Entrepreneur Spotlight: Jack Ellsworth of Valontine

Start Fort WayneThis week’s Start Fort Wayne Entrepreneur Spotlight features Jack Ellsworth, founder of Valontine, located in the City Exchange Shops downtown. Valontine offers “items that mirror what is in style today, while still holding on to their vintage heritage.” Beard Oil from Valontine was recently featured on our Christmas Top Picks, and I can honestly say you will never visit this shop and walk out disappointed. Never.


Jack Ellsworth

Jack’s knack for thrifting and his eye for fashion has transformed from a hobby into an Etsy Shop, and now into a local brick and mortar location that’s a real gem in downtown Fort Wayne.

What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana?

“It has always been a dream of mine to have my own company. My mother, father, sister, stepfather and a majority of my step brothers have had prosperous businesses or have dabbled in running their own companies in the past. So the idea of having my own business just seemed to be the norm. I have had a few businesses in the past but they were either freelance work or online only. When I saw the opportunity for a tangible store in the downtown area at a reasonable price, I decided it was the perfect time to take the leap.”

What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community?

“Being a part of The City Exchange has helped me the most. The location and low overhead has made exposure more possible and has helped to keep me out of the red in regards to expenses. Also being a part of the cohesive tenant community — I’m not there by myself — I have the other tenants as support and we help bring each other customers.”

What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business?

“Sporadic business traffic. Most would think weekends would be popular days of the week to shop, but I’ve had certain Mondays where I’ve done better than certain Fridays or Saturdays. Also opening during the holiday season has skewed numbers a bit (in a positive way) — so it’ll be interesting to see what traffic will be like outside of the holiday season.”

What person has helped you the most in your journey?

“I would say my friends and family. They are my biggest supporters. I would also say the people of City Exchange, without this location I doubt I would’ve been as successful. My mother has helped me a lot, she’s had her own business for 20+ years, and she’s had many ups and downs. I have learned from her issues and her triumphs and apply them to my own store and business ideals.”

What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs?

“I say create a business plan and do your research. Also reference similar businesses to your own, see what worked for them and especially what DIDN’T. I had an extensive retail background and used that knowledge to help guide my store design and business purchases. Use Social Media in all aspects – it is your best friend in regards to marketing and exposure.”

What would be the best thing Fort Wayne could do for entrepreneurs in your opinion?

“Free advertising and to create intrigue. Some of the best exposure I’ve gotten was FREE — word of mouth, news channels looking for new material, etc. I think more shop small/shop local events like Holly Trolley would really help small businesses in the area.”

What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana?

“Low cost and to bring my own ideas of culture to Fort Wayne. I base a lot of my purchases off of my own quirky personal taste, and I know that my taste isn’t for everyone, but I knew there were others like me wanting some different, that they didn’t have to go online to find. I felt I would bring something offbeat, weird, eclectic, and fun to downtown Fort Wayne.”

What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community?

“Downtown Improvement District and other local shops have been extremely supportive. Again, Social Media has been my best friend and ally — tagging/hashtagging local companies and topics really did help.”

What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business?

Inventory Levels/Foot Print/Buying. Something as simple as trying to figure out if I should order 5 of something or 20 of it. In normal retail setups there are teams of people who solely focus on visual merchandising, book keeping, management, deliveries, buying or human resources, etc. But when it’s just you — you’re everything all in one — you have to wear many hats and figure out all those issues on your own. I’m still learning & growing.

Visit Valontine at the City Exchange Shops Monday – Saturday, noon to 7:00 PM.

purpleflyer2015num2 (1)You can follow Valontine on Instagram at @valontinevintage, or Like the shop on Facebook. Jack still has his Valontine Etsy shop as well, check out what he has available!


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Brittany King

Author: Brittany King

Storyteller. Bibliophile. Vegan. Native to Fort Wayne and lover of art. May have a mild obsession with pot-bellied pigs.

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