Central Pennsylvania is home to many entrepreneurs who have started or aspire to start their own business in the creative sector.  By combining their artistic abilities with sound business practices, these individuals contribute to the local economy and the overall presence of the arts in our community. Since it is American Artist Appreciation Month, Centre Foundation is recognizing two local entrepreneurs and their artistic businesses.

Amy Tomasko and Münire Bozdemir are recipients of grants from the Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (CEAP), a statewide program administered by Centre Foundation in Centre, Clearfield, Huntingdon, and Mifflin counties through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. CEAP pairs creative entrepreneurs with free small business consulting services and grant awards up to $2,000. The program’s purpose is to help creative entrepreneurs grow their businesses, audiences, and revenues in a variety of industries including music, film, design, publishing, and visual arts & crafts.

Amy founded a business designing stickers called Sisters’ Sunflowers in April of 2021. As someone who has grown up around art and practiced art through different mediums, Amy always had a creative side. It was through her travels to local landmarks that she was inspired to start her own business.

“What inspired me the most about starting this business is that Black Moshannon State Park didn’t have any cute local stickers. I’m an avid traveler, so when I go to a new place, my thing to look for is stickers since they are smaller and don’t cost that much,” said Amy.

What Amy likes most about running Sisters’ Sunflowers is connecting with the customers and knowing that people enjoy what she creates.

“I like connecting with the customers because it makes me feel like what I’m doing really matters,” she said. “Having them like the product validates your art, which makes me appreciate it even more.”

However, being a one-woman show has its challenges too.

“The biggest challenge is trying to stay on top of everything. It’s hard juggling orders, thinking ahead, and staying on top of social [media]. There are a lot of moving parts, which is awesome, but sometimes can be overwhelming,” said Amy.

Like Amy, Münire launched a small creative business in 2021. Originally from Turkey, Münire moved to the United States in 2018 after spending three and a half years in China. After moving to the United States, she combined her love for language, stories, and culture to create MyMoon Mixed Media Storytelling. Her goal is to publish accessible books for children from diverse backgrounds and who speak different languages.

“I know the statistics; in 2019, 61% of low-income families had no books. Some of this I got to see with my own eyes. I believe in the power of stories, and imagination, and how that can change things for children,” said Münire.

To Münire, being able to implement the skills that she has learned as well as combine her love for stories has been highly rewarding.

“What I like most is being able to combine all the skills I’ve developed in my life, as well as the strong connections I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, and even the history of my country. I feel like everyone, and every element of my life has been influential in shaping me as part of my business,” said Münire.

In addition, Münire’s biggest challenge is also one of her biggest advantages.

“So far, digital technology has been one of the biggest challenges. It has also opened a lot of doors, and when starting a business having that sort of challenge is helpful. It allows you to test if this is something you truly believe in,” she said.

Being challenged in this way taught Münire that she was on the right path to make the greatest difference with her stories.

“I decided that my main focus was reaching out to kids from different linguistic, social, and financial backgrounds and technology was going to make that easier for me,” she added.

Both Amy and Münire appreciate the importance of art in their lives, as well as the value that it brings to the local community.

“The value [of art in our community] is showing you can have connections with people through art. Centre County is a great county to start something art-related because you find programs to help you succeed, that speaks wonders,” said Amy.

“I see art at every corner, like the murals [downtown]. Here it’s an open, welcoming, heartwarming space that people can go,” said Münire. “Art is all over the place, in people’s minds, in people’s hearts, and everyone can do it.”

Applications for the Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator Program reopen this fall. Learn more here and stay tuned for updates about this exciting new program.