written by: Zanne Lamb-Hunt
Whitney Dahlberg was born in Pennsylvania, attended classes at New York’s Parson’s School of Design and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. Her ‘eye for style’ led her to open The Muse in downtown Frederick nearly 13 years ago.
Whitney shares some of the benefits of shopping local.
* Supporting Your Local Community
When you purchase things that are handmade, you’re supporting one of your own neighbors.
At the Muse, 100% of the products are made in the USA and handmade. And, shares Whitney, “70% of everything in our store is locally made. So, when you do that type of shopping, you’re supporting your local community.”
* Dealing Directly With The Owner
When shopping locally, unlike the impersonal experience of a big box retailer, you’re often dealing directly with the store owner.
“You can learn different things about what you’re buying. You’re buying a story about the artist. You’re learning about where they come from, what they used to make the item and how they made it.”
* The Products Are Unique
Unlike purchasing mass-produced items at a chain-type store, the products are often one-of-a-kind. Even when items are within the same category, there are usually subtle differences that set them apart as is typical of handmade items — no two pieces are apt to be exactly alike!
And, when it comes to clothing and accessories, Whitney guarantees that “you’re not going to look like anyone else!”
Born in Pennsylvania, Whitney has always been interested in Art. “My parents were really great. They enrolled me in a lot of classes. I especially enjoyed sewing, so I wanted to be a fashion designer.”
Whitney took some evening college classes, when both in middle school and high school, to study the figure and get her drawing down. She then spent a Summer doing college classes in Fashion and Design, after her parents allowed her to attend New York City’s Parson’s School of Design.
She walked away from the experience thankful to have had it but not knowing what she really wanted to do career-wise. Aside from Art, she had also always had an interest in Psychology. She studied both at the University of Pittsburgh, considering an eventual career in Art Therapy.
However, after graduation, Whitney found herself immersed in retail at a ‘big box store’ and held retail and merchandise management positions. Still, her ‘passion for fashion’ kept her sewing.
The Journey From Big Box Retail Store To Having Her Own Boutique
Whitney knew that becoming an entrepreneur meant taking a risk. She spent time soul-searching and looking through a notebook that she had been working on for years. It highlighted her strengths, her weaknesses and her passions. And, she did everything possible to properly prepare!
“I took a Small Business Management class at Anne Arundel Community College just to get some experience. I met with a lot of SCORE representatives, who are retired entrepreneurs who help people who want to open up their own businesses. I went to classes the library had.”
“I wrote a 40-page business plan and interviewed a lot of business owners who did what I thought I wanted to do. I met with some banks that I had friends at so I could practice my pitch to get the loan that I was looking for.”
“I knew that I wanted a really cute Downtown location. I went to a bunch of different downtowns to seek out a downtown that I liked. When I came to Frederick for the first time…all the clouds parted, the Sun came out!” It was Whitney’s AHA moment! That’s when she knew that ‘this is where I was meant to be!”
Whitney patiently waited a year and a half for just the right spot to open up. “I wanted to be in a good location.” It paid off! “I’m just right up from the Square in Market Street.”
It must be the perfect location because that was 13 years ago!
Whitney’s Biggest Challenge As A New Entrepreneur
For Whitney, maintaining a business is more difficult than opening one. “You can open up a store but it takes a lot harder work to keep it going. You have to constantly keep fresh and keep interested.”
“You also have to keep the merchandise changing. We renovated a couple of years ago. You just have to constantly re-invent yourself and keep things changing to keep everyone interested.”
It’s A Great Feeling To Make A Difference In Your Community
Whitney and her friend, Courtney Prahl (an artist at the Muse), started a community art charity called Lend A Hand. “This year, we raised over $4000 for Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership. Last year, we raised over $4000 for Blessings In A Backpack.”
“It’s actually a lot of fun. We sell canvases to customers and community members and they create a piece of artwork according to whatever theme we have going that year. They bring it back, we have a silent auction and all of the money goes to the Charity.”
When It Comes To Favorite Apps, Instagram Wins Hands Down!
“By far, it’s Instagram! I’m also an artist, not only a business person. I use Instagram to look at other artists that I admire and it keeps me inspired.”
Whitney adds, “There are a few stores that do really cool displays that I like to shop at. I look at their Instagram feed and then I’ll get ideas. It inspires me! I love it!”
Stop by The Muse in downtown Frederick to browse the best selections in handmade jewelry, stationary, bath products, candles, wearables for the entire family and so much more! Support your own local community and your creative neighbors!
19 North Market Street (In the 1st block of Market Street from the Square)