#SheOwnsIt! 25 Women Changing the Face of Lancaster City

We're inspired by these women who are transforming Lancaster City.

Written by Brianna Wiest

Women in Lancaster are owning it like never before.

Whether they’ve been pioneers in their fields for decades or are just beginning to forge their way, there’s no question that women are in no small part generating the shift that’s happening in Lancaster city.

The 25 women featured here do it all – and though they come from different walks of life, many of the lessons they shared are the same. We can’t always anticipate where life will lead, but we can always have faith that big risks necessitate big rewards, the people we look up to the most are often right in our own homes, and even if there are temporary setbacks along the way, passion will always win. Whether it’s interior design, real estate management, one-of-a-kind dining experiences or community-based action programs designed to give back, many of the minds behind the changing face of Lancaster are women whose work over the past few decades has culminated in the city’s renaissance. This year, it seems only fitting to acknowledge those who have been plugging away at their passions, building careers, developing community, and owning it all as they go.

#SheOwnsIt is also the title of the ASSETS annual forum for women entrepreneurs. Each year, their Women’s Business Center hosts sessions and talks that cover every part of the entrepreneurial process from how to come up with a stellar idea to how to revitalize a pre-existing business. It’s in partnership with ASSETS that we are happy to bring you the stories of the following 25 women. 

Meet these 25 women and be inspired by the paths they are forging in Lancaster City.

Name: Alison McIndoe

Title: Principal, AK Interiors

Years in business: 22

A woman who has influenced you: My mother, Dorothy Bane

When Alison McIndoe was developing AK Interiors, the design firm she has been the principal of for 22 years, she considered everything a calculated risk. “I believe as a business owner, there’s never a ‘sure thing,’” she says. “I try to live by the ‘never risk more than you can afford to lose’ rule of thumb.”

AK Interiors provides services for both residential and commercial spaces, and relocated its headquarters to downtown Lancaster in the fall of 2015. Moving forward, Alison will be expanding their design offices to the second floor above the boutique which sells home furnishings, accessories, and gifts. Eventually, an ecommerce shop will be added, too. “Our philosophy is that interiors should reflect the needs and lifestyle of each individual client,” she said. Alison has enjoyed being downtown, and notes that Lancaster is “full of vibrant, creative women” who are opening new businesses, growing existing ones, and inspiring everyone along the way. “I’d like to be remembered as a woman of integrity,” she says. “Someone who truly cared about her work and the lives it may have impacted.”

Name: Henrietta Heisler

Title: Owner, President and Head of Design of Henrietta Heisler Interiors Inc., President of Accelerator LLC., President of Wacker on Walnut LLC., VP of Design for the Reybold Group.

Years in business: 17

A woman who has influenced you: Princess Henrietta of England (1644), Rosa Park, and Amelia Earhart, numerous people I have known throughout my life.

Henrietta Heisler designs spaces in which people can thrive. Her focus on holistic wellness is not only a passion, but a lesson that she learned throughout the course of her own life. Having spent the past 17 years developing commercial, retail, and living spaces that are as aesthetically appealing as they are conducive to building healthy relationships and fueling productivity, Henrietta is a trailblazer in the field of interior design.

Her ambitions moving forward are to continue her path as a key business leader who is helping to develop Lancaster City. In September 2017, she purchased a 23,000 sq ft. property which she hopes to develop into an art-focused building with a restaurant, glass blowing studio and comedy club—among other projects. “Be responsible for your own success and happiness,” she advises. “Listen and analyze what others say, but don’t let those others define you.”

Name: Rachel Adams

Title: Co-Owner, Rachel’s Cafe and Creperie

Years in business: 12

A woman who has influenced you: The strong, badass women in my family.

Rachel Adams knew from the beginning that she didn’t want to spend her days in a corporate environment. A decade later, her namesake café – a staple in Lancaster city dining – has been attracting tourists and locals for years, and she realizes she made the right choice. Rachel says Rachel’s Cafe and Creperie is “her baby,” and she takes pride in a casual, cozy eatery that she wants to “feel like home” to her customers. “I want to provide a good, quality, hand-made meal for the wonderful people of our community,” she said.

The idea to open her own business came in college, when she worked at her first creperie. “I fell in love,” she said. “I loved the way food made people happy and I loved the hustle. This changed my direction drastically and set me on a path to open my own cafe… with the help and support of my family, that dream came true.”

