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April 28, 2018

Those who know me well can attest that I am passionate about business.  This does not mean that all of my friends are business owners or that I am not passionate about other aspects of my life… It does mean that running a small business ignites a fire in me and I know this is what I am meant to do.

As small business owners, and especially women small business owners, many of us have a tendency to downplay the work that we put into turning our passions into reality.  Most of us did not grow up thinking “I want to work hard every single day of my life and eventually I may make some money”.  So what keeps us going?  It’s hard to explain but a friend recently told me she did something cool for herself and her business and it made her feel for lack of a better word… “high”.  Did I scoff at her and wonder if maybe she has a substance abuse problem?  No, I absolutely knew what she was talking about.  When you are in the moment and on the right track creatively or professionally there is a euphoria that comes along with doing what you love in that moment.  I have experienced this feeling many times over the past 20 years of my career but have only recently learned to embrace it. 

To me, this feeling and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.  As much as I must listen to my gut and the feedback of others, it is imperative for me to stop and embrace the moments when this euphoria hits me.  These divine moments of clarity happen at the oddest times but for me they are usually first thing in the morning when I let my mind wander. 

I was recently faced with a dilemma at Closet Traders… we needed to freshen up the store but I wasn’t sure what that really meant.  Early one morning, I realized that I have a storage area full of interesting items that our customers have never seen.   For the past 2 years, I have avoided putting these items in the store because I didn’t think we had the space nor did I think they fit into the experience I had created for our customers.  These items are not clothing, shoes, jewelry or purses so how can I put them into a women’s clothing boutique???  The answer is that as a small business owner I am taught to constantly grown and evolve therefore Closet Traders, as an extension of me, should be able to do the same.  Hence, Traders’ Treasures was born.  I hope you will enjoy a peak into another aspect of my business, the eclectic and vintage home décor items that I have been selling online for years. 

You may wonder, what does this mean for the future of Closet Traders?  We hope it just means that we can keep offering you amazing items at affordable prices.  I hand pick every item that comes into the store and hope that the store is an extension of my passion.  We truly want you to enjoy browsing our treasures and do welcome your feedback/suggestions (please try to be kind as I do put my heart and soul into creating a space that I hope you will love).  We want Closet Traders to be a destination in Grayslake for years to come. 

As a favor to me, if you have enjoyed this post please share this with a friend.  Closet Traders’ success is dependent upon our amazing customers and we truly appreciate every single one of you!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend. 


March 13, 2018

Spring is in the air and I am excited to introduce you to Sarah, a small business owner who lives here in Grayslake.  Sara has a passion for fashion and I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her!

Hello! I’m Sarah Grubbs of The Mamma Fierce Boutique featuring Agnes and Dora. I’m a mom of 3 soon to be 4 (because I’m crazy), My husband works for an international elevator firm and his office is based out of Milwaukee. We also have two dogs, an old man Sheltie and a crazy active 2 year old Australian Shepherd. 

Owning my own boutique wasn’t always my dream, I worked retail forever then eventually moved in to Human Resources in a corporate atmosphere. After gaining my BA in Human Resources and my MA in Organizational Leadership I always assumed when I jumped back in the the workforce I’d end up behind a desk in some sort of corporate manner. Surprisingly I found direct sales and after years of complaining about retail I found out it wasn’t sales and customer interaction that I disliked. It was the hours that were never convenient and never being able to get my vision across no matter what position of management I was in.


I have been involved in direct sales for about 3 years now, I started as an outlet for myself after my dad passed away. It turned into a fun way to make extra money and talk to new people. After a few companies I found Agnes and Dora and fell in love. I can purchase my own inventory that I know my customers will enjoy which I feel helps me have a more personal relationship with everyone I meet.


January 17, 2018 

I met Amy McCully shortly after I opened Closet Traders.  She made a habit to stop in the store, bring friends in, and tell people about us.  Amy is the most supportive small business owner I know.  She knows what it takes to run your own business and makes it a priority to Shop Small.  Soon after we met, Amy also became my hair stylist.  She is amazing at what she does and I absolutely love the atmosphere at Paris Hair Design.  It feels exactly like the upscale salons that I have used in the past in Chicago, Deerfield and Libertyville, but even better because they maintain the small town friendliness and charm that those other salons couldn't match.  Amy has become a good friend and I hope you'll enjoy getting to know a little more her as well....

Paris Hair Design is the full-service hair salon in Grayslake that offers upscale style at a price you can afford. Looking your absolute best gives you more confidence. It gives you more energy. It actually enhances the quality of your life. Through personal consultation and a variety of salon services, we offer numerous ways to enhance your look. 

I am a life-long resident of Lake County and have lived in Grayslake since 1998. I began my cosmetology training at Arlington Academy in Buffalo Grove and then attended Earl's Academy while living in Phoenix, Arizona, before becoming an Illinois-licensed cosmetologist. My professional background includes Great Clips, Octagon, Mario Tricoci, Salon Suite, MK & Co., and Hair Cuttery. 

