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. She particularly enjoyed sewing and knew that she wanted to be a fashion designer early on.
“This was long before Fashion Runway and before it was really cool to sew. So, I took a lot of side classes and I learned how to sew.”
At 16, her parents allowed her to venture off to New York City. “I attended Parsons (School of Design) and spent the Summer doing college classes in Fashion and Design.”
“I loved it! I loved my experience! I felt like it was cut-throat, kind of what you see on TV,” she candidly shared. “I decided it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.”
Whitney then attended the University of Pittsburgh where she studied Art along with her other long-held interest…psychology. “I was thinking I’d do Art Therapy”
After graduation, she started doing retail, merchandise management, retail management at a ‘big box store’. “At the time, I was still sewing and still had this passion.”
It was time to seriously consider opening her own boutique.
The Journey From Big Box Retail Store To Having Her Own Boutique
In some ways, Whitney didn’t want to make the transition at all. “It was such a big risk and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do.”
Then she consulted a notebook that had been in the works for years. It listed her strengths and her weaknesses, along with notes about things that she loved doing.
“It led me to the realization that I had to open up my own store and sell things that I like..things that I wanted to shop for. When I first opened, I was also selling some of the things that I need.”
“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!” This was like a sign for Whitney. “This is where I was meant to be!”
She patiently waited a year and a half for the right spot to open up. “I wanted to be in a good location. I’m just right up from the Square in Market Street.”
It was definitely the right spot! That was nearly 13 years ago!
What Advice Would Whitney Give To Herself If She Could Go Back In Time?
She’d delegate authority and take more time off!
“I found that I would burn out and work constantly. I’d feel guilty when I took time off. Once I did take some time off, I saw that it was actually better when I was back at the store.”
“I was more inspired. I was happier. I enjoyed people so much more. I need that downtime to recharge and get back into it.”
Her recent honeymoon this past September was the first time she took off more than 4 days in a row since she opened shop almost 13 years ago! “I came back and everything was still standing! I was so happy, I was almost in tears! My employees are so great and they did such a great job!”
Making A Positive Difference Is Important To Whitney
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.”
Whitney Highly Recommends A Book For Creative People Searching For Direction
Creating A Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd helped to set Whitney on her chosen path. “It’s a workbook type of book. It’s geared towards people that are creative. It really spoke to me.”
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)