At the request of her customers, Rachel says that she does entertain the idea of opening another location. “Maybe that will be something we explore in the future,” she said. “We have such an amazing crew with us and we’d like to find ways for them to grow with us, so this might be a way to achieve that goal.” Unsurprisingly, she hopes to leave a legacy of strong work ethic, and connectedness with community and neighbors. “Drive is all you need,” she concludes, and drive is nothing but what she has.

Name: Leigh Moss & Alicia Byler

Title: Co-owners of Telltale Dress

Years in business: 2 years  

A woman who has influenced you:

L: PJ Harvey

A: My mom

As two people with multiple creative interests, nailing down a single career path was difficult for Leigh Moss and Alicia Byler. The dilemma was solved with the conception of Telltale Dress, which allowed them to take on a multitude of roles including stylists, interior designers, curators, treasure hunters, artists and of course, perpetual “students of material culture,” as they put it.

Telltale offers curated vintage fashion for both men and women, as well as carefully selected jewelry, antiques and gifts. “In the age of disposable everything, we work to save beautiful & timeless objects from the past for new life in a modern context,” they said.

Of course, getting to where they are didn’t come without risks. They cite signing on for a five year lease as one of those, though they’re adamant about continuing to grow their business and influence. “Developing a social mission for Telltale Dress is a priority for 2018 and beyond,” Leigh explained. “[We want to curate] a collection that is for sale, yes, but that is also like a museum of familiar objects displayed in ways that surprise, intrigue, and encourage a kind of marveling at what we can discover about the past from looking carefully at its materials.”

As for what they’ve learned along the way, Alicia says that though it’s okay to listen to others’ advice. “Don’t allow the chatter to overwhelm your inner strength and vision,” she said. She followed with a proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Name: Tara Folker​

Title: Owner and Floral Designer​, Splints and Daisies

Years in business: 19​

A woman who has influenced you: Mary Oliver

As a child, Tara Folker would gather orange marigolds and pink snapdragons in her grandmother’s backyard, mix them together in water, and hand her the bottle as a “perfume.” What she couldn’t have known then was that she’d spend the rest of her life extracting ​beauty from florals—though perhaps not in such a literal way.

As the owner and chief designer at Splin​ts and Daisies, Tara’s creations are featured everywhere from wedding venues to editorial shoots. Her service is unique not only for her style, but for her ethics. She sources most of her materials through local farms, foraged finds, or even blooms from her own garden. She opened her studio at Urban Place back in 2010.

“​I grew up always being around plants, ​flowers​ ​and art​,” Tara said. “I found my love of gardening by taking care of the garden at home starting at a very young age. Gardens led to flowers, and with an art background in my family, flowers led to floral design.”

If she could speak to that little girl foraging flowers and making perfume now, she’d tell her to keep following her heart. “​I would tell her to just keep smelling the flowers,” she said, before citing another quote that’s stuck with her over the years. “Someone said this and it really hit home: ‘Never fear the expression of what lies within.’”

Name: Srirupa Dasgupta

Title: Founder & Owner, Global Flavors and Upohar

Years in business: 6

A woman who has influenced you: My grandmothers (both of them).

“Upohar” means “gift” in Bengali, and is much more than just the title of Srirupa Dasgupta’s social impact food business: it’s also her life mission. Srirupa is the founder and owner of Upohar LLC, which is comprised of Upohar vegetarian restaurant, Global Flavors catering, Christina’s Criollo at Lancaster Central Market, and a food truck. Each entity serves global cuisine, but sources their ingredients locally, and hires, trains and pays living wages to refugees and others with significant barriers to workforce entry. The goal is to bring culture to Lancaster, all while helping those who are working to get on a path to economic self-sufficiency.

Sri decided to begin working with newly arrived refugee women, whose main barrier to the workforce was lack of English language skills. She decided to utilize the skills they already had. “I figured that even if they had no professional skills from their home country, they probably knew how to cook dinner. It would be a gift of distinctive and unusual food to the Lancaster community, and a gift of employment for the women,” she explained. “I started with a couple of trial runs of small catering jobs to figure out the logistics. And iterated from there.” Sri says she wants to encourage women to explore, innovate and collaborate, and to find new ways to share their skills and expertise in their community. On that front, there’s no doubt that she’s already an expert herself.

