John Green The Hutchinson News, Kan.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the licensed cosmetologist who is picking up a brush of a different sort as she opens "Board and Brush", a franchise where customers create decorative vintage style signs.
Sara Nowlan was first introduced to a Board & Brush Studio several years ago in Indiana while visiting her sister-in-law, who manages one of the franchises.
There, patrons create decorative vintage-style signs during brief workshops, often with a little liquid encouragement.
The idea of opening a franchise lingered in her mind and following a recent change in employment — and with the help of a pair of state and local grants — the Hutchinson-native is pursuing the vision.
Nowlan, a licensed cosmetologist since 2003, will keep her day job as an independent hairstylist, but operate the new business at 115 S. Main, just south of Avenue A Park, on evenings and weekends.
A grand opening is set for 2 to 4 p.m., March 13, as a come-and-go event.
"I grew up in Hutchinson," Nowlan said. "We lived in Virginia for seven years, where my husband served in mortuary affairs for the U.S. Army. I owned a salon there, but I thought, as our kids started to get older, that we needed to move home."
They returned five years ago, and Nowlan was managing a local salon. But a corporate restructuring that would have required her to give up cutting hair prompted her to leave, Nowlan said.
"It was like all these changes were coming," she said. "I still wanted to do hair, but I wanted to venture into something more creative and this opened the door to that."
The Board & Brush studio will have regular "make and take" events that people can sign up for through an online calendar. It will also host private parties and corporate events.
"We hope to be open for things like Third Thursday and downtown events," Nowlan said.
The business will have a full liquor license and offer beer, wine, liquor and malt beverages for purchase. BYOB is not permitted.
A regular sign workshop, from start to finish, is only 30 minutes to an hour long.
"You just kind of get in, make a little project, enjoy some times with friends, maybe have a drink and head out," Nowlan said.
"They come in, distress the board, stain it, do some painting technique if they want, then use a stencil and finish it with a wax," she explained. "It's all instructor-led. You don't have to be artistically-inclined to make a project you'll be proud of for years. It's fun to see people who say they can't do it love it and are so shocked."
Even men, "dragged there for a date night or whatever, get there and love it," Nowlan said.
A "pick a project workshop" is generally 2 1/2 to 3 hours long, but with little downtime.
While the location looks small from the outside, the building is deep, Nowlan said, and offers plenty of room to social distance.
"There's kind of three rooms," she said. "The first is retail space and the second, where the workshops happen, is a very large employee-only area." There are also online virtual workshop opportunities using DIY kits purchased at the business.
"One thing the franchise did was add a 'shop local' site where you can do preorders," she said. "We can also make things for people, like cornhole boards or outdoor games. If you want to buy a gift, but don't want to go to a workshop, you can do a preorder online as well and schedule to pick it up at the studio."
Nowlan was able to access loans for the project through StartUp Hutch and the Downtown Hutchinson Revitalization Partnership.
With the help of the state IWW (Incentives Without Walls) Loan Program, administered through Downtown Hutch, and an E-Community Loan with StartUp Hutch, Nowlan was able to create one full-time position and several part-time positions.
One is a zero-interest loan with a five-year maturity and the other is 6%, Nowlan said.
"We are so pleased that Sara chose Downtown Hutch for the Board & Brush location," Lacie Janzen, Economic Development and Downtown Manager for the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber stated in a release. "We are excited for the opportunity to partner with StartUp Hutch and love seeing our downtown occupied by entrepreneurs investing in their dreams."
"This project is a great example of multiple community entities working together to make a project happen," said Jackson Swearer, Entrepreneur Navigator and Program Director at StartUp Hutch. "Collaborations like these are what it takes to create a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurs."
Nowlan also praised the programs as "a great opportunity for startups and a new business owner."
Nowlan said she plans to employ six people part-time and hopes eventually to hire a full-time manager.
"I don't want to be there every single day forever," she said. "And I do hope to expand and open one in another town."
Nowlan and her husband Danny, who is the coroner/death investigator with the Reno County District Attorney's Office, have been married since 1999 and have three children: Judah, Nora and Silas.
"We're definitely looking forward to offering a fun thing for people to do in Hutchinson as we all look forward to things changing, and we hope, getting better and better," Nowlan said.
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