Fort Wayne is a great place to live. It’s a great place to raise a family, and it’s a great place to start a business. Just ask Traci Henning-Kolberg and Megan E. Sutton, Co-Founders of The Narwhal and the Manatee, a bath boutique set to open in Fort Wayne later this year.
The Narwhal and the Manatee is an endeavor years in the making, and a combination of timing, passion, and the seemingly unending energy and positivity from two best friends is turning their dream into a reality. In 2008, Megan was blessed with a child with extremely sensitive skin. Nothing was gentle enough. This lead her and her best friend Traci down the path of earth-friendly, homemade soaps, and they’ve never looked back. What’s unique about The Narwhal and the Manatee, besides the obvious homemade, local appeal, is the chance customers will have to walk into their store and make their own bath products. My favorite part is that their bath products strongly resemble baked goods.It’s brilliant, and I could not be more excited for their shop to officially open.
In addition to having a great idea that positively benefits their clients, Traci and Megan share a passion for strengthening the community. Their website states, “The shop caters exclusively to the community it is in, and is just as much about building a strong community as it is in creating a marvelous product.” I spoke with Traci about Fort Wayne, and let me tell you, if you don’t appreciate our city when you begin speaking with her, you definitely will by the end of your conversation.
Traci is both engaging and inspiring. She has scores of praises for Fort Wayne, having moved to a few different places in the United States, and ultimately returning with her family before deciding to launch her business. Most of us see the growth happening in our community, and recognize the potential our city has to be the next “it” city, and Traci and Megan are no exception. Their belief in the progression of Fort Wayne has fed their desire to be a part of that progression, and that’s something that I respect and appreciate. It’s going to help them succeed because their mission and their passion is bigger than themselves.
I asked Traci and Megan to answer the questions from the entrepreneur Q&A’s, and I have to share some of them. Partly because they gave great, informative answers, and partly because these ladies are hilarious, and the best way to do them justice is to let them speak for themselves.
- What made you decide to open a business in Fort Wayne/Northeast Indiana?
We live here. We believe in the future of Fort Wayne. There is a lot to offer here, and the culture is shifting to be a progressive city with young, vibrant people. We’ve both been a part of that for a long time and we feel passionately that we can be a part of that movement.
I see Fort Wayne’s possibility for being the next big “it” town. There has been so much growth in the last decade that is putting the Fort in a great position to handle what’s coming its way. Moving back to Fort Wayne is one of the best choices I have ever made, and I’m excited to have the chance to be one of those businesses that could work as a draw for the downtown area (our hopeful location destination).
- What resource in the community has helped you thrive in the community?
Uranium! Not really. I’ve never seen uranium. I would say strong support structures. People really believe in each other here. It isn’t hard to find good advice and it isn’t hard to find a helping hand.
There are a variety of organizations looking to help entrepreneurs and we have been working on reaching out to those organizations as a way to help with our visibility and name recognition. I would say the resource we have tapped the most has been the Innovation Center. They have helped guide us as we move through the maze of necessities that confronts people stating their own business. We have also been finalists in Wunderkammer’s 5XHIVE seed grant give away. We hope to benefit from the workshops they plan to have as well as the ability to meet with and present to potential investors.
- What is the biggest challenge you have worked to overcome in starting your business?
I have yet to face a challenge. I don’t have challenges. Just move forward and get things done. “Challenges” are excuses for not doing what needs to be done. Yeah, things are hard sometimes. But Traci and I always talk things through, come up with a different solution or a better way. And, honestly, it’s not even that hard when you’re working with someone you trust and know as well as Traci and I know each other.
Megan summed that up perfectly.
- What person has helped you the most in your journey?
This question is totally irrelevant given our awesome circumstances. But, aside from my best friend in the entire universe and everything beyond that (Traci), my husband has taught me a lot about who I am, who I want to be and how I can get there.
Of course, Megan is the first one to come to mind. She’s been my partner in life for over 10 years and we have been through so much together. Our ability to pair up for a business and still be as tight as we are is something of a miracle. Or maybe it just shows how unshakeable that bond is. The other person that ties with Megan is my husband, Andrew. He graduated from Purdue with a degree in accounting and business management so his financial know how has been invaluable as we put together recipes, figure out pricing, and presenting financial statements to lenders and possible investors.
- What is some advice you would have for new entrepreneurs?
Embrace the idea of being unstoppable. When your belief in what you do is that solid, it feels as though you can accomplish anything. That’s how Megan and I feel. We’ve never faced something we can’t overcome when we do it together.
Products from The Narwhal and the Manatee should be available for online purchase within the next few weeks, definitely by Valentine’s Day according to Traci and Megan. Check out what they have to offer. If my boyfriend bought me some shower refreshers for Valentine’s Day, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
This post is part of a series of posts on Start Fort Wayne where Living Fort Wayne explores resources available to entrepreneurs and spotlights entrepreneurs who decided northeast Indiana is the place to operate their businesses.