Name: Mary Kohler

Title: CEO of HH Graphics

Years in business: 33

A woman who has influenced you: Jill Hassler. She was the owner of the horse barn that I managed. She taught me that if you are going to do a job, do it well and always leave things better than you found them.

For Mary Kohler, printing and design is more than just a family trade, it’s a way of life. As the owner and proprietor of HH Graphics, she and her team manufacture signage for businesses and individuals, and pride themselves on helping well-deserving companies brand themselves well and attract the business they need to thrive.

Mary’s been in the business for 33 years – and no, that’s not a typo. She began learning printing from her parent’s business as a child, and eventually bought it from them as an adult. The whole thing really took off when she was searching for employment, and recognized that her strengths were right in front of her. After refinancing the company between 2009-2010, Mary recommitted to her craft and aspires to keep growing her sphere of influence today.

“I want people to think: ‘She made a difference in my life,’” Mary says of what she hopes her legacy will be. “Our purpose statement is one word: significance. We are a company that exists to improve the lives of our customers, employees, vendors and to improve businesses and community.”  

Mary notes that she loves to see fellow women in the community reaching their goals and owning their own businesses. As for what she’s learned over the years, she can sum it up simply: “I’d tell [my younger self] not to sweat the small stuff,” she said. “I’d encourage her to be brave in the face of adversity. I would tell her to work hard, but also take time to smell the roses along the way. I would tell her to be balanced. I’d tell her to never stop learning. I’d tell her that even though I want to protect her from hardship and pain, I can’t protect her because often the best lessons are learned through the hard stuff.”

Name: Emily Barcklow Mitchell

Title: Owner, Lancaster Cupcake

Years in business: 7

A woman who has influenced you: My mom. She’s always been a strong leader and dedicated to excellence. She embodies what it means to be a caring mother, a creative and hardworking business women, and a strong woman of faith.  

“Lancaster Cupcake is about joy,” Emily Mitchell says. “Cupcakes are just the package that we use to deliver joy.” With 7 years and counting as a thriving business owner, it would surprise many to know that the culinary arts weren’t Emily’s original plan. When she and her husband, Jeff, first moved to Lancaster, they discovered that her licensing as a medical professional would take 8 months to transfer, and soon after, the company her husband worked for collapsed. “All we had was faith, trust in the Lord, and sugar & flour in the pantry,” she said. “At that moment, we said, ‘Ok, let’s bake.’ One week later, we found out we were going to be on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, which catapulted our business.”

Now, they run their own cupcake shop downtown and are anticipating the opening of their new bakery and event space this spring. The journey from there to here hasn’t come without a fair share of lessons learned, though. “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know it can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else, Emily said. “I was not business-trained and I was not culinary-trained. I could have been very intimidated by these facts.” More than anything, Emily believes that it was all part of a bigger picture. “Enjoy the process in which your life unfolds,” she said. “It’s in the process that you find your purpose.”  

Name: Dawn Cox

Title: President and Physical Therapist, Prana Functional Manual Therapy

Years in business: 8

A woman who has influenced you: Beverly Deshazer (my mom). Jen Green, Cristiana Kahl Collins and Vicky Johnson.

Dawn Cox is in the business of making individuals better—for themselves, for their families, for their workplaces, for their passions, and for their community.As the president of Prana Functional Manual Therapy, she believes that when people are well, “they have a greater chance to be at their best with less pain and drama.”

Dawn wants the Lancaster community and other health professionals to understand that physical therapy has evolved past just treating injuries. “We are highly trained to determine which injuries may be coming down the pike, given how someone is functioning now,” she said.

“We are instrumental in prevention… this means preventing injuries and pain and, in turn eliminating need for pain medications. With regards to orthopedic-type pain, medications like opioids and medical marijuana only mask the underlying dysfunction. Our work fixes the root of the problem, and therefore can be imperative to minimizing the opioid crisis and abuse of marijuana, while maximizing function and peak performance.”

“I was told by someone once, ‘You can’t have it all,’ and I don’t believe that,” Dawn said. “It takes high energy, organization, planning, and some acceptance that not everything will feel in balance at all times.” She also says it’s important to secure mentors for guidance and then trust yourself.

“Trials, tribulations and mistakes will happen…but with these challenges come learning and growth, not defeat.”

Name: Judy Gitomer

Title: Owner, Spice & Tea Exchange

Years in business: 1.5

A woman who has influenced you: My great grandmother.

