Those looking for a touch of Winter Garden can now visit Winter Garden Collective, which features products handmade by 18 local women.
WINTER GARDEN Every business has a beginning — for Winter Garden Collective, it all started with a walk.
The newest home for a wide range of products created by 18 local, female artisans, WGC welcomed its first customers Monday, Oct. 2.
PLAN INTO ACTION
But plans for a brick-and-mortar location to showcase local goods have been in the works all year, business partner Kathy Romero said.
“We thought we’d be all fit and active, and Shanny and I lived in the same neighborhood, so we decided to walk,” said Romero, who also owns Romero Imaging. “We only did one walk, but we talked about just how amazing Winter Garden has been for our businesses. Shanny and I met because she invited me to do the farmers market to get my name out. We talked about how we wanted to share that with others and with her network of vendors.
“She definitely saw the need to have this place that we can showcase and share, because not all of the artisans out there are just ready to jump into a place of their own,” Romero said. “They want to keep it small scale but get their name out there and have their products available for sale.”
For Rios — another Winter Garden resident and owner of eSCENTials Bath, Body & Home — expanding her business venture and partnering with other local artisans has been a dream come true. Rios previously organized the Lakefront Farmer’s Market at Summerport Village, which she had to put on hold.
“Having the farmer’s market in Summerport Village was an opportunity to bring the community together and help small businesses within that community to grow,” Rios said. “When I had to put it on hold, it really broke my heart. (But) when we were able to see this building, it was just a light bulb. We can have a small boutique in the front that features vendors and small businesses. We have a small waitlist now, and everyone here is a local, female artisan.”
When she, Romero and Drew Masangkay — the owner of Shirts & Giggles — found a building for rent on Dillard Street about a month ago, the decision to jump all in was a no-brainer. In fact, they set up their office spaces and the front-room boutique in just nine days.
“As far as the name, we were throwing around names about things we would like to represent us as a whole,” Rios said. “It’s a collection of a bunch of artisans together. This has been a dream of mine for a long time to actually have a brick-and-mortar location. I think for all of us our vision is to grow and help other women-led businesses succeed to the point where they can do what we’re doing.”
BEHIND THE BOUTIQUE
From T-shirts to candles and canvases, the rest of the building is home to office space for the three women, as well as for Nicole Moore of Expressions Gift Boutique.
Each is a mom and business owner who juggles both her own business and running WGC. Sometimes, children tag along, sitting at a table to do homework or playing in another room.
It’s a tough balance, but with scheduling shop and office time, they all are able to manage multiple businesses and get work done. In fact, Masangkay said, it’s actually easier to work at the office than at home.
“It’s certainly been a lot easier not working at home, because yes, you have all the conveniences at your house and your kids are comfortable there … but I find that when I was working at home versus working here, I’m getting a lot more of my business work done here,” she said. “It’s been difficult but your heart’s in it, so it’s not as difficult as it seems on the outside. When it comes from your heart, everything just flows.”
And the women are just four of the 18 total vendors featured in the front-room boutique. Everything is owned and operated by women, which makes the whole business a model that Rios hasn’t seen before.
“We’re all moms — every single person in here is a local, Winter Garden-based mom,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Although WGC has been open for only two weeks, it already has amassed a social-media following, and new artisans come in daily to bring samples and join the vendor waitlist.
“Every member of the community is the reason why we’re here,” Rios said. “We want them to feel like they’re home.”
And between the 18 vendors, customization requests for anything from shirts and canvases to signs and other artwork can be handled with ease.
“There’s no place better to offer something like this than Winter Garden,” Romero said. “When people come in here, we want them to be able to take a piece of that with them, to take a piece of that community and feel included.”