By Chris Buckley The Valley Independent, Monessen, Pa.
Daneen Troup worked for 23 years for National City Bank.
But in December 2008 she lost her job as a market sales coordinator when the bank downsized during its consolidation with First Niagara.
"I could have taken a job in a branch, but I decided to take my severance and decide what I want to do when I grow up," Troup said with a laugh.
Initially, she worked for the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, coordinating Team Charleroi.
"We were working with (The Mon Valley Initiative) marketing storefronts," Troup said. "I got familiar with all of the buildings. I started having this idea maybe I'd like to have my own business."
Troup started Prima Diva Boutique at 515 Mc-Kean Ave. in Charleroi as a consignment shop, specializing in formal wear. Eventually, she started adding new inventory to the store.
"I started to pick up on what women liked," Troup said. "Then I realized I was a shopping addict. It's a lot more fun to buy."
Starting with handbags and jewelry, Troup added inventory based on customer feedback. She attends a few shows across the country to learn about trends.
Troup touts Prima Diva as "a little something for girls of all ages."
In the beginning, she worked Mondays and Tuesdays at the chamber and operated the boutique Wednesdays through Saturdays.
When Troup decided she wanted to open her own business, she was faced with a unique dilemma. She had no retail business experience. That's when the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce guided her to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Troup utilized the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center to write a business plan.
"Locally, we have eight SBDCs (small business development centers) and one WBC (women's business center)," said SBA Pittsburgh District Director Kelly Hunt. "And the best part is the majority of services are either low-cost or free and counseling is confidential."
Troup said she took advantage of many free and available resources, such as SBDC counseling and entrepreneurial workshops. Likewise, she attended free workshops offered by the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.
She also credited Regina Abel, lead economic development specialist with the SBA, for helping her get the business up and running.
"Regina Abel took the time to meet with me personally," Troup said. "And any opportunity she had, she would give me a little plug. She would send people here."
Troup also turned to Seton Hill University's E-Magnify women's business center.
As an SBA women's business center, E-Magnify provides direct client counseling for women interested in starting a business or growing an existing business.
"The biggest challenge is just trying to figure out how it all works," Troup said. "It's like throwing things against a wall and seeing what sticks.
"Business owners in town network. That makes all the difference in the world. You learn so much from the other people."
She said other businesses refer customers, such as Susan Johnson of Susan Jo's Salon, Karen Kosh of Studio K or even Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Keefer telling customers and visitors, "You've got to see this shop."