Entrepreneurs do not have it easy.
First, there is that constant tug in their heart. These are people with serious, big and scary dreams that must come to fruition in some way because of that aforementioned tug. And while these dreams do come to life with great love, it’s with great risk, too.
When it works, it’s magical, but that’s another thing about entrepreneurs. If it doesn’t work, they just try again, because they are headstrong and hardworking, too.
Entrepreneurs can also be lonely. Sometimes, not everyone understands the dream or the plan or the idea, so they have to just keep staying up really late at night and forgetting meals and ditching plans because they see something we don’t.
But entrepreneurs are not alone, and every now and then, two will cross paths and recognize a similar heart. They will pause and give it thought, and, instead of turning their backs and seeing one another as competition, they will open their matching hearts and use the magic word:
And the rest makes for a beautiful story.
Today, that story is Renee Halgerson and Carrie Kuhl — two female business owners in Brookings, South Dakota, who, by joining forces, brought their related dreams to life and right along Main Avenue. Together, they own Hitch Design Studio, a wedding stationery and graphic design shop.
“Together, we are a stronger business than we would ever be apart,” Renee says.
‘I loved this dream more’
Before Renee and Carrie were the Hitch Dream Team, they were both working full-time jobs in the corporate world and freelancing on the side to fulfill their creative needs. But it wasn’t enough.
“I loved my job, I loved my boss, I loved the people, but I loved this dream more,” Renee recalls. “I didn’t dislike what I did, I just had a bigger passion and a bigger love that I wanted to follow.”
So she reached out to Carrie.
“Renee said to me, ‘Here’s my plan. I don’t want to be your competition! What do you think about doing this together?’ I had a lot of respect for Renee. I knew she was going to be a good partner,” Carrie says. “I just had a really good feeling.”
They were a perfect match, and on February 6, 2014, they opened Hitch.
“It’s been amazing!” Carrie says. “And really hard and awesome and scary and exciting. Way more emotional than I was anticipating it to be. I had freelanced, and I thought, I’m comfortable and I can do this. But this took on a whole other step of responsibilities I had never experienced before.
“I love that we do it together.”
Carrie and Renee have an admirable relationship — one that any community would benefit from — and it’s built on a foundation of encouragement, support and respect. And friendship.
“When I’m having a bad day, she is stable and on, and she rocks it,” Carrie says.
“I would never want to do this alone or without Carrie,” Renee says. “We carry each other — where one may be stronger, the other brings in other strengths.”
To that table, Renee brings wedding planning and invitation design, while Carrie brings in graphic design, branding and web design.
“Our business is so diverse, there has to be two of us,” Renee says.
Hitch has only been open for 18 months, but already — of course — bigger dreams are taking shape.
“In the beginning, we knew what we wanted to do — weddings, design, a stationery store — and I was pleasantly surprised at how well things fell into place,” Carrie says. “Now we can push forward, start working toward our bigger goals.”
“Which is what my passion is,” Renee says. “We hit our stride, now what’s the next level? And what’s two levels above that? We have a dream way up here, and we’re just climbing that ladder. We’ll get there.”
Courage and boldness is so palpable and lovely in both of their voices. Anyone would lean in.
“We have big dreams even more so than this dream! And there is always a next step,” Carrie says. “A huge goal of ours is to have our own stationery brand, and a bigger retail store, with coffee and couches and journaling space …”
“A creative space. For more inward thinking,” Renee adds.
It sounds lovely! But do know that Hitch is already a creative space — a reflection of the joy both Carrie and Renee bring to a room. It’s a delight.
“You need a place to be creative, for self-reflection, whatever it might be,” Carrie says. “Just come in here and be inspired!
“We have so many ideas. We have so many things we want to do.”
Part of what they do now goes beyond the walls of Hitch Design Studio. It’s about the message, and they begin to carry that out by teaching classes at South Dakota State University.
“I love teaching graphic design students,” Carrie says. “They are learning our passion and something we consider our art.”
“I love seeing their light bulb go off,” Renee adds. “And to spread the good word about Hitch, learn more about running a business and going to school and teaching — it gets them to be more open-minded that you can do a lot!
“You can follow your passion and have a job!”
You can, if you’re as determined as Carrie and Renee.
“We get asked to speak a lot on what inspires you, and my message is usually: Smart is always good, but if you are a hard worker, it opens doors,” Renee says. “I remember in college, we won this award and wanted to take a class trip, but I was told, ‘Oh, they’ll never approve you for funding. Well, let’s ask!’ I put together this whole proposal and asked, and we got it.
“No one will say yes if you haven’t asked first or if you didn’t try. So try it! Go for it! If there’s five things standing in your way, ask the questions, meet the people, open the doors, and you’re going to get there no matter what’s in front of you. You only have one job? Try having two. If you only have one major, try one major and two minors. Just keep reaching, and your end goal will get closer and closer.”
Just like it did for them.
Brookings is a ‘golden community’
Even though Renee lived and worked in Sioux Falls before moving to Brookings, the girls knew Hitch needed to be in Brookings.
“When you look at the market, there was a hole here,” Renee says. “The need needed to be met here.”
They are optimal advocates of Brookings, like any local business owner should be.
“Brookings is growing, it’s at a really exciting time right now,” Carrie says. “There are a lot of industrial companies, but that also brings a lot of great thinkers to the community.
“This is home. It’s the perfect place. I cannot imagine being anywhere else.”
“This is a just a golden community,” Renee adds.
Their presence and their work and their enthusiasm — it’s all adding to the warmth.
‘Together’ is a nice word
On the outside, Hitch is a charming brick-and-mortar along a progressive Main Street in good ol’ South Dakota. But inside is such an inspirational story of two creative visionaries who chose to believe in one another.
They could’ve built from their own dreams and stood alone, but this kind of support and faith in each other other is so refreshing. Amid all of the stories today focused on “me,” “we” sounds nice.
Amid all of the stories today focused on “me,” “we” sounds nice.
“We built this together!” Carrie says. “I love being a female business owner and kicking ass. It’s not like that every day, but this is ours,” Carrie says. “That’s crazy to think about!”
Entrepreneurs and business owners — all dreamers — must understand the bewilderment of seeing a dream come to fruition. But imagine how powerful it must feel to walk into a space that you created because your heart pushed you to do so, and then to share that joy with not only your co-owner, but all people in your community, too.
Hitch has an even added benefit. When customers walk through the doors of 315 Main Avenue in Brookings, South Dakota, they get to meet Renee Halgerson and Carrie Kuhl, and they get to be a part of their beautiful, infectious energy. Whether as a bride with a vision or as a quick retail customer, they get to engage in an environment of hard work, love, risk, opportunity, charm.