It’s part business, part store, part incubator

  • By Debra Smith Herald Business Journal
  • Wednesday, January 30, 2013 1:55pm

MUKILTEO — He wanted books, photography and anything sports. She wanted home decor, jewelry and children’s toys.

The result is He Said, She Said, a retail shop in Mukilteo that blends the passions of its owners — and supports entrepreneurs.

The shop, which opened in August, offers an eclectic mix of wares: books, art, toys, journals, hand-sewn aprons and the like. That’s because in addition to reflecting the tastes of the owners, the shop serves as the retail arm of a business incubator. It’s also a community gathering space.

The “he” and the “she” behind the shop are Steve and Donna Marie Bertrand of Mukilteo.

Steve Bertrand is a published writer and longtime teacher and coach at Cascade High School in Everett. Donna Marie Bertrand is the executive director of the Seattle Children’s Museum in addition to her role with the business-consulting firm Abhinc.

For the Bertrands, the shop was a natural extension of both their passions and the work Donna Marie was doing at Abhinc (in Latin, the word means “from here on”).

“My husband and I are involved in the local community,” she said. “We wanted to help Mukilteo thrive.”

At Abhinc, Donna Marie Bertrand and David Jackson, the onsite manager, help clients with a host of business necessities, such as business plans, customer service skills and human resource strategies.

They also help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground with a business incubator program. Small-business owners pay Abhinc a fee to get whatever support, tools or education is needed to move their businesses to the next level. The goal is for businesses to eventually step out alone.

Many of the small businesses Abhinc works with aren’t focused on retail products. But for those that do, He Said, She Said provides a way to get products in front of customers with limited risk and expense.

Entrepreneurs pay for that space by either paying a flat monthly fee, renting space or by paying a percentage of whatever their product brings in. To keep items appealing to window shoppers, other complementary merchandise is brought in to fill out the display shelves.

Take one of Abhinc’s clients, ZoLO toys. The company’s founders, designers Byron Glaser and Sandra Higashi, are based in Virginia. Their company creates toys that stimulate the imagination. Their signature toy features colorful, Picasso-like pieces that can be put together in any number of ways. Donna Marie Bertrand has been working with the business partners to create a home sales model.

She sells some of their products in the store. She also surrounds the ZoLO toys that will complement, but not compete with, what her client produces, such as stuffed animals.

“The hardest thing is getting a product to market,” said Glaser, who was turned down by major toymakers before the company became successful. “The idea is the easiest part. If we had someone like Donna, it would have helped us.”

He Said, She Said features an open space for activities such as martial arts sessions, art shows and business classes. There’s also an office and music practice room available for rent. Those features both serve the varied business-consulting clients and get people from the community in the door, Bertrand said. Rates for renting the space are competitive with similar local venues, she said.

The retail shop is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

He Said, She Said

12199 Village Center Place, Suite 103, Mukilteo; 425-322-4635; www.abhincgroup.com

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