Their grandfather owned the largest trucking company in Georgia, their parents are businesses owners, and now, three sisters find themselves a part of the next generation of entrepreneurs in Franklin County.
“We’ve all been involved in small business most or all of our lives,” said Rachel Eads.
Allie, Kelsie, and Rachel Eads are the masterminds behind three area niche businesses: Make Your Move Performing Arts, The Blue Giraffe Art Studio, and The Beaded Needle. The first two are located in downtown Ottawa at 422 S. Main St. and The Beaded Needle maintains a digital storefront on Facebook.
Allie was the first of the three to break into the area business scene, starting up Make Your Move Performing Arts at age 15.
“I started it out of a church because there was a need for dance,” Allie said. “I started with ten students, I ended up my first year with 60, and now I have 320. Some days it’s crazy, most days I’m excited.”
When Allie converted her current downtown location to a dance studio, the space had a classroom-sized area leftover.
“We were kind of trying to figure out what to do with it, and my mom says ‘Kelsie is going to teach art classes,’” Kelsie said, laughing. “So we just went for it. That was three years ago, in 2016.”
Since that time, Kelsie has grown The Blue Giraffe Art Studio to include a diverse class selection, teaching for all experience levels and for ages 4 through 16 and beyond.
“I’ve always liked art and been pretty good at art, and I think it’s something that kids don’t get as much of an opportunity for in school anymore,” Kelsey said. “So I think it’s good for them to have a place to do their own art, without being inside limitations.”
Though all three sisters leverage internet resources to grow their businesses, Rachel has opted for the online-only business model. The Beaded Needle was borne out of Rachel’s love for crafting, she said.
“After I’ve gotten done with the day’s work, I have never been able to sit still and do nothing,” Rachel said. “So I like to knit, and I like to crochet, I like to to sew, and I like to make jewelry. I have all of these things I’d like to make...”
“...She can make literally anything...” Kelsie said.
“...and I’m like, ‘Who am I going to give all the stuff to?’” Rachel said. “So I went to a craft show about three years ago in Wellsville, that was the first one I ever did.”
From there, The Beaded Needle has evolved into full-fledged variety-craft custom order business.
“I don’t like to be confined to only knitting, or only crocheting,” Rachel said. “So if somebody gives me an idea of what they want, I like to take it and do it.”
Since starting, Rachel has picked up other skills, like metal stamping.
“I always just want to learn the next thing,” Rachel said.
According to Allie, that sort of attitude is essential for maintaining a small business.
“Working in business you have to constantly evolve; you can’t be a doormat,” she said.
Networking is also crucial, according to the three, with Allie giving an example of her dance parents pulling together to build a complex prop for an upcoming show. Also important is location, and according to the three, Ottawa is ripe for their sort of entrepreneurship.
“This area is growing but staying a community, and there’s good people in Ottawa,” Allie said. “Everyone is so encouraging to each other here.”
Despite the perks owning their own businesses, roadblocks do occasionally appear. For the three sisters, their youth presents a problem now and again.
“Sometimes people don’t take you seriously, or don’t respect what you say,” said Allie, now 20-years-old. “When I was 17 and 18, if I had told some people my age, they probably would not have had their kids in dance.”
In practice, though, their age has proven an advantage rather than a handicap; in September 2018, Allie was invited by Facebook to speak at an event in Topeka on her business’s status as one of the top 10 growing Facebook pages in the region
“I got the email, I thought it was fake, and they ended up calling to talk to me about it,” Allie said. “I was invited to come up on stage and talk about how I use Facebook.”
Through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, all three sisters agree on the rewarding nature of seeing others’ dreams fulfilled through their businesses — and the need for continual improvement.
“You have to take in as much knowledge as you can, take advice from people who know better, and never stop learning,” Kelsie said.