GALION — Wife, mom of three busy boys, entrepreneur — Brandy Bowser has been maintaining that balancing act since she decided to start her own business.
What would become the shop now known as This That and the Other, located at 107 Harding Way East in Galion, began as a hobby and then morphed into a home-based business about two years ago, Bowser said.
“I posted pictures of things that I made on Facebook and people were asking if they could buy it,” Bowser said. “So I started up a business Facebook page. I started out just doing some car decals and t-shirts, things like that. About a year into it, I had the opportunity for the storefront, so we decided to go for it.
“After we got the store, we added an embroidery machine and recently added a laser engraving machine. We’re offering more services now than when we first started.”
She celebrated the first anniversary of her storefront location in late November.
Bowser said the bulk of her business entails creating spirit wear with the logos of local schools. She produces logo t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, jackets, bags, and a variety of other items.
“Spirit wear is pretty much my biggest seller,” she said. “We do lots of custom gifts and personalized items — things you can’t just go to Walmart and buy.”
Between social media posts and endorsements from satisfied customers, word about This That and the Other spread pretty quickly, Bowser said.
Bowser noted that opening just ahead of the holiday gift-buying season in 2019 allowed business at This That and the Other to get off to a quick start.
“Pre-COVID, everything was great,” she said. “We opened up in late November last year, so Christmas orders were huge. We had a very successful day during the Come Home to Galion event just after about a week of being open, so that was really encouraging. The Galion (City Schools) dress code helps me a lot because everybody needs spirit wear and people were gifting that for Christmas. I sold a lot of teacher gifts, ornaments, things like that.”
Business was going well until the coronavirus pandemic emerged in Ohio last March, bringing daily life and many businesses to a screeching halt.
“Rolling into the spring, I was thinking sports — baseball, football — but then everything got canceled,” she said. “I panicked a little; I’m not going to lie. We had only been open for a few months when that happened, so knowing that I had to shut the store down, I was a little worried.”
This That and the Other’s storefront location on Harding Way East ended up being closed for about two months, she said.
Like so many other small business owners, Bowser was forced to make adjustments to her business model in order to keep the cash flow going. A fellow Galion business owner offered what turned out to be good advice, she said.
“A friend of mine — the owners down at Planet 14 are friends of ours — she called and recommended that I start selling masks to make some extra money,” Bowser said. “I took all my supplies home and started making masks. That brought in enough money to keep the bills paid (at the store) and I slowly started getting orders for shirts and stuff like that again. When we were allowed to open back up, I moved everything back in and carried on.”
Having only been open for a short period of time and being a sole proprietor, Bowser found herself on the outside looking in as it pertained to federal COVID-19 assistance programs.
“It’s been a little frustrating because we haven’t been able to qualify for any of the help that’s been given because I’m a sole proprietor,” Bowser said. “But we’re making it. We’re making due.”
Bowser said the Galion community has provided tremendous support for This That and the Other and other small businesses.
“The community support for shopping small is great,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people are very gung ho to support local businesses and shop at the small businesses here in Galion. Obviously, I don’t think I’d be successful without that support.”
Bowser said she’s learned several valuable lessons during her time as a business owner, including the necessity of buying local.
“I guess I didn’t really see the importance of it before I became a small business owner myself,” she said. “So spreading the word about buying local and how important that is is a priority for me.”
For information, contact Bowser at 419-777-7198 or go to the This That and the Other Facebook page.