With a passion for hair design AND saving money, I identified an untapped market in Grayslake. I had experience at both the high-end salons & the low-cost shops, and was determined to create the best of both --  upscale style at an affordable price -- so I 'opened up shop' in Dec 2009. 

I specialize in cuts and styles for women, men, and children as well as up-dos and makeup for weddings and special events. But my real passion is in Aveda color and corrective color services. I am also certified by Coppola and Brazilian Blowout to perform Smoothing Treatments. 


January 7, 2018

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a relaxing winter break!  My holidays were wonderful and I enter 2018 with a renewed sense of purpose and drive.  We are excited about new ideas that we plan to implement at Closet Traders this year.  Stay tuned as we reveal these changes over the coming year and please send me an email if there is something you think we need to be doing :)

Today, I am looking forward to introducing to you another Closet Traders Shop Small business owner and good friend of mine, Serena Hughes.  Serena and I graduated from high school together over 20 years ago (ok, I’m feeling a little old…).  We lost touch and Serena contacted me a year ago to discuss the businesses that we both run in Grayslake.  It has been such a pleasure catching up with and getting to know Serena over the past year.  We regularly meet for breakfast to discuss business and rarely get around to actually talking shop… I consider this a good problem as I always walk out of breakfast with a smile on my face and ready to tackle my day.  Now, I’d like to give you the opportunity to learn a little more about Serena….

Hey there! My name is Serena, I’m a married mother of four, grandma to two (so far) and professional photographer.  I live in Grayslake, but was raised in Mundelein IL, alumni of MHS, Class of ‘94-Go Mustangs!  I was actually born in a tiny town in Pennsylvania, Camp Hill (outside of Mechanicsburg) I actually still feel like home is here and there, we have family still out there we visit regularly.

I truly can’t remember a time I didn’t have a camera in hand, whether it was my disc camera as a child, or my first “big girl” film camera in high school.  Whether I had a pencil in hand drawing, or creating an image through a lens, my love for art has always prominent in my life.  I think emotion brings out art, and what better way to touch peoples lives than through emotion? 

Our family suffered a loss in 1999 when my nephew (12 years old) died unexpectedly.  I had photographed he and his brother just a week prior as a surprise gift for their parents.  It was the last image we all have of the two boys together and to this day still one of my most powerful images.  Was the lighting spot on? No.  Was my posing perfect? No. Was the composition amazing? No.  What it was, was full of emotion, happiness, the smiles weren’t forced, and watching them just be boys chasing geese into the lake was a memory I’ll have in my heart for the rest of my life.  I handed out those images at his wake and funeral, and most of us still have it on our vehicle visors, or on our desks, in our wallets, or tucked away in a matter where they are, they remain, together, smiling side by side, and now one gets to look down on us just a little further away in Heaven.  I knew from that moment on, I want to capture memories, moments, everyday moments, milestones, and important events in peoples lives.  

The power of pictures and what stories they tell is to me one of the most important ways to show who we are, where we’ve been, and even where we’ll go.  I pride myself on getting to know my clients, and having a good relationship with them.  I like to tell everyone “just be you” and together we’ll get a great portrait for you to always enjoy.  Sometimes life is just so hectic we forget to pause for a moment and take it all in.  I feel as if portraits of yourself and your family is how you can pause time even if for only a few seconds, it’s a moment captured, a quick release of a shutter, and that memory is forever.  

My passion and specialty is High School Senior Photography.  It’s a tradition that is starting to be more and more overlooked.  I feel it’s a milestone we need to remember, it’s a transition of our children from childhood into young adulthood, before our very eyes.  I promise you can see one of your child’s senior portraits and instantly be reminded by a simple smile or a smirk of that little kid, too small for their backpack, climbing up those stairs onto the bus the first day of kindergarten.  The next photo session as parents we may get with these kids we’ve raised is maybe on their wedding days. 

Thank you for taking the time to read a little bit about me.  I look forward to connecting with so many more wonderful people in this great community I live in.  



December 15, 2017

I met Lisa McKernan two years ago at coffee with a group of friends. We love to grab breakfast or lunch and discuss our lives and businesses.  Here's an opportunity for you to get to know a little more about Lisa as well...

Lisa McKernan, owner and teacher, Yoga Balance, Inc.

I grew up on the southside of Chicago near Midway Airport. In grade school, I loved gymnastics and was constantly working on my beam routine in my bedroom and tumbling passes on the side of the house. I attended Maria High School and met my husband, Joe from St. Rita. I graduated from DePaul University, attained my CPA, and worked for Arthur Andersen from 1989-1992. We moved to Grayslake in 1995 and became parishioners at St. Gilbert. I worked a couple other accounting jobs (Dominick’s, Heller Financial) until I “retired” to have our first baby in 1999. I loved being a stay at home mom and knew that the next right job would come along.

From the first sun salute, I knew there was something to yoga! I started practicing yoga regularly in early 2011 and received my RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) -200 hour certification from Emerald Heart School of Yoga with Mara Campbell in spring 2014. I loved teaching and wanted to share my love of yoga with others.

