Three women who have left more traditional corporate jobs to embark on boldly innovative approaches to retail marketing in the Danbury area will share their entrepreneurial experiences in a panel discussion on Monday, April 17, at Western Connecticut State University.
“The Entrepreneurial Arc,” a continuing series of programs at WCSU showcasing local entrepreneurs, will present the panel featuring Bobbi Jo Beers, owner and operator of the Traveling Chic Boutique franchise in Bethel; Kelly Brown, independent consultant in the Danbury region for Arbonne; and Meagan Cann, founder and creative director of Workspace Collective in Danbury. The forum will be at 6 p.m. in Room 218 of the Classroom Building on the university’s Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury. Admission will be free and the public is invited to attend.
Co-sponsors for the event include the Center for Entrepreneurship, Research, Innovation and Creativity (ERIC), the Ancell School of Business and the Macricostas Entrepreneurial Endowment at WCSU; the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce; and the Danbury Hackerspace.
“The entrepreneurial process is a journey with a purpose, identifying opportunities in specific areas where problems need solving,” observed Associate Professor of Management Dr. Pauline Assenza, coordinator of the Entrepreneurial Arc program. “These are three women who are breaking ground with innovative solutions for shopping — what we might call ‘adventures in retail.’”
Beers, a 1999 WCSU alumna with a degree in interactive marketing, was employed as a product manager at the education and publishing company Scholastic Inc. before leaving that
job to focus on raising her children. She served for five years as executive director of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce before charting a new course in her marketing career with acquisition in March 2016 of the local franchise of Traveling Chic Boutique.
Modeled on the mobile fashion retail business founded by North Carolina native Anna Grace, Beers’ franchise stocks a classic 1963 Airstream trailer with vintage boutique items including women’s designer clothing, jewelry, handbags and accessories, creating an uncommon shopping experience for customers who visit her traveling trunk show at community fairs and markets, home receptions and other events across the area. “At some point, you have to put your money where your mouth is and follow your dreams,” Beers said. “I learned at the Chamber how to help local businesses open, grow and thrive, so I figured why not take what I’ve learned and apply it to myself.”
Brown, recipient of an M.B.A. from Fairfield University, gave up an executive career at MRM Worldwide/McCann Worldgroup after the birth of her daughter to explore entrepreneurial opportunities affording more time for family life. In 2015, she drew upon her 17 years’ experience in strategic planning and marketing to become the Danbury area district manager and independent consultant for the international direct-sales company Arbonne, which specializes in skin care and nutritional products made from pure, botanically based ingredients. “I had the drive, passion and fire in my belly and had already been recommending the products, so why not turn this passion into a business?” Brown recalled. “I get to share these amazing products and this business opportunity with people across the globe, helping them to live healthier and wealthier lives.”
Cann, who holds a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising from Lasell College and a certificate in sustainable design from the Fashion Institute of Technology, began her career in product development and merchandising at Macy’s in New York. Her growing awareness of ethical, environmental and health concerns in the global supply chain for the fashion industry persuaded the Danbury native to return to her hometown to launch the Workspace Collective. The retail co-op, at 287 Main Street in Danbury, brings together local artisans who use sustainable design practices and environmentally safe, ethically produced materials to produce goods ranging from handmade clothing and knit items to wood work, jewelry and pottery.
“Workspace Collective offers a thoughtfully curated collection of beautiful, sustainable products influenced by the creativity of mindful makers who take pride in their creative processes, and are willing to share that experience through designer-led workshops,” Cann said on the Collective website. She noted her new venture is part of a global movement “calling for greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. We want to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.”