(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
As Dee Kesterson-Booker was nearing retirement age, she was looking for something to do that would allow her to be creative and also give her some supplemental income.
"I always wanted to own my own business, and I've always been blessed with an artistic nature," she says.
She started making and selling custom gift baskets from home in 2009, and in November 2011, she opened Dee's Gifts and Gift Baskets at 1743 N. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau. The store sells custom made-to-order and premade gift baskets as well as unusual gift items.
"I make everything from baby to funeral gift baskets, and my gift items include recycled wine bottles that are turned into art and usable art like cheese trays, sushi trays and olive dishes," she says.
The first thing she did to start her own business was gather materials needed to create the baskets, and then fill out paperwork for the appropriate licenses she would need.
"I have to have a liquor license since I also make wine gift baskets," she says.
Her advice for others who want to start their own business is this: "Don't be afraid to go out there and do it. Remember, you only get one chance at life."
Sheryl Winschel was pursuing a degree in business management at the same time her husband was a trained Singer sewing machine technician and manager.
"We saw the need for more of a variety of sewing machines in the area," she says.
So in 1981, she opened The Golden Needle in her hometown of Perryville, Mo. The store specialized in sewing machine and vacuum cleaner sales and service.
"Most sewing machine stores sell vacuum cleaners as well because, while not everyone sews, everyone uses a vacuum cleaner to clean," she says.
In 1991, she opened a second location of The Golden Needle in Cape Girardeau, and eventually she closed the Perryville location. In 2006, Winschel bought The Sewing Basket, a quilt shop offering quilt fabrics and classes.
"Now both businesses are under one roof," says Winschel, who operates The Golden Needle at 330 S. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau.
Winschel says she was very young when she opened her first store -- and the other sewing machine store owners at the time were much older than she was.
"I eventually either bought out, closed out or waited out all of my competitors," she says.
The Golden Needle has been the largest sewing machine dealer in Southeast Missouri for the last 10 years.
"I think our business has grown so much because of the way we run the business, including our sales and service policies," she says.
She advises prospective business owners to have a mentor in the same field.
"Talk with people who have a similar business in other areas of the country," says Winschel. "And know your market. Know who your customer is and where they come from."
Marie Gladue moved to Cape Girardeau from Los Angeles a couple years ago with plans of starting a consulting business. But when she enrolled in the Operation Jump Start program at Southeast Missouri State University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, her course took a new path.
"I have a background in training and organization," says Gladue, who is still a training consultant. "But when you ask a prospective employee to relocate to a new area, that adds an extra layer of challenges and emotional stresses to their lives."
Gladue recently launched her new business venture, New 2 Cape, at 226 N. Sprigg St. in Cape Girardeau. "Much like a concierge service at a hotel helps you feel comfortable and enjoy your stay at a hotel, my business helps people who have recently relocated to Cape to become connected in the community," she says. "I help them to make their move here a smooth transition so that they can focus more on their new job."
Gladue says that an entrepreneur spirit runs in her family.
"My son is currently in entrepreneur studies, and I have always loved business and working with businesses," says Gladue, who also holds a master's degree in business as well as a real estate license.
Gladue advises people with an entrepreneurial spirit like hers to look for gaps in the market.
"If you see a gap or need in a market, fill that gap," she says. "A gap is money!"
Gladue also stresses knowing your customer.
"Know who your customer is and never forget who they are," she says. "And remember, a complaint (from a customer) is a gift. A complaint is feedback that can help make your business better."