Craft Shop Owner Darilynn Pitman Says MCCC Helped Her Find Happy Place
Darilynn Pitman welcomes shoppers to Wilhelmina's.
Pitman decorates the shop with creativity and love. The inventory changes as she makes connections with crafters both local and nationwide.
The shop's nooks, crannies, and hearth (!) are full of appealing items.
PItmann's featured crafters are included on a map at the front of the shop.
West Windsor, N.J. – Darilynn Pitman ’13 (A.A.S., Business and Entrepreneurship) is the proud owner of Wilhelmina’s, a quaint little gift shop in Allentown, N.J., that celebrated its one-year anniversary in January. This specialty craft shop features as many as 50 crafters at a time. As a crafter herself since high school, it’s a business Pitman is passionate about.
While owning her own business was her long-term goal, Pitman recognized that she needed the skills to make it happen. “I never wanted to go away to college, but I knew I needed a college degree. Mercer County Community College (MCCC) was the best choice for me,” she said.
After graduating from Steinert High School in 2009, Pitman headed straight to Mercer to major in Business Studies with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. She earned her associate degree in 2013.
It was a busy time, as Pitman worked part-time as a daily caregiver for three children, which helped her pay her way. “Mercer’s flexible scheduling was a huge plus, given my work demands,” she said.
Pitman continued for her B.S. in Business from Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), another goal MCCC made easier through The University Center at Mercer. “I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree right on the MCCC campus,” she said.
Armed with talent and business acumen, Pitman was ready. “Since high school I've been making and selling jewelry at local craft shows. Over the years I have met some of my closest friends at these events. I came to realize that there are many talented people out there who need a place to showcase their creations,” she said.
In October 2015, Pitman opened a country store and gift shop with a business partner. By December, she was full owner. She changed the shop’s name to Wilhelmina's after her grandmother, Lottie Wilhelmina Schrauf. “She is 86 years old and still going strong,” Pitman says with pride.
Visiting this treasure trove of crafts, shoppers will find items that are all handmade in the United States – some by Pitman and her mother, many by local artists, and others by artists around the country who Pitman has connected with through Etsy.com.
Pitman explains that Etsy has changed the business model for crafters. “I am listed as an Etsy salesperson so I can buy their crafts through the wholesale market,” she said. “It’s a way for artists and crafters to get their stuff out there. They are small business people and I am helping them,” she said. Pitman also attends trade shows, including a recent one in Philadelphia that attracted 2,000 crafters.
The inventory at Wilhelmina’s ranges from home décor, to bath and beauty products, to accessories. “If shoppers are looking for a special gift, we have so many items for them to choose from,” she said. There are Holly Jolly Jams from Eatontown, The Wood Shed from McGuire Air Force Base, Frankie's Fragile Finds from Hamilton, Scrumptious Scrubs from Allentown, and Delicate Disasters Art from Wrightstown.
According to Pitman, the historic village of Allentown is just the right location for a shop that celebrates American crafters. On Saturday, April 29, the town will host its annual Spring Stroll. Businesses will have sidewalk sales, residents will have yard sales, and Wilhemina's, located at 40 S. Main Street, looks forward to a big shopping day. (Rain date is April 30.)
Pitman’s delight in her shop is obvious. She designs each nook and cranny to show off her merchandise in the most appealing fashion. “I change things around every day. Something will catch my eye or a loyal customer sees something that I realize should be more prominent. I get new inventory in often, so that needs to be incorporated as well,” she said.
Pitman says that running a craft business is challenging, but also exciting and fun. She credits Mercer with preparing her well. “My favorite class was the Business Practice Firm with Professor Joan Jones. We learned how to run our own travel agency. I was in charge of marketing and sales. That class had the biggest impact on me because of the hands-on learning experience. Things pop back into my head all the time that are useful to me now.”
Pitman also recalls her advisor, Professor of Business Laura Sosa, who encouraged her to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Business through FDU. “She was a huge help, especially during my last semester because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do once I graduated,” PItman said.
Currently Pitman is putting all that knowledge to work at Wilhelmina’s. “I am responsible for everything you need to do to run a successful business – from inventory to customer service. I do it all,” she says.
Wilhelmina’s is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Pitman also takes online orders. More information about the shop is available here.
Having known since high school that she wanted to own her own business, her job is literally a dream come true. “I love my job. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
She advises current students to follow their dreams as well. “Do the best you can, and don’t give up on your dreams.”
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