Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rachel Gilmore, Owner of Gilmore's Mercantile, LLC., located in Gastonia, NC, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I own a brick-and-mortar general store with a small cafe inside. We sell bulk coffees, teas, spices, balsamic vinegar, olive oils, kitchen gadgets, home goods, gifts, and novelty items. We serve espresso-style coffee drinks, teas, soft drinks, and snacks. We have customers from our local city and surrounding communities and even from Charlotte. This past week, we just completed our first online order, so our customer base is growing.

Tell us about yourself

I am the owner of Gilmore's Mercantile. I have a degree in Business and Accounting, and I worked for a corporation for many years. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted a small store. My idea was to bring back the corner store atmosphere, like when I was a child, I would walk to our neighborhood store and pick up items for my mom or buy little things for myself.

During the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I was laid off from my corporate job. So, I decided it was time to follow my dream. I am motivated every day by the joy I see on my regular customer's faces after taking their first sip of coffee or finding the perfect gift for a friend, or purchase a bottle of imported olive oil to use in a new recipe, or seeing a new customer come in and say "I didn't know you opened this place! So glad we found it! We love it!"

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My favorite part of my business plan is helping other small business owners. I have encouraged vendors to sell their items in our store. Our city has been great about supporting local vendors, so it's great to see their creations fly off the shelves. In just one year, we have about twenty vendors. For example, all of our baked goods are from a local lady who is hoping to own her own bakery soon. I have tried to inspire others to follow their dreams and offer a brick-and-mortar platform to do just that.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the hardest challenges of owning a business is the long hours. Also, the responsibility of whether or not this company is a success is all on my shoulders, but my father was a small business owner, so I knew what kind of commitment I would need to make to see it through, and he was a great example.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Before you begin, make sure to have a solid business plan.
  2. Try to find ways to fund your business - have cash for unexpected situations.
  3. Never be afraid to ask for help! There are so many people who have been where you are!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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