INDIAN HILL, Ohio — Betsy Leonidas first dreamt of opening a paper goods and gift shop at 15 years old. Her young life's mission, she joked Friday, was always to find the perfect marker.
Her passion continued through college and into an advertising career in New York City, where she preferred to spend her weekends in Paper Source instead of Soho. But the dream didn't arrive in reality until February 2020, when Leonidas — now a mother living in Indian Hill — launched Elizabeth In Kind, the online version of the shop she'd wanted to own since she was a child.
“I was 15 years into my corporate career, and I just had one of those moments of, 'Why wait?’" she said. "I also found that in the corporate world as well as regular life, people can really be unkind, and I found that often it's women to other women. ... As much as it is a paper and gift shop, it is all about encouraging kindness amongst women and girls."
Starting a new business is always hard, but Elizabeth In Kind's virtual storefront opened only a month before the COVID-19 pandemic changed every aspect of American life. She got the usual obstacles times ten.
“(It's) trying to figure out retail and the ups and downs, and the emotional ups and downs that come with the big sales and the low sales,” she said. “It’s been such a wild ride this year.”
Leonidas said she used that roller coaster of emotions to come up with products that poke fun at the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them, a wine glass that says "Because Coronavirus," became a big hit on her online store.
“It was just one of those great moments to infuse humor into a really stressful environment,” said Leonidas.
Her goal with the company is to promote the notion of girl power. In August, she was able to bring on Francine Wright, an assistant who has a degree in fine art and wanted a way to utilize it.
“Betsy is one of my biggest role models with supporting women and everything,” Wright said. “She is kind to everyone and is constantly building people up.”
Leonidas has some advice for women interested in starting their own business: In spite of everything, just “go for it. I think the worst thing would be to let a passion and dream of yours pass you by.”