This Celebrating Geauga Small Businesses post is from Heather Means of Circa on the Chardon Square.
Geauga County Public Library: When was Circa founded?
Heather Means: 2016
GCPL: What is the story behind your business? How did it begin? What challenges did you face in getting started & how did you overcome them? What challenges do you face in your day-to-day operations, and how do you overcome them? What is your favorite part of owning a business?
HM: I have always liked estate and garage sales. About eight years ago, I started selling in a booth at another store. At the same time, I was spending time creating stained glass windows and custom pieces for people. I have a specialty line called “KidsArt” that uses individual artwork to create customized stained glass pieces.This is really what I enjoy doing the most. I opened Circa so that I could sell both.
From the antique side of the business– not letting the inventory get ahead of you can be challenging. Finding “stuff” is never the problem and buying is definitely more fun than selling.There isn’t always a big margin when you’re reselling– not nearly what people often think. So buying smart is very important.
The biggest challenge facing our business today is getting people through the door. Our store has all different kinds of furniture and collectibles, including pieces from the 1800’s – 1970’s. We try to have something for everyone, have good signage and advertise. However it’s not uncommon for people to walk in and say aloud “I didn’t know you were here.” Most of our customers are tourists or folks who don’t live in Chardon.
My favorite part of the business? Creating a stained glass or KidsArt piece that is meaningful. Earlier this year I worked with a woman whose son had recently passed away. He was my age. She gave me a Mother’s Day card that he made for her when he was six years old and I incorporated it into a larger window that she could hang in her home and see every day. I felt privileged to be a part of that project.
GCPL: Why did you decide to start your business? What inspired it?
HM: I really enjoy selling vintage and antique pieces, but stained glass is my real passion. I started Circa as a way to promote my stained glass alongside the antique side of the business.
GCPL: What kinds of training and education did starting your business require (College, trade shows, seminars/conferences, etc.)? Have you ever used the library to help with this?
HM: I have a graduate degree and have taken several business “type” classes, but truthfully, I’ve learned the most by working with people that know more than I do. I was lucky to meet/work with people early on that were willing to share what they knew about the antique world.
GCPL: What resources did/do you find most useful in helping you to start, grow, and maintain your business (Books, software, training materials, databases, etc.)?
HM: I utilize social media to promote the business and new merchandise in the store. I also maintain a small library of reference books for antiques– everything from pottery and furniture to a reference guide on identifying silver hallmarks. I’m not an expert in any one thing, so researching merchandise happens every day.
GCPL: What advice do you have for people who want to start a business?
HM: Owning your own business is hard work. It’s not a 9 – 5 job. It’s a cliché, but you really have to love what you’re doing. Don’t expect immediate success– it takes time to get established and for people to find you. Be honest. The importance of providing your customers with a positive experience can’t be overstated. I work very hard to make sure every customer feels good when they walk out the door, regardless of whether they purchased something or not.
Heather is currently reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara and The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. She says, “I’m reading the first for myself (I was inspired by the author’s determination) and the second for school (I teach Sociology at Lakeland in the mornings).” Be sure to follow Circa on Facebook.