A more flavorful life: that’s the dream that Judy Gitomer set to actualize when she opened The Spice & Tea Exchange. The small franchise offers more than 140 spices, over 80 exclusive hand-mixed blends, 16 naturally-flavored sugars, salts from around the world, and more than 45 exotic teas. Judy says that her dream is to provide high quality products and accessories to home cooks everywhere with the charm of an old-world spice trader’s atmosphere.

Though owning the stores were not part of her original plan, Judy says there’s a lesson to be learned in recognizing that we all contain multitudes. “Some of the most interesting people in the world have had multiple careers, gone to school for multiple areas of study, pursued multiple hobbies… If you have a dream to do something else with your life, just do it.” She says that she’s most inspired by the fellow female entrepreneurs and business owners she sees in Lancaster, as they serve as a reminder that where there’s a will—there’s a way.

Name: Rachael Reinmiller

Title: Owner, Commonwealth Kitchen and Commonwealth on Queen

Years in business: 4.5

A woman who has influenced you: My mom, Nana, and Nonna. They are most fearless women I’ve ever met. They never ever taught me to ‘play it safe’.

Rachael Vieni Reinmiller says that her fellow female entrepreneurs in Lancaster inspire her by continuing to create “a new normal,” and giving traditional business a new and fresh perspective. In fact, that mission very much mirrors Rachael’s own. As the owner and founder of Commonwealth on Queen and Commonwealth Kitchen & Cafe, which offers catering and event space in addition to dine-in service, she’s familiar with what it means to step out of what’s expected, and step into what you believe in. Though it was a risk to take a chance in the industry, Rachael is happy that she persevered.

She hopes to one day help develop more infrastructure, schooling, or training for the culinary arts in Lancaster. Her vision is to create a sustainable model for the direction in which the city is headed. “There are so many great new places opening, but not quite enough skilled people to work all the jobs that are (and will be) available,” she explained. “Since this year we’ve completed our B Corp certification, I would love to help other business owners see how easy adjustments to their operations so they can be more impactful, and improve their triple the bottom line: people, planet, and profit.”

*B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Name: Laura Korach Howell

Title: Executive Artistic Director, The People’s Shakespeare Project

Years in business: 12

A woman who has influenced you: Jeanne Clemson

It would probably be a surprise to many that Laura Korach Howell was once not a big fan of Shakespeare. “I was afraid I couldn’t understand him,” she said, an assumption that her life work is now an effort to rectify. As the Executive Artistic Director and founder of The People’s Shakespeare Project, Laura directs two productions each year, a winter and summer performance, as well as two Shakespeare acting camps for middle school and high school.

Despite her initial reservations, Laura decided to try directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2000. After that, she was hooked. “His large body of work if a gift to all of us,” she said. “It is a celebration of humanity—the good, the bad and the ugly. He urges us to celebrate our foibles and increase our ability to empathize. This is what good theatre is about.”

Laura is passionate that Shakespeare’s message is as relevant today as it was when his first works debuted some 400 years ago. With her business, she hopes that her students and audiences will gain an understanding and appreciation of not just his work, but of another layer in the human condition.

Name: Tracy Lin Horst

Title: Broker/Owner, PPM Real Estate

Years in business: 28

A woman who has influenced you: My grandmother who taught me to be real, my mother who taught me to push the envelope, and both of my daughters, Corinn Kirchner and Breann Koep, who have taught me that love has no bounds and that women are so strong and capable; the professional world would not be what it is today without women and there is more to come.

For Tracy Horst, the decision to open PPM Real Estate seemed like the perfect intersection of her passions, interests and talents… though the path to get there wasn’t always as certain. She started her business when both of her children were still under the age of 5, and broke into an industry that was largely male-dominated. Over the course of the next 30 years, Tracy would establish herself as a leader in the field, and come to feel that all of the sacrifice was very worth it.

Now, PPM is a full-service commercial real estate company; in addition to property management and leasing, PPM is a leader in commercial real estate sales. Tracy works alongside 6 other women, and says that they think of themselves as partners to their clients. “Our clients success is ours,” she said. “We are dedicated to strengthening the Lancaster County community in ways that unite us and make it an even better place to live and work.” Tracy hopes to be remembered as someone who was always accountable, and who gave back. “Give some time to answer difficult questions, a delay is better than a regret,” she advises. “Challenge yourself always, do not just float through this life. You only get one shot at this adventure.”

