Jewelry Maker Transforms From Artist To Downtown Business Owner

By Kyle Wind
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Before jewelry maker Kari Johnson made the leap into entrepreneurship, she took classes from the Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton. Through that experience she became one of the first two recipients of a new microloan program for women.

The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Not long ago, Kari Johnson was an artist, not a businesswoman.

That changed more quickly than the 36-year-old could have imagined when her return to Northeast Pennsylvania after more than a decade — initially intended to be temporary, likely on the way to New York — culminated with her opening AOS Metals in downtown Scranton.

In the span of months, the Tunkhannock native transitioned from selling handcrafted metal jewelry online while she lived in Jackson, Wyoming, to opening a bricks-and-mortar store on Bogart Court as one of several tenants working to solidify a downtown arts district.

Before she took the leap, Johnson took classes from the Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton, won six months of free rent in the Kickstart Art Challenge and became one of the first two recipients of a new microloan program for women.

“I can’t even wrap my head around it,” she said. “All of a sudden, I was a small business owner.”

The Kickstart Art Challenge, sponsored by Renaissance at 500, allowed artists and artisans to showcase their wares in pop-up shops in boutique spaces and compete for chances to get six free months of rent.

Johnson heard about the contest through the SBDC and described feeling growing confidence as she put together an application that included her store concept and financial projections.
When Johnson won a space, however, she still had a problem: she needed startup money to make it work.

Most traditional lenders are uneasy about providing loans to a new business that doesn’t have valuable equipment that can be used as collateral if it doesn’t work out.

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