Since Fort Thomas Coffee, Fort Thomas Central, and Studio Root Skin Care each opened their doors to eager customers, they became more than just local small businesses. They each embraced the Shop Local movement, and understood how Fort Thomas holds a sense of community to high regard.
Along with many other Fort Thomas businesses, these three shops have become a staple in our community and also serve as a gathering place for residents. It's nearly impossible to walk into any of these shops and not run into some you know or be greeted by a smiling face. What you may not know from first visiting these shops, however, is just how much of their existence can be traced back to hard working and inspiring women.
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The women behind Fort Thomas Coffee, Fort Thomas Central, and Studio Root may have taken different paths to become small business owners, but a few things remain the same for all three of them: they are part of the 38% of women business owners in the United States of America, they had strong female inspirations in their lives, they put their families first, and they are grateful to be part of the Fort Thomas community.
Lori Valentine – Fort Thomas Coffee
The journey to Fort Thomas Coffee began over 2,000 miles away in El Segundo, California, where Fort Thomas Coffee co-owner Lori Valentine grew up watching her mother run her own business. "My Dad left when I was 3 or 4 years old, and my mom, who had been a trained high school English teacher decided that she'd need more of an income in order to raise my brother and I alone. So, she went into executive recruiting, worked for others for several years and once she'd built up a large enough client base, she went into business for herself,” said Valentine.
Valentine's mother was a major influence on her life, and inspired her to take on the responsibilities of running a business while raising a family. "My mom is definitely my hero,” said Valentine. “I honestly don't know how she did it, and after a rough day I just think, 'Wow, how did Mom do this alone everyday?'"
When Valentine realized that her career in branding design was taking away from valuable time with her family, she knew it was time to walk away from the corporate world. “Leaving the corporate lifestyle and opening up my own business allows me to be the kind of involved mom that I want to be,” said Valentine. That decision not only allowed her to focus more on her family, but created the opportunity for the Valentine family to bring Fort Thomas Coffee to life.
She also believes that leaving the corporate world for the appeal of a smaller, more flexible business will become a growing trend for mothers throughout our country. “I think that corporate America needs to figure out how to make it work for moms if they want to keep talented, smart women around. Otherwise, I am predicting more and more women will go out on their own, starting their own business so they can be present in their homes,” said Valentine.
Valentine learned first-hand that swapping out the corporate lifestyle for a small business doesn't come without sacrifice, but that doesn't mean she regrets her decision to run her own shop. “I do miss going downtown every day. I miss wearing heels and cute clothes and having nice lunches and even just having friends in the office! But I think it's worth the trade off, especially when I look back at my life, I don't think I'll regret switching gears. I've been able to 'get my hands dirty' with raising a family in a way that I never thought I would,” said Valentine.
Valentine's experiences in the corporate world and also as a small business owner have taught her the importance of flexibility when it comes to raising a family. She is able to dray upon those experiences to show her children the fluidity of life, and how your priorities will adjust and change according to your current stage in life. “For my daughters, I will talk to them about thinking about their lives in terms of 'seasons' – they might want to enter into a career where there is flexibility and freedom to slow down during the 'season' of child rearing, if they so choose. My mom never had the freedom to do that, and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices she made for our family. Opening Fort Thomas Coffee has allowed me to stay present in my children's lives, and also in the community. We live in such a great town, and I feel extremely grateful to be a part of it and experience it every day,” said Valentine.
Barbara Thomas – Fort Thomas Central
Thomas was immediately enamored with the city of Fort Thomas, especially the schools and sense of community that can be found here. “When timing was right to seek employment, instead of going back into the corporate world, I decided to invest long-term into the business community of Fort Thomas,” said Thomas.
Since her first college business class, Thomas aspired to one day be small business owner. But when the real world came calling, focusing on making a substantial salary forced her small business dreams to take a back seat. However, she never lost sight of the dream of owning her own business. “After being employed in sales, marketing, consumer events and interior decorating; twenty years later, the desire to be a small-business owner was still present. Coming up on four years ago in June 2013, I opened Fort Thomas Central to fill a need for a one-stop gift shop in Fort Thomas,” said Thomas.
Thomas has had an array of important influencers in her life. She credits teachers and coaches from grade school all the way through to college for being supportive and inspiring figures for her. Along with those teachers and coaches, Thomas gained a lot of insight from her grandmother. “My late grandmother, from an early age, always taught me to 'work hard and be nice.' These words I have had close to my heart my entire life,” said Thomas.
You only have to take one step into Fort Thomas Central to see that Thomas's grandmother's words have had an impact on her business. Thomas and her staff work hard to make sure Fort Thomas Central is not only filled with an ever-changing mix of great items for any occasion, but that the customers always feel welcome on the property. “The shop has evolved over the years into a one-stop gift connection between the community and all occasions,” said Thomas. “Being a business owner in Fort Thomas has become my second home and our customers have become our friends and family.”
Tami Root – Studio Root Skin Care
Tami Root grew up in Fort Thomas, and knew she didn't have to look any farther than her hometown to open up her own studio. “I wanted a place to offer peaceful grooming and be able to take my services in any direction. My opening idea was just to have my own space and have only me work there,” said Root.
For Root, growing her small business to include more staff members is currently one of her main goals. “I am obsessed with learning different treatments and sharing my information with my clients. But growth and success want me to take my studio to the next level, one where I have more of a leadership role and work with others to teach skin care and offer rock star services. This new direction is exciting,” said Root.
Root has been able to achieve success as a small business owner through her years of hard work, dedication, and impressive knowledge of skin care. Along the way, she was able to gain inspiration and support from some of the important females in her life. Root's mother and grandmother were sources of unconditional love, strength, and support for her. These days, she also finds inspiration in her daughter. “My daughter is the best inspiration in my life. My list of questions that I go through when making life decisions is: 1) Is this what God wants me to do, 2) Is this good for my marriage, and 3) Is this what Kaitlyn’s mother should do? That’s the one that gets me the most. We are all flawed human beings, but having standards to measure your thoughts, words, and deeds by keeps focus on the long game,” said Root.
Professionally, Root has been inspired and educated by a collection of talented women in the beauty industry. They include Troi Gray, Sue Beck Currie, and Neva Rogers. Each helped Root to develop her skills in skin care and as a business owner. “I met all of these powerful women while I was still a teenager going to Northern Kentucky University,” said Root. “Each saw something in me and fed into me on such a grand scale. I am still in contact with them. The beauty industry has a lot of strong women.”
Root is also inspired be her fellow female business owners within Fort Thomas. She has been able to create strong bonds with some of the other business owners, and appreciates how these “business sisters” are now a major part of her life as well as the community as a whole. “I feel that we are bonded in our sameness. We all have the same struggles of staying on top of the day-to-day. But when I stop in one of their stores, they seem to really be enjoying their day. And it is the highest honor for me when they come in to the studio for a treatment. And when they refer their daughters, sisters, mothers — husbands and sons too — that is when I know someone really likes my studio. Entrusting their loved ones for some time with me — that’s priceless,” said Root.