Area business owners believe in being 'Essentially Kind'
By Steve Barrett
Creative Content Writer, Hilltop Packs LLC
Pam Cunningham and Stephanie Knisely, co-owners of Essentially Kind in Waynesburg, are living proof that businesses can be creative, unique … and kind.
Their business, which offers a wide array of unique items that caters to all demographics, started with the two sharing a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a background of artistic creativity. Prior to opening the store, Pam made custom shirts and Stephanie created her own jewelry, and they would sell them at local craft shows.
Pam, who was employed with Waynesburg University for 14 years as a teacher and public relations director, said she and Stephanie recognized a similar passion to create and give during a quick lunch and Hobby Lobby trip.
“We thought that opening a gift shop would allow us to offer these items that are often available just twice a year at craft shows,” Pam explained. “From there, we discovered all the possibilities of pulling in local crafters, and the possibilities that could be created by searching for and offering unique and meaningful items that couldn't be found in big box stores.
“Both of us were craving new chapters, both of us wanted to do something that we enjoy, and something that involves community pride,” she continued. “We both believe in taking charge and getting things done, and we knew that we would complement each other very well in operating a business together.”
In early October of last year, Pam and Stephanie decided to open their business together; less than a month later Essentially Kind was open to the public and weeks later the Greene County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the official opening.
In addition to their custom shirts for birthdays, school spirit, sports and more as well as jewelry and accessories, Essentially Kind offers seasonal and home décor items, pre-packaged “Grab and Go” gift baskets and bags, plush and baby toys, gluten-free and vegan products, bath and body products and coffee, tea and unique snacks.
“It's unique and meaningful gift giving made easy,” Stephanie said.
Essentially Kind also offers products from other local businesses and vendors, including Your Cookie Rookie, Keddy's Krafts, Hilltop Packs Coffee, Greenwood Customs, Hideaway Candle Bar, Corfont Crystal Creations, Schaefer Woodshop and WEARABLES.
“We believe in lifting up and supporting area businesses, because we are all committed to providing unique products that shoppers find interesting, as well as gifts that perfectly fit the recipient,” Pam said.
She added that she and Stephanie are proud to offer quality items at affordable prices.
“Currently, everything we sell here is under $50,” she said. “There is literally something here for everyone, regardless of age.”
Pam and Stephanie, both Waynesburg residents, have been good friends since 2014, and although they may have somewhat different personalities, there is one major trait they have in common.
“We are both givers,” said Stephanie. “We believe in helping others, and we want to provide items here that are thoughtful and/or meaningful, or that provide entertaining, and maybe even educational, experiences for everyone.”
The friends met at a local church program titled “MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers),” as Pam is called Mom to two boys and Stephanie to four boys. They also bonded over a Facebook page that Stephanie created called “Mamas Helping Mamas,” which is designed as a support space for area mothers.
Located at 30 North Washington Street in Waynesburg, Essentially Kind is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Although the business is a top priority for both entrepreneurs, the duo decided to make sure they gave themselves time to spend with their families.
“Our families, our kids are a huge priority,” Stephanie said. “We don't want to ever sacrifice our time with them, so finding the perfect balance between business and family was very important to us. And we thank our families, and particularly our husbands, for being so supportive.”
As for the business's name, Pam said it came easy to them.
“We are both preachers of kindness, and during the pandemic we kept hearing the word 'essential,' so putting the two words together just seemed to make sense for us,” she explained. “From day one, we have constantly told everyone and anyone who would listen that kindness is essential, especially during these troubled times, and that is what we practice to this day.”
More information may be found about Essentially Kind on the business's Facebook page, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 724-833-9231. Pam added that the duo hopes to soon have a business website up and running.