In May 2012, Ashton Whitmoyer plunged into business.
She had taken no business classes of any kind. Furthermore, she orchestrated much of the opening from hundreds of miles away at East Carolina University, where she was finishing her bachelor's degree in psychology, holding a research position and working another job.
She was 22.
"I thought, 'While I'm not married and don't have kids, what better time to do it?'" says Whitmoyer, who has since gotten engaged.
So she set up Glitz, her women's boutique, in a small shop toward the end of the main retail strip of her hometown, Lititz. She got to know the other business owners, she says, and then she became president of the Lititz Retailers when no one else volunteered for the position.
This September, she moved Glitz to a shop in the middle of the retail strip that is roughly twice the size of the original location. She also just decided to open Sundays and, consequently, hired her first employee.
"I love this, and I can't see myself giving it up any time soon," Whitmoyer says. "The best thing is that I am working for myself, and that it's fun."
It's not easy — she averages about 50 hours a week in the shop, and her working hours stretch beyond that. But she says she's paying the bills and a demanding schedule is nothing new for her. She worked retail, including shops similar to Glitz, in both high school and college.
Whitmoyer says she learned a lot from those jobs, and from fellow Lititz retailers like Kim Crow, owner of The Curiosity Shoppe, who showed her the ropes of downtown Lititz. She also couldn't have done it without substantial, multifaceted help from her family. Her mom, Kristi Evans, is "very creative and crafty," and her dad has mentored her on advertising and the world of accounting, finances and taxes.
"I'd love for her to sell cars," says Dane Whitmoyer, who owns Whitmoyer Automotive. "'But she was smart and said, 'Dad, you've got to love what you sell.' That's big."
He has his own story of venturing into business, buying a dealership from his father when he was 30.
"She grew up with the trials and tribulations of me owning my own business," he says. "I told her, 'Keep in mind, if this was easy, everybody would do this. You have to have thick skin, because this is a roller coaster ride.'"
And with that in mind, he advises her to maintain a long perspective on launching the business.
"If you can make it the first three to five years, you can make it and be successful," he says. "I struggled my first three to five years in the car dealership; I'm successful now."
Kelly Withum, executive director of Venture Lititz, describes Whitmoyer as "a very energetic, thoughtful young woman" who is running a great business. She also says she's impressed by how Whitmoyer handles her duties as president of Lititz Retailers, which includes mediation.
"For somebody as young as Ashton to be able to do it so well, I think, is remarkable," Withum says.
Crow says she sees Whitmoyer's age as an asset, in two ways.
"She's very in tune with the 15- or 16-year-olds all the way up through the late 20s — she actually is of that age, so she has a real knack for what the coming trend is for that age group." Crow says. "I also think there's a sense of when you're younger, you're a lot less fearful of trying things."
For her part, Whitmoyer says she'd like to encourage other young people, especially women, to consider business as a career path.
"I'm not saying it's easy to own your own business at 22, 23," she says. "It's hard, and it's a lot of work. But if you want to pursue it, you can do it."