Lisa Henderson and Tina Newberry, childhood best friends, always wanted to pursue a career that allowed them to give back to their community and make a positive impact on others. As adults they became increasingly passionate about buying products that support small, local, women-owned, eco-friendly, and charitable businesses, and wanted to make shopping for these items convenient for others. To do so, the pair decided to launch A Little Bird, an online retail shop that carried “right products for the right reasons,” in February 2019.
After several months of operation, A Little Bird solidified a market for its products, but the business was not living up to the potential the women knew it could possessed; their monthly e-commerce sales capped out at $800. They realized they needed to make a change and decided that opening a storefront would be the solution.
By taking advantage of downtown Lock Haven’s revitalization efforts, the two entrepreneurs were able to secure a cost-effective location in the heart of downtown. While they were moving into the new space, Lisa and Tina met Marie Vilello, manager of Downtown Lock Haven, Inc., who referred them to the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for additional coaching and support.
“We became involved with the SBDC after we had established our business,” said Tina. “We had the idea for what we wanted the business to become, but we had no idea how to run a successful, profitable operation.”
With help from business consultant Tom Keiffer, who works out of the Penn State SBDC’s satellite office in Lock Haven, Lisa and Tina gained the information and resources needed to successfully launch their business and sustain efficient operations.
“Having a relationship with our business consultant, Tom Keiffer, who understood our goals and could help us achieve those goals has been a huge advantage. We now have a better understanding of overhead costs, profit & loss, customer service, demographics, and marketing strategies.”
When the store opened, Tina and Lisa got to work integrating themselves with the community. They became involved in Downtown Lock Haven Inc.’s Merchants Committee, a group of business professionals who work together to launch small business initiatives. Through their participation in the committee, Tina and Lisa have volunteered their time to plan and promote Small Business Saturday and support other downtown beautification efforts.
And their hard work and involvement paid off. During their first month of operation at the new brick and mortar location, A Little Bird generated $11,000 in sales.
“We were hoping to just break even with overhead costs when we first opened the physical location, but with the help and support of our consultant, we were able to turn a significant profit.”
With an established reputation and a successful business model, Tina and Lisa will be able to operate A Little Bird in a way that accomplishes their goal of giving back to the community and supporting the work of others. The store, now open six days a week, continues to provide an ever-growing inventory of unique items that “look good, feel good, and do good.”