Detroit Mom’s Local Love series highlights local women and the businesses they have built. We love supporting small business! Today’s Local Love Spotlight belongs to Kristin Arneson and Andreea Harrington, owners of Stemville!
We asked Kristin and Andreea to share some fun facts with us to get started. Kristin is a natural redhead–two of her children are as well! She loves to find bike trails all over Michigan that are family-friendly. She’s a huge fan of stand up comedy and loves seeing live shows–her favorites are Heather McDonald and Chris Franjola. Andreea can speak three languages other than English: German, Romanian, and Hungarian. She loves all animals, especially dogs (she has four of them!). And, she has a passion for antique shopping and gardening.
We asked Kristin and Andreea to share a little bit more about their business with us, too. Get to know them and their business, Stemville, below!
How did you come up with the idea of your business, and how did you start?
“The idea of Stemville came together when we were talking about places that we like to take our children to. We thought it would be so nice to have a place where the kids could burn mental energy instead of just physical energy. Since there was nothing like this, we decided to do it ourselves! We wanted to focus our activities in STEM because these foundational concepts are so crucial and [are] everywhere in the world that our children are growing up in.
“In the forefront of starting Stemville was our love for kids, and learning from our own children! We started our business by using our imagination… It took hard work, sacrifice, and discipline. Starting a business isn’t easy, but it was especially challenging because we opened months before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We experienced firsthand how children learn through play, creativity, and use of their imagination. Our children have shown us that they tend to learn best when they are engaged in playful activities, so it was important for us to create a center that is not only fun and engaging, but also fosters key skills like problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. We took all of that, learned from our own families, and focused our efforts to create a space and find toys and games that foster imagination and learning through play.
“This business has been incredibly rewarding in so many ways. It has been rewarding to see kids get excited about learning through play. Stemville thrives on creating a high-quality STEM experience for children. Imagination combined with an entrepreneurial spirit is what helped bring our vision to life.”
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
“Honestly, no! We could ‘see’ Stemville before it was even put together. From idea to opening, it was about six months! We took a risk, but something kept telling us we had a great product. Once open, we listened to our customers and created a space that was for them. It has evolved and changed so much and we are so proud of what it has become.”
What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given?
“Think about the long play. Your business will change and grow. Some of your ideas will work and some won’t. It’s all about the longevity of your brand. Taking risks can be very rewarding in the end.”
Have you faced adversity in business due to being a woman? How did you navigate that?
“The biggest challenge is balancing your business life and your family life. There are still a lot of pressures and judgement for moms who work and moms that stay home, or women who do not want to have children and women who want five kids. Everyone is different and you should be able to do what makes you happy! We have both worked corporate jobs, we’ve stayed at home with our kids, and now we are small business owners–all of which have been rewarding, but also had sacrifices. And we do our best to pay it forward when we can. Help with pick ups, record the video of your friend’s kid scoring a goal, meet up for coffee to vent about life, support other women’s businesses–we are all in this together!”
How do you persevere in challenging times?
“Take everything one day at a time. Your ‘to-do’ list can become very overwhelming, but if you stay organized and realistic about what you can accomplish in one day, the list will become easier to get done. Also, it’s okay to ask for help or to bounce ideas off your business partners. Divide and conquer–tomorrow is a new day!
“We have had such a unique business experience opening just nine months before the pandemic. Throughout the entire ten months that we were closed, we were always staying positive and going over exactly how we could reopen our business to meet the standards of the changing world while maintaining the brand we wanted to create. You cannot change the things that happen, but there is always a solution to every problem.”
What impact do you want your business to have?
“First, we of course want to inspire children to get interested in STEM! We’d love to hear years down the road that one of our customers found a career in STEM and it began when they were visiting our facility. Second, we want our children to be proud of what we’ve built. They have been along with us this whole journey–setting up toys, moving tables around, unpacking snacks, and posing for pictures. We enjoy talking with them about the ins and outs of the business. We listen to their ideas and give them feedback.”
What are the pros and cons of being a woman business owner in 2023?
“One of the best parts of being a woman-owned business is the support from other women. When customers hear our story, they feel inspired, and they love to help support our brand.”
What knowledge would you share with someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
“Take the chance! Surround yourself with people that believe in you and understand the sacrifices you may need to make to get things going. If you truly believe in your business, you can make it successful. The best thing you can do is [to] be completely involved in your day-to-day business in the beginning. Speak to your customers, tell them your story, listen to their feedback. Do not be stuck in what you want and always think of what is best for your business.”
What do you do for personal and professional development?
“We are both very fortunate to have many friends who are also business owners and entrepreneurs. Their advice has been a huge part of our business growth.”
What mantra or quote do you live by?
“Lead by example.”
What’s your favorite place in Detroit or Michigan?
“We love spending time [in] downtown Detroit, whether it’s to catch a game, see a comedy show, or enjoy a great bite to eat. Also though, we both love spending time in the summer up north.”