Three Women Find Their Start-Up Niches
Photos by L.G. Patterson
Over the past 15 years, women-owned firms have grown by one and a half times the rate of other small enterprises and now account for almost 30 percent of all businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
These three local entrepreneurs are joining the growing numbers of female-led businesses. Emma Schermer Tamir has found her niche helping more than 1,000 businesses market online. Jayci Gesling is introducing a new concept for toddlers to Columbia, a business called Tiny Town Play Café. And Samantha Boisclair, owner of Party Perfectly, is using her event planning background to open a retail location downtown.
If you’ve planned a party in Columbia, you’re familiar with the lack of options when it comes to supplies. There’s the big box store and — well, that’s pretty much it. Samantha Boisclair, owner of Party Perfectly, is changing that.
Boisclair opened Party Perfectly, a supplies and event planning company at 1207 Rogers St., in December with the goal of creating a one-stop shop for all things celebratory. And of course, part of throwing a party is the planning — which Boisclair has more than covered. As an event planner, she has a decade of experience working with local favorites, including the Tiger Hotel and the True/False Film Fest.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming of for six or seven years now,” she says. “When I was little, our birthday parties were amazing. My mom was so great at it, and I want to help people create that same experience. Parties shouldn’t be stressful.
“People are busy and it’s hard to find time to plan events,” she says. “Pinterest is never-ending and it’s overwhelming. I actually recommend that brides subscribe to bridal magazines because they have a front and a back.”
Boisclair’s main focus will be helping to plan local weddings, although she is excited to work with businesses to plan smaller events such as retirement parties. “When I say I’m an event planner, people immediately think about weddings,” she says. “They’re wonderful and amazing and I love them. But, I also have a lot of experience with other events, too.”
For anyone hoping to throw their own party, but needing a little help, she offers consultations. Boisclair will put together a “party in a binder” with decoration ideas, table settings, menu ideas, checklists and a timeline. If you’re planning a birthday party or even an intimate dinner party but are feeling overwhelmed with ideas, Boisclair says it’s “a way for people to pick and choose what they want to do, but still work from something tangible.” Since Party Perfectly has items in-store, Boisclair can pull images and ideas for specific, theme-based décor and supplies.
“Party Perfectly is definitely unique because with the retail side, I offer wholesale options for clients to help them source materials a little more effectively,” she says. And what’s unique about the materials she sources is that she places an emphasis on women-owned small businesses. “If I can’t decide between similar products, I look at what the company’s values are,” she says. “As a woman small business owner, if I can find someone in their community doing that, then I try to bring their goods here. That way, by supporting me, you’re also supporting other women designing beautiful cards or wrapping paper.”
The other thing that Boisclair looks for in the party supplies she offers is novelty. “I focus on getting products that can’t be found in the mid-Missouri area,” she says. Although she doesn’t currently work with any Columbia-based artists, she says she’s excited to explore local partnerships.
That Amazon description that convinced you to order something you didn’t necessarily “need?” It could be the work of Emma Schermer Tamir. Tamir is the CEO and co-founder of Marketing by Emma, an e-commerce copywriting firm.
Based in Columbia and founded in 2016, Marketing by Emma has helped more than 1,000 businesses across every continent — minus Antarctica. “We work with businesses that are selling products online,” Tamir says. “That includes writing copy as well as surrounding content, packaging text and creating a brand story.”
When she first started the company with co-founder and husband Erez, Tamir says they had no idea how it would develop. “We started it as something I would probably do on the side and Erez would help find projects and manage the client side of things,” she says. “As we started dipping our toes in, we saw the opportunity there and it just kind of exploded. It’s been incredible from right here in mid-Missouri to engage with people from all over and help grow their businesses.”
Tamir’s background is in traditional marketing, something more complex than most people think, she says. “There is so much that goes into writing, like psychology and design and image elements that work with the copy. Something that on the surface seems relatively simple has a lot of depth and complexity to it.”
As the Tamirs homed in on e-commerce listings on Amazon as their specialty, their to-do lists grew and their business quickly expanded from a two-person team to one of eight. “Neither of us came from prior business ownership or entrepreneurial experience, so it’s just been learning as we go and trying the best we can,” she says.
Unlike a traditional marketing agency, Marketing by Emma is project-based. So, a business might hire their team to help launch a new product, then return months later for a different product. When a brand works with Tamir, they receive the actual copy for the listing and creative direction, which means they know exactly what types of photos and design elements to freelance out. The project-based workload means that no one at Marketing by Emma is doing the same thing for very long. “I’m someone who gets bored really easily and this has been the first time in my life that I don’t ever feel bored,” Tamir says. “
But, business ownership isn’t all fun. “It’s easy to look at entrepreneurship and glamorize it,” she says. “There’s so much that goes into things, and so much stress that you carry. I have a team of people who are all counting on us to lead the way and make the right choices. It can be really challenging, but I know for myself, I’ve learned so much. My confidence has grown in ways I wouldn’t have expected.”
Since Marketing by Emma’s initial success, Tamir has been invited to events in Hong Kong, Canada, Las Vegas and New York to speak about her marketing expertise. “It’s been incredible to become a thought leader in that world,” she says. “But, also to learn how to think on the spot and trust that I’ll do a good job even if I feel terrified by it.”
Jayci Gesling is bringing six new businesses to Columbia — and they’re all opening the same day. The even more unusual part? These buildings won’t be more than 64 square feet each. And they’re meant for toddlers.
Tiny Town Play Café will debut this spring at 901 E. Nifong Blvd. The play space-coffee shop hybrid will enable parents and kids to enjoy their time, simultaneously. According to Gesling, she’s creating something that doesn’t really exist in Columbia yet. “I took my kids to a miniature play town in Springfield, Missouri, a few years ago and had to drag them out of there at three hours,” Gesling says, “It was enjoyable for me, minus the fact that they wouldn’t let me bring my coffee inside. I’m not an entrepreneur by trade, but I couldn’t let it go.”
Gesling, who is a mom to children ages 6, 4 and 2, says it’s difficult finding things to do in Columbia that they can all enjoy. After visiting a few play towns with cafés built in, Gesling says she put a picture of her vision on her bathroom mirror and has been aspiring for the opening of Tiny Town Play Café ever since. “It got to a point where it was either do it, or dream about it,” she says. In 2020, she started making her dream a reality through business classes at the Missouri Women’s Business Center and online courses.
Gesling received much of the funding for the play café from traditional small business loans, but also applied through Kiva, a nontraditional microloan company. Through Kiva, businesses have to go through two phases of funding: private and public. During the private funding stage, Gesling received full funding from the Columbia community within nine hours. “Even after I received all of the funding, I had more people asking if they could help,” she says. “It was absolutely amazing to see that the support is there.”
So, what does a tiny town for tots look like? Gesling’s will feature miniatures of six different businesses, some modeled after local business sponsors. A miniature house, veterinary clinic, grocery store and restaurant are in the works, along with an office and construction site.
While Gesling is working with a contractor to build the 8 foot x 8 foot structures, she is hoping local businesses will partner with her to help fund the construction. Each of the play houses will include toys and items that would be found in the actual businesses, such as furniture, play food and stethoscopes.
Once open, Tiny Town Play Café will have limited occupancy to provide enough room to play. The space will be available for two-hour play blocks, but will also offer a membership option with unlimited visits and free coffee. Gesling says they will be sanitizing the entire miniature town between each play block to minimize the spread of germs.
While details are still being finalized on the exact open date in March and partnerships for the play houses, Gesling recently announced Camacho Coffee will be the café’s drink partner. Check Tiny Town Play Café’s Facebook page for more information on its upcoming opening.