Name: Marcie Natale

Title: Owner, The PotteryWorks

Years in business: 15

A woman who has influenced you: Mother Teresa

When Marcie Natale left the comfort of her corporate position and borrowed against the equity of her home to start her own business (a move she still references with a ‘Yikes!’) she did so with a vision: to create a space in which people could create, and make memories. From her love of painting and pottery, The PotteryWorks was born, and in the past 15 years has become a staple in downtown Lancaster.

The PotteryWorks is a paint-your-own studio that offers a creative outlet for friends and family to get together. Customers can pick out a piece, select their paint colors, and then get to work making their own design. The pieces are then left at the shop to be processed through the kiln. Though they are best known for pottery painting, Marcie explains that the objective is to be a one-stop creative hub.

“Owning a business is a constant and challenging journey,” Marcie reflects. “There will always be ups and downs, therefore, just keep persevering,” she’d advise anyone who is new to running their own business. “Every person has a unique offering and perspective, therefore the most diversity we can add to our business community, the more value we can create as a collective community.”

Name: Dana Paparo

Title: Sole proprietor, Bristle & Prim

Years in business: 4

A woman who has influenced you: Iris Apfel

For Dana Paparo, opening Bristle & Prim wasn’t a long-term plan, but an unexpected opportunity that presented itself. After having spent years working as a stylist, she was approached about potentially using the space at 14 North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster. “I wasn’t necessarily ready to open my own business,” she said, “but the opportunity seemed too perfect.” With the help of a close network of family and friends, her flagship salon was opened in less than 6 weeks.

In the past 4 years, Dana’s vision of creating artistry and comfort in her work has manifested as one of Lancaster City’s most revered salons. “We are a full-service salon specializing in curly hair, balayage, precision cutting, and bridal styling,” Dana explained. “Our mission is to provide high quality services in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.” As for what she’s learned along the way? “Don’t feel pressured to decide too quickly on what you want to do when you grow older,” she’d advise her younger self. “You’ll have authentic life experiences that will lead you in the right direction.”

Name: Susan Louie

Title: Owner, Citronnelle

Years in business: 5

A woman who has influenced you: My grandmother She always encouraged me to excel in school, follow my passions and never give up. She believed in me long before I ever even started believing in myself.

In 2012, Susan Louie knew two things: that her husband was a talented chef, and that the two were ready for change. After 20 years working as a fashion designer in New York City, the Louies moved to Lancaster and opened Citronnelle, the BYOB modern French cuisine restaurant on Orange St.

Susan says that she wanted to showcase her husband’s “immense culinary talents” as well as introduce something different to Lancaster’s growing restaurant scene. “I’m not one to bask in the limelight,” she says. “I prefer to get things done behind the scenes and allow my husband’s talents to shine.”

While in business school, Susan cites an important lesson she learned that influenced her as an entrepreneur. “I was taught that there are only two ways to operate in life: from a place of love, or from a place of fear,” she says. “We all create our realities. If you operate from a place of fear, you will unconsciously do everything in your power to fail, and failure will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Operate from a place of love and you will thrive.”

Name: Lisa Balaci

Title: Owner, Charlotte Shoppe

Years in business: 14

A woman who has influenced you: My grandmother, Charlotte.  

“Whether it’s owning a business that supports the community, running a non-profit that cares for the needs of our citizens, or taking on a leadership role to help create a better, more vibrant city, women are doing great things in Lancaster,” Lisa Balaci muses. But she’s not only grateful to live and work among such inspirational entrepreneurs—she’s proud to be one, too. After taking a major career pivot leaving her job as an RN in Pediatric Cardiac Hospitals, she decided to take a leap and open her own boutique. Charlotte Shoppe, which specializes in shoes, clothing and accessories both in Lancaster City and Sinking Spring, was born.

The store’s name comes from Lisa’s personal hero, her grandmother Charlotte. “I’d say she was a little ahead for a woman of her generation,” Lisa recalled. As entrepreneurship runs in the family, Lisa says she’d likewise want to be remembered as a kind and caring member of the community, but above all else, someone her family is proud of. As for the future, Lisa is looking forward to reimagining the branding for her existing stores, and developing their online presence. “If you have a passion, pursue it!” she advises. “Life throws curve balls, but you can handle whatever comes your way. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Stick to what you know and do it 110%.”

