Entrepreneurs in Frederick County include artisans, craftsmen, tradesmen, web gurus, nonprofit enterprisers and more. They chose unique paths for themselves for various reasons: the sluggish economy that cost them their jobs or threatened their entry into the workforce; the desire to end a taxing stop-and-go, I-270 commute that left them little time or energy for their family; the motivation to change direction after their kids secured financial independence; the decision to test one of the dozens of creative ideas racing through their minds daily; or the attraction to simply be a part of one of the county’s tight-knit communities. Each one is finding unique ways to grab a piece of the bustling activity downtown, at Fort Detrick or near one of the major employers in Frederick — all while making a connection with the county’s growing population.
Auto mechanic Nick McKerrow, 25, of Thurmont became disillusioned with dishonest and unfriendly customer service by his former employers — auto repair shops and dealers. “I saw a lot of money coming in and I knew how much labor and parts cost …. I wanted a bigger piece of the pie … and I wanted to be far more honest to the customer,” he says.
In 2010, he opened his own repair shop across the street from Fort Detrick. The used car dealership that set up shop in a former Jeep dealer building on the same lot as McKerrow’s business provided him with his first customers. Positive referrals gained him even more clients among the workers at the Army base. He initially was challenged by managing the workflow, but he feels he’s got it down now.
Crissie Traugott, 34, a former elementary school teacher and mother of two, has operated a photography business out of their home (now in Lake Linganore) since 2008. She finds some of
her customers in the Frederick area, which also provides a scenic backdrop for her work.
During a cold, sunny Saturday afternoon in February, she met a client at one of downtown
Frederick’s rare chain businesses, Starbucks. Traugott says she found “a gorgeous location for candid photographs: Two empty chairs and a wall full of ornate mirrors, natural light bursting through an adjacent window. We sat and took pictures for a minute before we headed to our next location on 2nd Street.”
Chris and Danny Crummitt give virtual house tours for real estate sales agents. A former real estate agent, Chris, 48, says she saw an opportunity for her and her husband Danny to start a home-based business two years ago after their children left the nest. “I realized then there was really nothing holding me back but my fear,” she says.
Chris says that she and Danny prefer to do business locally, and they are receiving referrals from realtors and agents more regularly as businesses are picking up along with the real estate market. What were their challenges? Affording high gas and health insurance prices were two.
Michael and Michele Dickson, ages 38 and 40 with three children, struggled financially to launch a nonprofit built upon their small nursery that provided flowers for companies and churches. Initially, they coordinated efforts to plant flowers in low-income areas, and then began growing one- to three-acre plots of produce to feed the hungry. A partnership with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) four years ago helped them tap into financial assistance. ”Shareholders” pay into the program with a guarantee of a half bushel of produce every week for 28 weeks. Proceeds provide the Dicksons with seed money to feed low-income families in the community. They work with Title I schools, churches and the health department to locate families, who in turn are invited to work in the field (80 to 85 percent do) to learn growing, harvesting and responsibility.
“It breaks down the social status,” Michael explains. Last year, Seed of Life — employing the Dicksons and one part-time worker who combined efforts with more than 200 volunteers (from the community and the state correctional facility in Hagerstown) — had 60 shareholders and helped more than 100 families.
Tinshop Arts Collective Gregory Baughman and Andrew Burdette opened Tinshop less than a year ago. The pair named it after the tin shed located in a friend’s backyard where, in their youth, they created T-shirts for benefits and friends’ bands. After high school, Baughman toured with bands before returning to his original art interests.
The 32-year-old now has his first child and a home set in an old stone manor on a 180-acre farm in Clearspring. There, he and Burdette, along with his fiancée Cristiana Lupulescu and 17-year-old brother Alex, began making jewelry from repurposed aluminum, tin, wire and other objects, in addition to abstract paintings and T-shirt designs.
“We are a collective supporting each other,” Baughman says. Baughman and Burdette also intend to help budding young artists realize their own potential; at the Business Factory of Frederick, the two plan to provide after-school care for kids 10 to 18, teaching them jewelry making, art and music. They’ll also continue to sell final products both to pay the kids and to help finance the program.