Setting Up Shop
Anna Dickinson has mastered the delicate balance of owning a successful business and being an amazing mom. Read in our 2016 Boss Moms feature, how she was able to boldly follow her dreams by building a business from the ground up, all while holding the demanding, yet rewarding title of “Mom.”
By Amy Gordy/Photography by Lilly Darragh
Anna Dickinson was content as a newly- pregnant art teacher when her sister-in-law, Eleanor, decided they were going to open up a home décor boutique. “We were both artists and had a similar quirky, edgy taste. Eleanor came to me and said, ‘Let’s open a store,’ so we started researching and setting up. It took us about a year before we opened the doors at White Goat,” Dickinson said.
White Goat is full of chic home décor. It’s a one-stop-shop in the Heights for all your French-country-vintage styling needs.
“We finally opened the store when my first daughter, Evelyn, was 6 months old,” Dickinson said. “The store is like a twin to Evelyn, like another baby I had at the exact same time.”
Raising a newborn baby and a newborn shop was a difficult task, but Dickinson was able to do it with the help of her sister-in-law— who is now no longer a part of White Goat—and because of her passion and drive to make it work. “It was great fun, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
As a toddler, Evelyn spent a lot of time at the store and was surely glad when Dickinson and her husband, Thomas, added another little shopgirl, Mary Harmon, to the mix. “I had my second baby three years after Evelyn, and was back at work five weeks after giving birth. It was really a lot to take on at that point, but I have some great employees who pitched in, some of which have been with me since the beginning.”
Now that the girls are older, it’s much easier for Dickinson to balance work and family time. “The girls love coming to the store and playing shop and getting into the paints. Evelyn plays interior designer and rearranges the furniture when she thinks it needs it.”
No matter how busy she’s gotten, Dickinson has always made a point to stop and remind herself that “it’s always going to be there tomorrow.” Making time for her family is a priority, no matter how overwhelming things get with her business. “I get frustrated that I can’t get it all done in a day. There may still be invoices to pay and other ends to tie up, but sometimes I just want to go home and be with my family. I remind myself that it’s OK if I don’t get it all done, because the work will all be here tomorrow.”
THE INSIDE SCOOP with ANNA
RECALL AN INSTANCE WHEN YOU HAD TO SACRIFICE SOMETHING IN YOUR CAREER FOR MOTHERHOOD. The biggest sacrifice in my entire career was closing my second White Goat location. The Conway location was actually doing fine—my family was not. It was too much for all of us. One store is an incredible amount of work. Two stores is impossible, at least it was for me. Two locations were too much for me to manage alone and be the mother and wife I wanted to be.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ANY MOTHER WITH A DREAM OF STARTING A BUSINESS? Make sure you have a wonderful support system. In business, things are unpredictable. I am so grateful to have the support of my husband and my parents. They are more than willing to step in and help with the kids. Running a business is hard and becomes very emotional at times due to your personal connection with what you have created. It is nice to have someone that understands that aspect of your journey.
WHAT’S BEEN THE HARDEST THING ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP? That you cannot always leave it at work. It follows you everywhere you go—the beach, Europe, the hospital, the grocery store— everywhere. No one else is going to make sure your business is taken care of except for you.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FULFILLING THING ABOUT BEING YOUR OWN BOSS? Getting to be with my children on my own time. I can be with them when they are sick without having to call in and find a sub. I can take them to all of their doctor appointments. I can bring them to work with me when needed! I also love knowing that something I have worked so hard for and built from the beginning is successful.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN IT’S JUST “ME TIME?” I love to watch TV! I hate to admit this but it’s true! I also am a sucker for spending alone time at local coffee shops. Then there is always the gym. Yes, I am a gym rat. I love when it’s my music, the weight room and me.
WHO WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN YOUR MENTOR OR ROLE MODEL? My dad has owned his own business for 30 years. Growing up, he worked so hard to provide for his family and now has a very successful business himself. I have always been told I am just like my dad. I guess it’s true in more ways than one!
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOUR BUSINESS? So much is happening at White Goat. We are always growing and expanding in every way we can think of. White Goat has a huge announcement coming soon! Stay tuned for the great news!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST PARENTING ACHIEVEMENT? Just the fact that I created and gave life to
two wonderful little girls whom I would not change one thing about. They are the most precious humans I have ever been around. We laugh and cry and hug and kiss. There is so much life in our house, and for that I am most grateful. That alone is a great achievement.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? My favorite quote is one by Vincent Van Gogh and one that I live by, “If you hear a voice say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Sometimes it is hard not to listen to that inner voice or that person telling you it is not possible. It IS possible.