Think big for small business | News, Sports, Jobs

Mari-Pat Beene (left) shows (left to right) Bette Slayton, CEO of the Bedford County Development Association, Steve D’Ettorre, Assistant Secretary of State for the Office of Technology and Innovation, and Madra Clay , Central Pennsylvania DCED Region Director around her art studio, Pigeon Hill Studios, during a Tuesday walking tour of downtown Bedford. Mirror photo by Rachel Foor

BEDFORD — From an art studio in a former newspaper building to a cafe that features local artisans in its window, the spotlight was on small businesses and their owners on Tuesday morning during a walking tour of the center -town of Bedford to celebrate Commonwealth Small Business Week.

Mari-Pat Beene’s art studio, Pigeon Hill Studios, was the first stop on the tour. Originally from Greensburg, she has worked in graphic design since 1986. After graduating from Indiana University in Pennsylvania, she moved on, traveling to San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Washington, DC metro area.

“When I lived in southern Maryland, there was no sense of community because it was very transient,” Beene said. “Everyone worked in the DC Metro area.”

Founded in 2017, Beene’s studio offers framing services, wheel and hand pottery classes, oil and acrylic painting classes, and an art gallery. She even shares her retail space with other small businesses in the area.

“Each company complements each other” Beene said. “We won’t be competing, so it’s a nice space to share collaboration with three companies.”

DCED Assistant Secretary for Marketing, Tourism and Film Carrie Fischer Lepore (far right) listens to Next Door owner Hayley Feaster (second from left) discuss her coffee during a visit to walk from downtown Bedford on Tuesday. The event was held to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week and Small Business Week. Mirror photo by Rachel Foor

Organized by the Wolf administration, the tour also included stops at other popular locations like Bedford Candies; Next Door, a restaurant and gift shop; and Juli’s Wearable Art, a women’s clothing and accessories store.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country in early 2020, Juli’s Wearable Art owner Juli Gonsman said she had to come up with a whole new business model. To keep her business afloat, she used social media features like Facebook Live, where she often had hundreds of viewers.

“I think one of the fun facts is when we first started selling online I thought it would be people we knew,” said Gonsman. “We shipped to California, Michigan, everywhere.”

About 88% of Pennsylvania businesses that exported goods in 2019 were small businesses — and small businesses exported $12.5 billion worth of goods, according to a state news release. For every $100 spent on a small business, $48 is returned to the local economy where the business is located.

“It’s the people behind the companies that support our industry that truly contribute to the diversity and culture of our neighborhoods, cities and towns, regions and states,” Carrie Fischer Lepore, assistant secretary for marketing, tourism and film at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said. “They’re the ones who not only make Pennsylvania a great place to visit, but also a wonderful place to call home.”

Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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