Small Business Saturday may have passed but Findlay and Hancock County is home to so many great small businesses and we want you to get to know the men and women behind them. So, instead of just celebrating Small Business Saturday we are celebrating Small Business Month and highlighting the different business owners that you may see behind a shop counter, at an event, or in the grocery store and their stories as part of our Community Spotlight Series. This week we are shining the spotlight on Betsy and Jamie Robertson of Wellness Studio Downtown and Gillie Leather.
For most couples, opening up a new business is a feat, let alone two within a couple months of each other, but that is what Betsy and Jamie Robertson did. Betsy is the owner and TRX Suspension Training Instructor at Wellness Studio Downtown, which opened its doors in August 2015, while Jamie is the owner, designer, and maker at Gillie Leather which started online sales via Etsy in October of the same year. Between Betsy renovating and preparing their building on Sandusky Street to accommodate the TRX system and Jamie designing and creating items to sell, 2015 was very busy and things have not slowed down since. The path both Betsy and Jamie led to become business owners is long and incredibly unique. Jamie designed clothes for Abercrombie & Fitch for six years before leaving the profession to become a professional fine artist for another six years. While Jamie created, it was Betsy who handled all the logistics and behind the scenes work. Betsy handled the logistics of selling the artwork and prints at different juried shows across the country while Jamie learned how to take his original paintings and turn them into less costly prints to sell, and together they learned how much cost, time, and work is required to profit as a small business. When their third child, Mac, joined older siblings Clay and Hannah, Betsy and Jamie realized that traveling every weekend, often across the country, wasn’t going to work. So Jamie returned back to the fashion world and Betsy worked as a substitute teacher at Lincoln elementary while they raised their kids.
Although Jamie was no longer a full time artist, he never stopped learning how to create. He learned a new aspect of design at each job he took and eventually founded Anderson Robertson Marketing with Eric Anderson in May 2009 and Betsy later joined him as CFO where they remained partners until January 2015. At that time Jamie briefly started his fine art career again but his love of designing and making bags and gear for his hunting and fishing trips inspired him to start Gillie Leather, which he did in May 2015. Between Jamie’s need to create things, and the knowledge and experience that came with their time creating and selling fine art, as well as the experience in advertising made the business seem like a natural fit. One thing that was important to Jamie was to keep the manufacturing of his bags in the United States, but after researching different options he realized it was going to be nearly impossible. So, in June he and Betsy purchased a Durkopp Adler heavy duty sewing machine and not only kept the manufacturing in the USA, but kept it in Downtown Findlay out of his second floor workshop. Jamie creates leather totes, cross-body bags, messenger bags, fly fishing bags, belt pouches, and so much more. In fact, creating the items someone is going to use, need, love and appreciate with his own hands is Jamie’s favorite part of the job. From taking an item from his head to paper to a physical item is part of the creative process that Jamie thoroughly loves and has such a passion for. He also loves working on custom orders with clients, whether it is building new designs or adding onto existing items.
Around the time when the sewing machine was purchased is when Betsy approached Jamie with an idea for a small business of her own, a TRX Studio. TRX, Total Resistance Exercise, was developed by the Navy SEALS and is a suspension training body-weight exercise that develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability. The amount of resistance can be adjusted, making TRX a viable and effective exercise for anyone, regardless of fitness level. Betsy had taken classes at the Findlay Family YMCA and was hooked on the benefits of the classes and realized there was a demand for it in Hancock County. While it seemed natural for Jamie to start Gillie Leather, Jamie says that knowing Betsy’s personality and work ethic he knew the studio would take off and be successful, and he was right. Betsy spent six weeks preparing their downtown building for TRX suspension and when she opened her doors in August of 2015 she offered 12 suspension training classes over four days; now, just over a year later, she is open seven days a week with 25 classes for more than 100 clients. Not only does Betsy offer suspension training classes, but now employs four instructors and offers kickboxing and yoga as well. While the success of the studio has been gratifying, Betsy most enjoys getting to know her clients and seeing their progress. She says the greatest reward is seeing parents and children, co-workers, siblings, spouses, friends, everyone just pushing each other to get to class and hearing about their results. Betsy says what attracted her to TRX at first was the quick results and seeing clients earn those results by hitting goals like holding a plank or feeling the effects from a great workout – even if it means they can’t walk down the steps without wanting to cry out in pain! – brings her joy. Seeing their confidence and strength grow as well as hearing from her clients that they love the studio, classes, the people, and new friends is very rewarding.
While Betsy and Jamie’s are two totally different industries, they still work together. Jamie helped create the logo and marketing materials and occasionally helps her update them for Wellness Studio Downtown while Betsy does the financials for both businesses and occasionally helps Jamie shipping his finished leather goods. Of course, there is some friendly competition too! Right now, there is a race to see who can move into a bigger building. Betsy wants to expand the studio to the second floor where Gillie Leather is currently located and install several showers and lockers and offer a larger space for on-site childcare. Gillie Leather would then relocate to a new, larger space where Jamie could add more sewing machines and hire part time employees to help with the long, and growing, order list.
But even with the exciting plans for the future it isn’t all work for Jamie and Betsy. They enjoy dining at any of the several locations, but really enjoy their neighbor on Sandusky Street, Stix. Not only has Stix owner Renz Salanga been a great friend but they say the food isn’t too bad either! They love the different events in town, Betsy is especially fond of Oktoberfest and could be found on the dance floor doing the polka. But, like most, the best part of the community is the people. Not only do they enjoy them on a personal level, but Jamie and Betsy fully attribute the successes they’ve experienced in their first year of business to the referrals and local support of the Hancock County community, which is something they’ve experienced their whole lives. Jamie grew up in Findlay while Betsy grew up on a farm in Van Buren and although they spent most of their 20’s in Columbus, when the opportunity to move home presented itself they did not hesitate to pack up their oldest son, who was then two, and have not regretted it since. In fact, they’ve really enjoyed not only raising their family in Findlay but also being able to see it grow. When they worked in the fine art industry they would travel all around the country to some of the most amazing, and cool cities to sell artwork. At the time it presented a great opportunity to experience a different scene that Findlay ever presented them, but now they say Downtown Findlay could compete with any city’s “cool district”. As they put it, Findlay has become a great place to have fun and eat…and get a great workout…and buy leather goods!
You can find Betsy and Jamie Robertson at their studio located at 109 East Sandusky Street in Downtown Findlay. Wellness Studio Downtown is open 7 days a week at class time, download the MindBody App, available on iTunes or Google Play, to see the class schedule and to register. Jamie at Gillie Leather can be reached by appointment via Instagram, Facebook, or Etsy.
Don’t miss out on other community members we have highlighted through the community spotlight series, like fellow small business owner Doris Schumacher and Jody Combs and Abby Anderson, Lori Ballinger Morehead, and Paul Sears. Make sure to support small businesses this holiday season by shopping local, check out our guide to check each person off your shopping list while shopping local!