Name: Nicole Vasquez

Title: Owner, Nicole Taylor Boutique

Years in business: 6

A woman who has influenced you: Oprah, Anne Kirby, Vy Banh, my mother.

When Nicole Vasquez was 23, she decided to take the leap of a lifetime by opening That Shuu Girl, the women’s boutique that formerly occupied a space in downtown Lancaster. Now, Nicole has combined her two successful businesses under one roof, and as she approaches her 6th year in business, she couldn’t be happier to be running the Nicole Taylor Boutique. “Each piece that enters the store is hand-selected to assure you receive the best of the best,” she says. Nicole explained that one of her dreams is to design her own clothing line, so her labels can read: “Made in Lancaster.

For now, she keeps her focus on ethically sourcing as many local brands as she can. “I feel as a local business owner/buyer it is my duty to make sure we bring in merchandise that is positive and safe for our environment, creates sustainable jobs, and helps with education,” she said.

Nicole Taylor offers style assessments, shopping parties, and personal shopping with an in-house stylist. They carry ready-to-wear, casual/contemporary apparel and accessories.

Nicole says she wants to be remembered as someone who created a space in which everyone felt welcomed, comfortable, and beautiful. She hopes her customers will say that they felt like family. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t set goals and go for them,” she advises other aspiring entrepreneurs. “You are never too old or too young to accomplish anything. I started my business when I was 23, and at age 30, I have two boutiques… and it only goes up from here.”

Name: Kathy Frey

Position: Owner of Festoon, Designer of Selga

Years in business: 14

A woman who has influenced you: My mother, an ethical woman of faith and conviction. Steady and hardworking, she was passionate and dependable. My mother taught me that simplicity could evolve into greatness.  

Festoon’s mission is to “awaken and inspire with passion, the creative spirit within those we serve.” It all began with Kathy Frey, who cites that beginning her own business did that exactly in her own life.

Festoon first opened in 2004, and moved to its location on Duke Street four years ago. The shop houses some of Lancaster City’s most extensive collection of botanically correct silk flowers, boutique clothing, cards, jewelry, accessories, home décor, and locally-made items like soy candles. Kathy wants every customer to have a sensory experience each time they enter the store, and works to curate an environment which reflects that.

This past year, Kathy launched on her own Lancaster-made clothing line, Selga. She predicts that it will be available in wholesale this year. “We also launched an e-commerce site in the late summer exposing our Lancaster-made clothing to a larger market. My dreams are alive and well, I’ll let you know the plan when the dream becomes clearer,” she said.

Kathy calls herself a woman with “great passion and intention.” She lives each day with urgency, citing that she recognizes how imperative it is to use the gifts she was given. “I hope I’ve inspired one person,” she says, a goal she’s undoubtedly accomplished. “Allow yourself to visualize and own where you want to go and see yourself in your mind’s eye in that place,” she advises. “Surround yourself with supportive people and get down to your truth. Control the outcome of what you want by putting pen to paper with a detailed plan.”

Name: Melanie Burnette

Title: Principal; LeFevre Funk Architects Inc.

Years in business: 42

A woman who has influenced you: My mother.  

Melanie Burnette considers herself an introvert and though she is adamant she works best solo, she’s learned a lot from the collaborative relationships she’s had in the past 42 years as an architect. As senior principal at LeFevre Funk Architects Inc., she and her team have been behind some of the most significant restorations in Lancaster City, including the Steeple View Lofts, Cork Factory Hotel, Keppel Building, retail spaces at College Row, and most recently, 101NQ.

With so much experience in her field, Melanie has learned a lot about self-awareness and, more importantly, acceptance. “It’s okay to be an introvert. Don’t cave in. Trust your gut. Stand up for yourself,” she’d advise her younger self.

Melanie also cites her gratitude for working with all women, as architecture is primarily a male-dominated field. “I really enjoy the power and insight that women contribute,” she said. As for what she’d say to any aspiring architects? “Complete your education. Your future is going to be long and full and vibrant. Don’t be afraid to pursue varied paths.”

Name: Laura Haiges

Title: Owner, BellaBoo

Years in business: 12

A woman who has influenced you:  My grandmother.

“I sell what I love,” Laura Haiges explains. “If you don’t love it, you can’t sell it.” When Laura got the idea to open BellaBoo, the children’s clothing, toy, and accessory boutique on Queen Street, it felt like more of a necessity for Lancaster than anything else. “My idea was to bring the unique items that I was finding and offer them locally with a personal touch.”  “The goal was (and still is) to offer unique, quality toys & clothing that couldn’t be found in malls or large box stores and present them in a way that gave customers a personal buying experience with knowledgeable staff.”

