History, scenery, recreation—Pennsylvania has it all. And thanks to Karen DeKlinski, reminders of the Keystone State are now readily available to share with friends and family.
In August 2004, Karen opened Perfectly Pennsylvania, a store dedicated to the state’s rich mix of products, in the new terminal of Harrisburg International Airport. Anchored by Brookmere's Wines of Belleville, Perfectly Pennsylvania carries a variety of unique, high-quality products ranging from Crayola Crayons and Slinky toys to clothing and Amish-country quilts and Hex signs.
The idea for Perfectly Pennsylvania came as Karen was looking for a new career following 20 years of serving in appointed positions for the state’s government.
“Retail was the furthest thing from my mind during all those years,” Karen says. “A friend and I staffed a kiosk at a local farmers market twice a week and I got hooked on promoting Pennsylvania products. Visitors are always looking for something special to take home from the area, so it made sense to open a store with everything in one place.”
With Harrisburg’s new airport terminal nearing completion, Karen knew she had an ideal location for her store. What she needed was a business plan to make it work.
“I had been working on my plan for three months when a friend at a chamber of commerce meeting told me about SCORE,” Karen says. “They were in the same building, so I called to ask if someone there might have time to look at my plan.”
Karen received a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) backed loan for leasing space in the terminal and stocking her shelves with a variety of eye-catching items. The store was an immediate hit among travelers. The monthly sales increases have consistently exceeded projections, enabling Karen to open a second store in a major Harrisburg hotel and establish a Web site.
Karen soon found that SCORE mentors were not only ready to critique the plan, but also eager to advise her on making a good strategy even better. “I couldn’t believe their response,” she recalls. “They said I had done everything right, and provided valuable comments to help address issues the banks would ask.”
Perhaps more important, the mentors gave Karen a welcome dose of self-confidence. “That was the biggest thing—having these knowledgeable business experts put their faith in me,” she says. “Their moral support helped convince me that this can work and that I should move forward.”
Karen says, “SCORE is one of the first places to go when you start a business. You’re dealing with something brand new, and their advice and moral support is critical to making it work.”
Despite the strong start, Karen knows that long-term success is by no means assured. “We made an agreement that I’ll go back to my counselors to evaluate how everything’s going,” she says, “but I expect to be a student of SCORE’s for life.”