The story begins in 1994, when a class in painting on clothing led Beverly Bartel to begin selling her hand-painted clothes at a local weekend farmers' market. The strong response led her to the art show circuit, attracting even more attention, but also forcing her to make some hard decisions. "Everyone kept saying that I ought to do this for a living," she says. "I just couldn't see how I could make it work."
In 1997, Beverly Bartel learned that a small downtown retail location would soon become available. Acting on her instinct, she asked her family for financial support and signed a three-year lease on the site. Displaying her creations and lines of manufactured women's and children's clothes in the front, Bartel set up a studio in the back room and waited for the customers to call. And call they did—creating so many distractions that Bartel often found herself spending more time at the cash register than in her studio.
Being one of only two women's clothing stores in the small community of 10,000 residents, Beverly Bartel's store has become a popular shopping destination. She just moved from her cramped quarters to a more spacious location across the street. Bartel also makes every effort to keep her store in the public eye, through advertisements, community involvement, and, recently, a Mothers' Day photo spread of her designs for Wisconsin Woman magazine.
Beverly Bartel was shocked when she learned that her SCORE mentor would be Yoko Gochinas. A well-known figure in the fashion and design industry, Gochinas seemed to be the perfect match for Bartel, an artist trying to figure out how to turn her talents into a business.
Gochinas was there to help me refocus my energies. "Yoko is a very demanding person, but she also understands that not everybody is a born risk-taker," Bartel says. "She helped build my self-confidence and kept me moving forward."
Beverly Bartel heard about SCORE and enrolled in the Milwaukee Chapter's four-part seminar on business start-ups. Although the idea of making a living off her talents became increasingly appealing, it seemed that behind every silver lining lurked a dark gray cloud. "There seemed to be so many unknowns about running a business," she says. "I was also dealing with a divorce and the prospect of having to raise two kids on my own. I began to wonder whether this was such a good idea after all."