Looking to the future, Laura plans to introduce a rental service for families that are visiting the local area.  “My vision is to offer the same quality products to traveling families while reducing the stress of having to transport all of the “typical gear” from point A to point B. We plan to offer everything from cribs & highchairs to books & toys.”

Laura explains that BellaBoo is recognized for an abundance of charitable time and donations made locally to organizations that benefit children.

“I want to be remembered for being a company that is rooted deep in the Lancaster culture. The legacy that I want to leave behind is one where BellaBoo is known for quality products and superior customer service. A place where staff always goes above and beyond to make the buying experience memorable.”  

Name: Kristin Snyder

Title: Owner, Sophie Stargazer

Years in business: 4 years

A woman who has influenced you: My grandmother.

“I didn’t have anything to lose.” That’s how Kristin Snyder describes the moment she decided to open Sophie Stargazer Boutique—though over the next four years, she’d find she had quite a bit to gain. With a background in theatrical costuming, wardrobe styling and fashion marketing, opening her own boutique seemed like the perfect fit. (Pun intended!) She describes her store as a “true city-style boutique” and she ensures that her products are ethically made, eco-friendly, or made by local artists and women entrepreneurs. “So often we all want to change the world, but don’t know where to begin,” she explained. “Here, I can say that everything within these doors DOES make a real difference.”

“Over the last year, I’ve decided to reach out to those women in our community that personally inspire me and get to know them on a real and deeper level—not just through our businesses, social media, and brief chats at events downtown,” she said. “When we’re building real connections, we’re more able to help and support one another in ways we may not have even thought of otherwise. You’re also much more likely to walk away with some really cool new friends.” As for what she’d tell her younger self? “Compassion is never the wrong answer, and always trust your inner voice.”

Name: Tracy Artus

Title: Proprietor, Miesse Candies

Years in business: 145 years

A woman who has influenced you: My mom, Joan Doughton.

When Tracy Artus purchased Miesse Candies in 2011, she had the warm childhood memory of her grandmother, Helen Gigl’s ever present red candy dish, filled with Miesse Candies dark white top non pareils. Traditions like this are what she set out to uphold and build upon.

After a fire decimated the company in 2006, Tracy came in and sought to make it a thriving local company once again with the goal of giving back generously to the community and ensuring that Miesse Candies will be in the hearts (and on the taste buds!) of the Lancaster community.

In summer 2018, Tracy is excited to expand and open an old-fashioned ice cream shop complete with an antique 1930s soda fountain bringing Miesse Candies full circle back to its original 1875 roots. “When I think of all of the women in our community who are leaders, it is overwhelming. Times have changed and continue to move forward for women. To have strong women in business, leadership and community is the best example we can give our youth. My best advice to women and future business owners is to always give back and always remember where your home is.”

Name: Anne Lusk

Title: Owner, Lusk & Associates International Realty

Years in business: 29

A woman who has influenced you: Marilyn Berger

For Anne Lusk, real estate wasn’t the original plan. It’s a surprise even to her that almost three decades later, Lusk & Associates is still one of the most prominent and lucrative agencies in the county, and is behind the sales of everything from exquisite farmhouses to homes in all shapes and sizes.

The genesis of her career occurred while assisting a former client with finding a home, while working in an unrelated field. “We went around looking at houses, and I organized and chose his purchase,” Anne reflects. “He told me I should have been the realtor because I was good at assessing people’s wants and needs pretty quickly.” She cites that a working knowledge of construction and architecture helped her, too.

Though you’re sure to see a Lusk & Associates sign on the sales of some of the most expensive and unique real estate in Lancaster, Anne cites some of her proudest moments as having sold historic places, like White Chimneys, or Martin Meylin’s space (he invented the Kentucky long rifle). “I feel fortunate to work with such quality properties,” she said.

Anne says that her overall mission is to provide world-class service to her clients, and that her motivation is to serve others and be able to support local charities to really make a difference in the lives of others.

“Conceive it, believe it and achieve it!” she said. “I knew if I failed, it would not be for a lack of effort. I truly risked it all! Working usually around 100 hours a week, it’s a demonstration of drive, persistence, and determination to succeed.”

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