Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Making a Name: Through a series of Saturday pop-up shops, entrepreneurs find a launch pad for their businesses.

Chevaun Smith knows exactly how to describe her business.

“I specialize in bling—that’s my thing,” she said.

Anything she can bedazzle, Smith’s got it. She sells sparkly shirts, hoodies, hats, jewelry and face masks, among other blinged-out items.

Smith started Che’ Boutique about a year ago. She had worked in childcare for years, but during the pandemic, the business she worked for closed and Smith was out of a job.

Since stepping out as a full-time entrepreneur, Smith said that business is great.

“You would think during the pandemic I wouldn’t do well, but by the grace of God I have,” she said.

In addition to God, Smith credits a Harrisburg event for much of her business growth over the year—Small Business Saturday.

Almost every month since August 2020, Harrisburg-native Ashley Smith has brought together small business owners from the community at pop-up shops around the city.

Most often, businesses set up shop around Italian Lake Park, but pop-ups have also taken place at Reservoir Park, the Harrisburg Mall and Soldier’s Grove Park.

Ashley saw how businesses were impacted during the pandemic and decided to invite some local vendors to a pop-up shop. That first event sparked more interest, she explained.

“It’s grown in the past year to be a platform for new and startup businesses,” Ashley said.

What started as a gathering of about 20 businesses has grown to over 80 businesses, sometimes surrounding the entire Italian Lake Park loop. Vendors sell a wide range of items, including clothing, candles, skincare items, jewelry, shoes and baked goods, among other things.

Ashley’s goal is to remove some of the barriers that young businesses often face, such as financial burdens and lack of exposure. Businesses pay only $30 to reserve a spot at the event, where they can set up shop from 12 to 5 p.m.

While the event is open to any business, Ashley said many of the participants are minority- and youth-owned businesses—a group she had hoped to spotlight.

For Lanita Wade, owner of N’VE Naturals, networking has been one of the most important aspects of the pop-ups.

“Even if I don’t sell much one day, as long as I get my card out and network, it’s a success,” she said.

Wade also started her business during the pandemic, handcrafting and selling natural skin, hair and feminine products. All of her products are vegan, and none contain chemicals, she said.

Her own experience of struggling to find products that worked for her hair without causing damage fueled her to create her own products.

Now Wade sells shea butter, hair growth oil, edge repair cream and rose water, among other items.

Wade said that her business relies on pop-up shops like Small Business Saturday to get the word out about her homemade products. Through the event, she’s gained new customers, she said.

“Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur, Small Business Saturday is a really good opportunity for them,” Wade said. “Starting a small business isn’t always easy, but I encourage them to do it.”

Smith knows the challenge of starting a small business and having to step out of her comfort zone to get the word out.

“I have to depend on getting out and doing events to bring in income for my family,” she said.

The way the local community has shown up each month to support the businesses has meant a lot to her.

“Even if my supporters can’t buy from me, word of mouth goes a long way,” she said.

Ashley said that she knows the community looks forward to the event every month. She remembers one month when she had to cancel due to inclement weather and received many messages from people who were upset that the event wouldn’t happen.

“The community has come out and shown so much support for this,” she said.

Ashley’s motto for Small Business Saturday is, “spend your money where your heart is,” emphasizing the importance of shopping local. Recycling dollars within a community is crucial to growth, she believes.

Seeing the wide array of vendors at the pop-ups, Ashley said that she sees no excuse for not shopping local.

The next Small Business Saturday will be held on Oct. 16 from 12 to 5 p.m. at Italian Lake in Harrisburg. Ashley expects to have another in November before taking a break for the winter. However, she doesn’t see the events ending any time soon.

“Seeing the businesses come together every month and their resilience makes me want to continue to help them build a platform,” she said.

For more information about Small Business Saturday HBG, visit their Facebook page.

Che’ Boutique Bling Tee’s can be found on Facebook. 

To shop from N’VE Naturals, visit her Etsy page.

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