to 17 vendors and products range in everything under the sun — from baked goods to organic beans and chicken.”

Like the other women, Anderson believes Progressive Shopping Day is a great way to promote everyone’s businesses and get the word out to shop local.

“My mission overall is to shop local and encourage other people to shop local,” she said.

She said some of her vendors use the revenue earned at the farmers market for everyday things such as their children’s school supplies.

“(Progressive Shopping Day) will show them there are women-owned businesses in this area that are successful and it’ll maybe encourage other women that they can do it, too,” Anderson said.

Tracy Taylor and Carol Wells run Bluebonnet Boutique, which offers women’s clothing and accessories, shoes, purses and jewelry. The shop opened May 9th and Wells offers full seamstress services within the boutique.

Taylor moved to Liberty Hill in February 2015 while Wells joined the community two months ago.

“She came in and approached us about it and we wanted to do whatever we could to promote local businesses and give people the information,” Taylor said. “They don’t have to go to Cedar Park or Austin to shop. They can just go right down the street and probably find anything they need.”

Taylor emphasized that Wells is the face of the business and runs the shop six days a week. Wells said she previously owned a bridal shop and taught herself how to sew at the age of nine.

Nacona McDowell owns Hobo Junction Café, which specializes in country café southern cooking.

The business has been in operation for about 20, non-consecutive years, with McDowell running it for the last two years.

She heard about Progressive Shopping Day and decided to get involved. The café is known for having the “best fried chicken in Texas,” she said.

She said the event will give shoppers the opportunity to learn about the restaurant and other businesses, as well as the community itself.