Like many other women-run businesses in the neighborhood, Kirsten Schofield found Norton Commons to be a welcoming, supportive, entrepreneurial community perfect to launch her new shop. Schofield and mother Stacia O’Sullivan opened Underpinnings in November 2018.
One of the newest additions to the new urban village community, Underpinnings is Louisville’s only “lingerie boutique,” stocking over 195 different sizes, said Schofield, creative director for the store and a fourth-generation shopkeeper.
For Underpinnings, “empowering women is at the core of our mission, both in terms of people who purchase from us, and work for us,” said Schofield. “Making sure we have an environment that uplifts women is important to us.”
For Karista Hannah, a long-time interior designer and Norton Commons resident, taking her home business to a brick and mortar made sense as her business grew. Hannah opened Set the Stage in 2011, a full-service interior design firm offering consultations as well as in-store items like rugs, furniture, accessories, artwork, pillows and anything for the home.
She moved her business to Norton Commons two years ago when she won Best Interior Designer at Home-a-Rama two years in a row and her business boomed. “I went from part-time to 60 hours a week,” said Hannah. Set the Stage now has three full-time designers and three other staff positions – all women.
“Women are becoming more independent,” said Hannah. “Nowadays, we’re not afraid of anything.”
Marybeth Crouch agrees. The owner of Draped in Style, a custom window treatments business, lived above her business for a year until her house was built in 2014.
Crouch, whose previous career included owning dental-related businesses, started the design business out of her home in 2005. After losing her husband in 2012, she decided to relocate her home and business to Norton Commons. The vibrant social community there provided emotional support for Crouch as well.
Crouch, 69 and her co-owner, daughter Vanessa Yates, 35, decided on the Norton Commons location after seeing on television that the YMCA was opening a branch there. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘That’s it.’” As a long-time entrepreneur, Crouch’s advice to other women is “Don’t be afraid, go after your heart and find a good mentor.”
Tami Cassis had that very philosophy when she opened Cassis Dermatology in Norton Commons 11 years ago. “As a woman entrepreneur, you do experience so many challenges and roadblocks,” said Cassis. “But I just always knew myself the best and when someone tried to stop me, I wasn’t going to let that happen. People underestimate you and that is your biggest weapon.”
Though Cassis didn’t plan it this way, all of her immediate board-certified staff are women. “I have had a very supportive experience at Norton Commons, but Cassis Dermatology is supportive of fellow businesses, too, male or female. I am a big believer in you get what you give,” she said. “It’s so very important for everyone to remember to support local business,” said Cassis. “It is what makes Louisville and Norton Commons fantastic places.”
Like many other women business owners at Norton Commons, running Chateau Bourbon Bed and Breakfast is a second career for Missy Hillock, a psychologist. Hillock speaks from experience about pursuing her dream.
“I had this whole professional life and I loved it, but as I got older, I began to realize what natural gifts I have, and what I enjoy doing that just makes me happy. Women are insightful. We enjoy getting to know ourselves as we evolve with every year and we might change careers a few times because women are complex and have so many different interests. We are becoming more fearless, trusting our instincts, knowing what we’ve got to offer and following that.”
Caryn Kovatch feels like the universe aligned when she bought Fix Coffeehouse and Bakery from former owners of Meeting Street Coffeehouse in 2016. “I met with them with no intention to buy, and they shared the ins and outs of the business with me. It wasn’t something I had ever done before, but I couldn’t stand the thought of the neighborhood not having a coffee house. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind, wanting to do something of my own that is creative – this feeds that need for me,” she said.
A native of New York, Kovatch recently learned of her strong Italian ancestry– her grandparents owned a bakery in Italy – so it made sense for her to buy Fix, she said.
“The entrepreneurial community at Norton Commons was outstanding,” she said. “I was instantly welcome and a part of something like a family. They want you to succeed and you have the support of the whole neighborhood behind you.”
Kovatch said she encourages women-owned businesses to consider Norton Commons.
“Our neighborhood is doubling in size with new homes, schools, places to eat. The Norton Commons Business Association encourages creativity. They really want to be a neighborhood that’s a destination – where everyone wants to go, or visit or live. The future of it is still growing. It’s the place to be.”