by Jaclyn Riefenhauser and Catherine Farrell
Tamara Pilger of Tammy’s Stained Glass Treasures lived in Western Pennsylvania for a majority of her life and moved to Scranton in 2003. Times were not always easy. Not only did she have to make critical decisions for herself, but she also had to care for her son, Brandon. She also faced major devastation when her husband Bill’s daughter, Erica was killed in an automobile accident. Pilger had to take care of her dying parents during that time period as well.
But rather than dwelling on ill-fated events of the past, she decided to pursue a different way of life.
She and her husband decided to become foster parents for Lackawanna County CYS. They brought love and guidance to many children during their seven years in this role. During that time, they adopted their loving daughter, Brittany. Mother-daughter bonding resulted in taking a stained glass class together, which is when Pilger started to fall in love with creating glass items. Impressed by her work and passion, the instructor of the stained glass classes decided to hire and mentor Pilger for two years. Pilger’s love for stained and fused glass intensified over the years, driving her to eventually open her own stained glass business.
Over the years, she had worked a variety of jobs to support her family. But she always knew she wanted to run her own business. She wanted to sell items she made through the years, bringing the beauty of her art to the homes of peers and to facilities in the community.
Even though the dream of opening her own business was always in her mind, the actual process to make it a reality was not always in the picture.
She was hesitant to try anything that would get her business off the ground. The fear of the unknown and associated distress of losing money and time prevented her from actualizing her aspirations.
“I was afraid of failure and did not know how or where to start,” she said.
Despite her hesitation, Pilger began researching how to start and run a business that would make her dream a reality. She started selling her authentic items at local stores and arts and craft shows prior to opening her store.
Things took a turn for the better in March 2016, when she was offered to open her own small classroom in the back of an art gallery in Pittston. With her saved-up funds to buy associated supplies and tools, she was able to start teaching four students at a time. With her impressive skills and warm personality, she was able to teach outside the room to 35 students in a matter of six months. The triumph continued when she decided to take the next big step, opening her own store. She officially opened her own shop at 348 Adams Ave. in downtown Scranton during November of 2016.
Pilger is a stained glass and fused glass artist.
“These are two very different techniques that both required much studying, learning, patience and practice,” she said. “I am still learning and developing my skills every day.”
In her gift shop, Pilger sells her own glass items and some other handmade pieces on consignment. In the studio, she creates items for her gift shop, makes custom orders for clients for their homes and offices as well as memorial pieces, performs repairs on stained glass, instructs stained glass and fused glass classes, hosts private parties and team building sessions and has a children’s fusing club and birthday parties.
“With a lot of new businesses, I believe the biggest struggle is capital needs and marketing yourself,” Pilger said, when asked about the struggles of entrepreneurship. “I have struggled and am still struggling with capital needs, but I budget myself to the best of my ability to be able to get through those first few years and to make a name for myself in the area. I was able to obtain a small business loan from Women in Philanthropy, which was a big help to me. My marketing is mostly done on social media and word of mouth.”
Now that her business is taking off, she could use an assistant, she said.
In the future, Pilger plans to get more involved with unique corporate and luxury gift items on her website. She has plans for new items in the gift shop and to offer new classes.
“I am also still working on cremation memorial pieces as well as personalized items,” she said. “I would love to be a large full-service stained glass and fused glass warehouse with a hot glass shop but that is a huge dream.”
Her advice to other female entrepreneurs is to “always be open to learning.”
“Research ideas and information as much as you can,” she said. “Find a class or a seminar to attend for what you are searching for. Talk to other business owners who have a similar business. Ask lots of questions and really listen to the answers. Read books. Have a business plan and update it as needed.”
For more information about Tammy’s Stained Glass Treasures, visit tammysstainedglasstreasures.com, the “Pilger’s Stained Glass” Facebook page and @Pilgerssgtreasures on Instagram.
Jaclyn Riefenhauser and Catherine Farrell are University of Scranton Women’s Entrepreneurship Center interns working under the supervision of Donna Simpson, Consultant Manager.