At The Collective, our goal is to empower entrepreneurs through workshops and events that will provide them with meaningful connections and useful information to help them succeed.
Entrepreneurs Mandy Krickhahn and Gabrielle Pazour met in 2017 shortly after Gabrielle opened her brick and mortar boutique, Aster + Gray. Seeing an opportunity to grow her home-based business, Mandy approached Gabrielle about carrying her skin care line, The SpOiled Housewife, in the shop. After trying out Mandy’s product (and loving it!), Gabrielle decided to give it a shot in her store. During her first drop off at the shop, Mandy quoted Mean Girls and compared Aster + Gray to Rose Apothecary (from Schitt’s Creek, a show they both obsessively watch and quote), and the two knew they were destined to be friends.
The SpOiled Housewife products were really well-received with the shop’s customers, so, reorders and product drop-offs became more and more frequent. These drop offs started off as quick interactions but eventually turned into hour-long chats about merchandise, the shop, small businesses, wine and (of course) Schitt’s Creek.
Both being driven and passionate about supporting small, local businesses and giving back to the community, they decided to plan their first joint event in 2018 (Mimosas+Makers), which ended up supporting nearly 75 small businesses in the area and raised money for a local women’s shelter. Realizing they each had their own strengths that worked really well together while planning the event, Mandy and Gabrielle decided they wanted to figure out some sort of partnership that would support small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits in Northwest Indiana.
While hashing out their partnership and figuring out ways to empower the small business community in NWI, they realized a problem: there weren’t many resources to support these small businesses, and there weren’t a ton of opportunities to get them together on a regular basis. It was at that point that they decided to create an organization that would solve that problem. Not wanting the organization to feel “stuffy,” they decided that it needed to feel more like a community that’s tailored to entrepreneurs (and one that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of suit-and-tie business professionals) that empowers them to succeed through resources and a collective effort to support one another.
Gabrielle is from Valparaiso and is a 2012 Purdue University grad with a degree in Advertising + PR. After graduation, she worked a 9-5 and began Aster + Gray as a side business to sell upcycled and repurposed furniture at artisan markets. A year after starting her business, Gabrielle left her job to open a brick and mortar shop in August 2017. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dogs (two adorable pittie rescues!), spending time with family and visiting Walt Disney World with her husband.
Name of business
Aster + Gray
TELL US ABOUT ASTER + GRAY
Aster + Gray is a boutique that sells artisan-made goods. We sell merchandise handcrafted by more than 100 artisans, which ranges from curated home decor and housewares to bath & body care, jewelry to stationery, apparel and more. We believe in the importance of working with small businesses and artisans, and we proudly support the artisans who are represented in our shop.
How many employees do you have?
We’re a small shop, and we have three awesome employees!
Favorite thing about being an entrepreneur
There are so many aspects I love about my career, but the absolute best thing about my shop is that it supports people. Opening a boutique has always been something I knew I would do someday, so by stocking merchandise that’s made by people—many of whom are local to NWI—we’re able to give artisans an outlet to sell their goods, and I’m able to do something I love every single day. Having my own store has also given me a chance to create a happy, positive work environment. I’ve worked really hard to make sure my employees love being at the store and that they know how much I appreciate them. I’ve worked in toxic environments, and I’ve unfortunately been sucked into the negativity and have screwed up because of it. But, I’ve realized my mistakes and understand why I made them, and I never want my employees to feel undervalued and unappreciated like I have in the past.
Most difficult part about being an entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur comes with its fair share of challenges, like time management, accounting, multitasking and marketing. I’m not a pro in any of those areas, so I’ve realized that in order to be successful, it’s so important to find the right people who can excel in the areas you’re lacking. We’ve built a really great team with trustworthy people who all bring different strengths to the table, and it works really well.
The most difficult part of being an entrepreneur has been becoming okay with uncertainty. When you have your own business, you’re going to have great days, and you’re going to have not so great days.
There’s usually not the “right” time to do something, and you’re not always going to feel ready to try something new. But, you’ve still got to take action and try. If things don’t pan out the way you wanted the first time, you keep trying until you figure it out. And sometimes, when things don’t turn out as expected, it’s a really great thing! Although this has been a challenge for me, it’s been one of the most important things that I’ve learned. It’s pushed me to be flexible and willing to adapt, which I think is key in being successful.
Most valuable thing/lesson you’ve learned being an entrepreneur
Success doesn’t happen overnight. There will be good days and days you feel like quitting, and that’s okay. Being a business owner is one of the best things I’ve ever done, and it’s definitely one of the hardest.
Favorite local restaurant
Ricochet - they have the BEST tacos and margaritas!
Favorite local shop
Ivy Boutique is my favorite local clothing shop!
Favorite Entrepreur Resource
Hands down The MEFCO Project Podcast with Andy Frisella. His content is real, relevant, relatable and so true. He tells it how it is, and I love him for it.
I pour myself a glass of wine, turn on whatever my husband and I are binging on Netflix (currently Parks and Rec), and look through listings of historic homes on Circa Old Homes.
Fun fact about you
One day, I would love to help fund a shelter for pitbulls. I have two pittie mix rescues, and they are just the sweetest dogs in the world!
Mandy is originally from Michigan City and is a graduate of Michigan City High School. She received her degree in marketing from Ball State and worked retail at Lighthouse Mall after graduation. She married her husband Josh in 2007 and became a housewife/stay at home mom when she was pregnant with her son Mark. Once Mark started school full time, Mandy wanted to make her long time dream of owning a skin care business a reality, and founded The SpOiled Housewife with a $1,000 loan from her family savings. Mandy lives in La Porte with her husband, son, and Hank, their Wheaten Terrier.
Name of Business
The SpOiled Housewife
TELL US ABOUT THE SPOILED HOUSEWIFE
I handcraft natural + organic body and skin care without using synthetics or preservatives. It was founded in 2017.
Number of Employees
Just me, but sometimes I have a little help from my amazingly supportive friends and family.
What is the inspiration behind your name?
I’m a huge Real Housewives fan, and was a housewife at the time I launched my business. I also use a lot of oil in my products, so it all just seemed to fit!
What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
There are so many things I love about it! The customers and other entrepreneurs I have met, showing my son that you can do anything if you have a vision and work hard to make it a happen, and I absolutely love seeing an idea I have become a reality!
What is the most difficult thing about being an entrepreneur?
It’s a toss up between keeping the books/tax prep (I literally have nightmares that I miscalculate or do something wrong), and trying to find balance between work and home life. I have a hard time shutting off my brain so sometimes my work consumes me.
Favorite local restaurant
Hands down Olga’s Place in Westville. Everything is made from scratch and so freaking good. If you haven’t been there, you’re missing out!
Favorite local shop
Aster + Gray, obviously! I’m also big fan of Indie Indie Bang Bang, they have super fun pop culture items.
Favorite entrepreneur resource
I cannot stress how much I love The MFCEO Project with Andy Frisella. He has a way of breaking it down, kicking you in the ass and making you want to dominate whatever you are doing. It’s a total game changer and makes me feel like I have advantage just by listening it.
Most valuable thing you’ve learned being an entrepreneur
You’re going to be told no, be knocked down, and fail (so. many. times.), but you have to keep going and use all that to fuel you to be better.
Drinking local craft beer (Four Fathers + Burn ‘Em are my absolute faves) and watching Schitt’s Creek or anything on Bravo.
I can recite a solid amount of old-school gangsta rap.