With the support of family (Joe and our 2 kids, Jack & Kate) and friends, Yoga Balance was opened in Grayslake in January 2015. Yoga has helped to reduce my anxiety and has made me more in tune with my body. I teach a Hatha flow class with an alignment based focus (Anusara) and use props (blocks, bolsters, straps) to accommodate injuries and tightness. The class pairs the practice of yoga postures and breathing, which help bring peace to the mind and body.

I believe in continually learning and practicing yoga. I attend at least one yoga class as a student each week. I attended a 3 day teacher renewal class this year and a 3 day workshop last year in Chicago with Jason Crandell.

In 2016, I started working with Nina Yunovich, a certified holistic health coach, to improve my overall health. We started a wellness group in Grayslake – Ignite Your Power. We meet twice a month: once for a lecture and discussion and again for a cooking class. There is something so powerful and energizing about working together in a group to improve your health.

I am grateful for so many things in my life: family, friends, yoga community, good health and the joy of being a teacher. 


December 5, 2017

Two very good friends of mine, Nicole and Sarah, started Simply Sisters LipShop.  Let's learn a little more about what makes these two amazing women tick...

Our story started 34 years ago as we were forced into living in the same home in Mundelein as we are sisters, but lucky enough that over time we became best friends. It was not always that way, however, growing up we were 8 years apart and Nicole was the oldest and Sarah was the youngest. You can imagine how the little sister who loved to have friends over until late hours of the night when the older, more responsible sister had to get up to get to work in the morning (sorry Nicole!) We were always opposites and when we were younger it was a problem, but when we grew up it just simply worked :)!

Nicole was always the smart, good one who began the path for all of us to go to college. Our parents had not been to college and the idea of college was new to them, but Nicole was stubborn and wouldn't allow our parents fear to keep her from getting away and experiencing independence. She went to Northern Illinois University and wanted the challenge of getting into the nursing program because she wanted to help people but didn't know in what area- so naturally she chose the program that the odds were against her. She became a RN and worked in Pediatric Oncology for years then went back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner. She currently works in Women's Health in an OB/GYN office. Her full time job is only one part of her busy life as she also has two kids- Kayla, 10 and Kaden, 5.

Sarah was the one who always knew she wanted to work in Education. She graduated from Illinois State University and began working as a high school English teacher. Although she loved the classroom, she knew what she loved the most was working one on one with students, so she went back for her masters in School Counseling. She is now a Lead School Counselor at a local high school and loves the day to day challenge. Like Nicole, her job is only a portion of her life as she has a 5 year old son, Nolan.

So, how did we become the Simply Sisters?? We both use retail therapy to combat life and are always on the look out for the best and easiest products. We always complained about lipstick and how annoying it was that it was off before 8 AM- that was until we found Lipsense. It was a long lasting lipstick that we instantly became in love with. We started purchasing color after color and then our friends started to want in on the action. We decided that what the hell- let's start a company- we wanted to add more on our plate, right? That is when Simply Sisters Lip Shop originated. But what we hadn't realized is that there was so much more to this company than lipstick and that we wanted to make sure other women had the ability to purchase and be informed of these products we have formed a love with! It has been a fun experience working together that has pushed us out of the comfort of our daily routines. We love working together, we love the products, and we love the people we meet because of this business!  Visit us and join our group at


December 1, 2017

When I was a little girl, I loved to play store.  We would play for hours... setting up the store, taking turns as cashier and I always loved to pretend I had an office in back where I did all the "paperwork".   It was a long and winding road from those days to Closet Traders but it wouldn't be what it is if I hadn't walked that path.  

A good friend of mine is a yoga instructor and gave me a great mantra to repeat to myself every day, she told me to "trust the journey".  I took this advice a couple years ago and stopped worrying so much about what the next step would be.   I truly believe that the brick and mortar Closet Traders would not exist if I hadn't embraced this concept. 

I grew up in Buffalo Grove and moved to Mundelein at the end of 8th grade.  I graduated from Mundelein High School in 1994 and then Southern Illinois University in 1998 with a major in Accounting and a minor in Finance.  I attained my CPA and worked in public accounting for Arthur Andersen from 1998-2000.  I spent the next nine years working for a private equity firm in Chicago where I was promoted to partner.  In 2009, I chose to leave Corporate America to raise my children, Jack & Cassie.  The work fire inside of me continued though, so in 2009 my sister and I started Brand Name Consignments children's resale events.  This was my first taste of running a small business and I was hooked!   Closet Traders emerged in 2012 as a full service online consignment business and later evolved into the store you see today.  I now live in Grayslake, work in Grayslake and my kids are in Grayslake schools.  I "trusted the journey" and feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  

Over the next several weeks, I would like to tell you the stories of the other women in our Closet Traders Shop Small family.  I love to hear about what makes people tick and how they got to where they are today, and hopefully you will too.  Small business owners are a breed of their own. We work harder than most people realize and usually don't get paid for the first several years of our businesses lives (sounds glorious right?).... but it is. We also enjoy our jobs so much that we aren't thinking about the paycheck and the fire inside of us propels us forward every day.  I hope you'll enjoy getting to know these amazing women as much as I have!