published Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Moms 'wearing 6 hats' run stationery, gift shop

Shelley Meredith owns Cynthia Howell Stationery & Gifts with her sister, Missy Elliott.
Shelley Meredith owns Cynthia Howell Stationery & Gifts with her sister, Missy Elliott.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
1310 Hanover St.
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• Name: Cynthia Howell Stationery & Gifts

• Location: 1310 Hanover St.

• Contact information: 423-266-2667 or

• Products: Custom invitations, cards, women-focused gifts and paint your own pottery

• Age: The business has been around in some form for 15 years but was taken over by Missy Elliott and Shelley Meredith nearly three years ago.

• Getting started: Meredith was working as the shop's manager when the owners decided to sell. She and Elliott had wanted to own a business together, but because the economy was poor starting their own venture seemed like a bad idea. When Cynthia Howell went on the market, they jumped on the opportunity.

• Target market: Women and families looking for girls' gifts or help with printed items such as wedding invitations and birth announcements

• Biggest hurdle: Time management. Both women are mothers of two, and they said juggling family and business can be a struggle. "You have to wear six different hats every day," Meredith said. "To shift between them, it's the biggest challenge."

• Biggest reward: Helping college students. The owners try to hire college-age women whom they teach about business. "We're moms; we're business owners," Elliott said. "We're trying to be good role models."

• Lesson learned: Don't hesitate. A business owner can never know all there is to know about a venture before getting involved, so after getting a sense of what they're doing, they should jump in, Elliott said. "If you wait till you know everything about a small business, you'll never start," she said.

• Five-year goal: Open a second location

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