By David Dye
The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
WWR Summary (tl;dr) After realizing how much fun they were having creating their own products, Gia Hart-O’Brien suggested to her mom that they start their own business.
Most 14-year-olds are concerned with school or chores, but this wasn’t the case for Gillian Hart-O’Brien, who opened a store Friday afternoon in Hermitage.
The soap shop Maison de Savon — French for “House of Soap” — owned and operated by Gillian Hart-O’Brien and her mother Gia Hart, of Howland, Ohio, started in their basement about three years ago after Gillian wanted to have a “spa” birthday party with her friends.
Gillian’s mother, Gia Hart, suggested they make some soaps themselves, which led to the mother-daughter team looking up recipes and experimenting with different soaps.
“We really got into it, and it was a great way to bond with my mom,” Gillian said.
After realizing how much fun they were having creating their own products, Gia suggested they started their own business— a business that started in their basement before growing into a store in Howland, Ohio, and eventually the new store in Hermitage.
At school, Gillian said some of her classmates think it’s “crazy” to imagine someone their age already not just dealing with school but also helping to run a business— a sentiment sometimes shared by customers, who are surprised to see someone so young ringing them up at the cash register.
However, being in the business for a few years has turned the day-to-day challenges into a routine, Gillian said.
“I get of lot of “how do you do it” or “that’s crazy,”” she said. “I never thought I would be doing this at such a young age but it doesn’t seem that crazy.”
When it comes to managing the stores, Gillian said her mother usually handles the business side of things while Gillian works around her school schedule. However, both mother and daughter share the workload, whether it’s creating the products, helping customers or working on labels.
“We’re working on our third year in business, and it’s been a lot more rewarding than I ever thought it would,” Gia said, who particularly appreciated the time she and her daughter get to spend together.
When the second store opened Friday afternoon, family and friends came to show their support for Gillian and Gia. Jane Djakovich, of Hermitage, a friend of the family, said she was excited to see how much the pair’s business had grown since it began.
“It started as a party favor for a slumber party, but then all her kid friends wanted to sample their soaps and now they have two stores,” Djakovich said.
Another family friend, Nicole Stephens, of Hermitage, who knew Gia since 9th grade, said she was glad to see women in small business in Hermitage. She also said Gillian being involved in business at the age of 14 could be a benefit to her future plans for college or a career.
“I think that’s where we’re going with education. We’re starting to see more up-and-coming entrepreneurs when they’re still in school,” Stephens said.
Not all of the attendees to the opening came from the area though, as Dianna Nunn, a friend of Gia’s since 2nd grade, made a nine-hour drive from Nashville, Tenn., for the event. While she was glad to see her friends’ business grow, Nunn suggested Gillian’s early start in business could be an inspiration to other young women.
“I think it’s amazing for other young women to see some so young being successful,” Nunn said.
Despite the business’ success, Gillian, a freshman in high school, still makes sure she balances work with getting good grades. Eventually, Gillian said she hopes to attend college and potentially grow the business she and her mother share even further.
“It can be difficult, but my mom always says that school comes first,” Gillian said.