Daytonian of the Week: My goal is to be a ‘resource for women in my community’

Kate Edmondson is the owner and executive director of  tend & flourish, a collective of female-owned businesses.

When the pandemic forced her to close-up shop, she scrambled to find inventive ways to keep it thriving. “Finding a new way to support my business gave me hope,” she said.

tend & flourish has reopened and our Daytonian of the Week shares her background, the inspiration for her business and how she kept it alive during the shutdown.

What’s your background? 

I am a Dayton OG! My parents are from here, and I was born at Good Sam. I have lived in several states out West and graduated from esthetics school in Utah in 2005. I moved back to Ohio at age 30 and worked primarily in physician directed skin clinics. This led me to find my true passion, holistic wellness. I graduated in 2017 from the SW Institute of Healing Arts with a comprehensive education in mind-body-spirit integration. The knowledge and certifications I have gained in 15 years of practice have gifted me the ability to work with a diverse group of people addressing various needs. Winning the 2018 Accelerate Dayton small business grant gave me the focused attention of the SBDC and all its incredible services at my fingertips. Their help allowed me to turn my dream into reality, and I merged my skin clinic into a larger umbrella business where I could be a greater resource for women in my community. This is only half the story of how my business, tend&flourish, came to be.

You founded tend & flourish two years ago. Please explain what the business is for someone who hasn’t visited. 

tend & flourish, 1906 Brown St., is a collective of small, women-owned businesses in the fields of art and wellness. While offering locally made products was always part of my vision, the art side of the equation was not figured in until I met Jes McMillan at a benefit for her nonprofit, The Mosaic Institute. Our individual visions for our businesses were a perfect complement, and our overall mission to empower community became amplified through t&f. We now have eight small businesses that call tend&flourish their work home, with services ranging from intuitive art readings to Thai bodywork, reiki, professional counseling, textile creations and more.

Our building is quite large, with three floors that cannot be seen from outside. Our first floor is home to a small grassroots nonprofit arts org and classroom space for our tenants as well as a retail area. All our retail items are created by local makers and sold on a commission agreement. The McMillan Gallery is up a small flight of steps that lead to our second floor. This rear part of our building was built in 1880 and housed a church until the 1950s. The huge, skylit art gallery is surrounded by five small studios rented by small businesses with two more studios up in an old choir loft area. Prior to COVID, we held monthly events showcasing a new artist(s) in the gallery with the opportunity to see the tenant studios and experience low-cost quick introductions to their service offerings. At our events you could see local art and goods, hear authors speak, listen to music, watch n art performance, get a chair massage, a tarot card reading and make a craft!

Why was this important to do? 

This is a complex question for me to answer. Long story short, I unknowingly trained for this endeavor through every job I have ever had. I knew that one day I would have my own skincare business, yet I felt called to support other women in their journey. I struggled to find my purpose throughout my 30s and visited every type of women owned business, alternative wellness provider and psychic I could find in Dayton. There are many and finding them can often be a challenge. Because I knew others were out there struggling like me, it made perfect sense that the overall vision for tend&flourish should be a place where people of all walks of life can visit and feel safe, heard, grow and find resources for support in business and in life.

During the pandemic you had to close your business. What creative ideas did you start to get through that time? 

A few days into quarantine, I started to contact our vendors to pick up their items. This felt like failure. I had their works of art, handmade goods, and trust to represent them and sell for them to the best of my ability, and now I had to give everything back and say good luck. I felt defeated but after grounding myself in nature (my go-to), I decided to try one last time, by posting everything on social media. Our friend, artist Megan Fiely had great success doing something similar with local art to support victims of the tornadoes. I decided to create “bundles” and began grouping items that were fun and complimentary, each from different vendors (we have over 30). I HAD SO MUCH FUN! The ‘Dayton Maker Bundles’ were an overnight success. I ended up creating over 50 bundles and with the help of Daytonians, was more successful at supporting our makers during quarantine than ever before. Now that the store is open again, I am posting one bundle per week. Look for them on our Instagram and Facebook, they make great gifts!

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge? 

Without a doubt, my business being closed. tend&flourish is almost two years old and I was not sure if we would be able to make it through. Also, many of my clients have been with me for several years and not being able to see them was heart breaking and affected me deeply. What enabled me to push through was the support, generosity, and kindness of all the new people I engaged with online through offering the maker bundles. Finding a new way to support my business gave me hope.

We’ve all had a chance to reflect during the pandemic. What have you found to be positive during this time? 

There is a quote that fits here. “Positivity is like a muscle; keep exercising it, and it becomes a habit” (Natalie Massenet). However, I was not exercising anything — as that was a challenge for many of us during quarantine. My regular fitness routine is crucial to my mental health. My mother died during this time, and I had many gloomy days. But so many people reached out to send me words of kindness and shared experiences during these times. The outpouring of love I received from friends, acquaintances and near strangers online was something I had never experienced. I was able to find positivity in the abundance of emotional support and messages of hope being shared with me and all over the world from people creating beautiful art and signs of love in their windows or on sidewalks. In reflection, survival makes us stronger. I am stronger, my family is stronger, and we will make it through this together.

What inspires you about the Dayton area? 

The tenacity of this city’s residents. Our incredible Metroparks. The boundless creativity of the many artists I have met. And the people that work tirelessly behind the scenes to support small businesses and to unify our incredible city, like my partner.

What would your perfect Dayton date be? 

I love this question! I have learned of new places from reading past Daytonian’s responses. To start, a workout at Space Three followed by brunch at Butter Café. Then taking our dogs Molly and Luna to Deeds dog park or Possum Creek for a splash in the lake. Ideally, it would be on a First Friday so we could pop into a few artist studios and take home a new work of art for our collection. Then happy hour at Trolley Stop followed by dinner at Meadowlark, Wheat Penny or Roost. Perfection!

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