Excellence on Main Award

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Phoebe & Jonathan Carpenter Eells

Award: Entrepreneur of the Year

Year: 2020

City: Mount Vernon

Phoebe Carpenter Eells was a well-loved middle school teacher in 2009 when she rediscovered a love (and a knack!) for linocut block printing. She turned this hobby into a side hustle and, as sometimes happens when great passion and talent collide — 10 years later finds herself the owner of an historic downtown building and two flourishing businesses. If you want to keep up with Phoebe and Jonathon, her husband and business partner, you’ll have to lace up your sneakers.

After successfully making and selling art as a hobby, in 2012 Phoebe decided to turn her craft into full time work with business elSage Designs. She began vending at a local farmers market that summer, and within a few years, had expanded to multiple markets, regional craft shows, and wholesale production for retail outlets both local and out of state. The enterprise grew so much that in 2014 Jonathon also resigned his middle school teaching position to dedicate himself full time to the family venture. In 2016, the couple signed a lease on their first brick-and-mortar location downtown. Phoebe and Jonathon celebrated their one-year storefront anniversary by holding a pop-up makers market in their parking lot, complete with live music and a food truck. The event included a dozen other artisans, their way of paying it forward and encouraging others.

Like so much of what Phoebe and Jonathan touch, the market was successful, brought people together, enhanced the local economy, and catapulted them into a new business arm – regular artisan events known as Valley Made Markets.

Of course, that wasn’t all Phoebe and Jonathon were up to. In the last two years, the couple has purchased and renovated the historic building in which they were originally tenants, moved elSage to a prime retail location on Mount Vernon’s Main Street, and opened a second business (Fern Creative Coworking) in their newly renovated building. The coworking space realized a long-held recruitment priority of the Mount Vernon Downtown Association but even more importantly clearly filled a community need since initial membership subscriptions reached the equivalent of 8 FTEs – within one month of opening!

There is so much to admire about Phoebe and Jonathan – their grit, work ethic, love of family, and dedication to lifting others up.