RMB’s Arts and Antiques of Pasco County
During the COVID-19 pandemic, passionate husband and wife team, Molly and Robert Schlenkerman, found themselves working endless amounts of overtime as ICU nurses at their local hospital. Being firsthand witnesses to the despair caused by COVID-19, the couple decided that life was too short not to follow their dreams of opening their own business.
“We were working a lot of overtime and after the whole situation with the pandemic we got so that we didn’t want to work overtime anymore in nursing, so I had started doing some furniture artistry,” Molly said. “It actually started with thrift store flipping and evolved into furniture artistry and then, that had gotten pretty popular.”
As Molly’s furniture artistry continued to grow, her online popularity grew as well. With the use of social media platforms, Molly showcased her artistic process and caught the attention of online spectators interested in purchasing her creations from all over the United States, but soon the couple would run into a problem with space.
Not having anywhere to display Molly’s furniture artistry in their home or in any booth rental location, the couple found that there was a need for an antique store in Pasco County. “Almost a hundred-mile radius,” Robert said. “We could not find spaces available for her furniture and so we came out of a store saying, we need to buy a building and do this. There’s a need.”
That is when the Schlenkermans decided to reach out to the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at University of South Florida for business assistance. “That week, we looked up buildings for sale in the area and found this one and decided,” Molly said. “So, we took a chance and contacted Bill and came up with a plan.”
The pair was initially connected with Florida SBDC at USF business consultant Bill Burnham for assistance with their business plan to acquire a business loan to purchase the desired building. Later, they were also introduced to Gina Smith, a business consultant at the Center who focuses on search engine optimization for business websites.
With Burnham’s business plan suggestions, the Schlenkermans were able purchase the building for their business. “We were able to purchase the building as a result because the loan officers that were involved were very impressed with the business plan and the goals that we’re trying to achieve with that,” Robert said.
Since starting RMB Arts & Antiques, the couple is happy with their decision to follow the guidance of both consultants and work toward their dreams. “We decided we can absolutely swing it, even if we had to sell the house and live in an RV in the parking lot,” Molly said. “It may be something that we do end up doing but we’ll be happy. There’s a big difference in life when living in a 3,000-square-feet home and working 36 hours a week and being miserable doing it versus living in an RV and spending your time and energy doing something that you’re really proud of, that is important to you, that makes you happy. And that’s really what it boils down to,” she added.
When asked how they would use the Florida SBDC at USF moving forward, Robert responded, “We’re trying to use any bit of resource that we can, any bit of help that we can, because we’re ICU nurses. We’re not really businesspeople and the Small Business Development Center of USF has been very supportive of this.”
“When we were learning new things, you know, we would’ve been good resources in our field, and so, it makes sense to use the SBDC when we can,” Molly added. “Go ahead and take the time to utilize the resources you can. This process isn’t inexpensive, as it stands, and to get free help from knowledgeable people with years of experience has been imperative to us being able to even do this.”