Angie Foster and Amy Phillips made the decision nearly three years ago to move their family from North Carolina to Frederick. They were attracted to the area because they wanted their son, Seth, who is hard of hearing, to attend the Maryland School for the Deaf.
They wanted Seth, now 10, to attend a school that was respectful and conducive to his growth, said Foster and Phillips, who are deaf.
“Seth loves the school,” Foster said.
The family, along with 8-year-old daughter Rylie, have settled in to Frederick well.
“It’s awesome. We love it here,” Foster said.
“It’s a very welcoming community,” Phillips added.
Last fall, Foster and Phillips decided to settle further and open an EmbroidMe franchise in the Evergreen Square shopping center along Buckeystown Pike.
Foster had run a home-based screen printing and embroidering business of her own and previously worked for a screen-printing company in North Carolina. She runs the day-to-day operations, and Phillips handles the business side on evenings after she’s done with her accounting job in D.C.
As the opening date for EmbroidMe drew closer last October, the couple were nervous about starting a business — as most small-business owners are — but they don’t believe there are any barriers to business because they are deaf.
Foster said she can tell some customers get nervous about how to communicate if she’s at the front counter alone, but she always encourages them to come forward and continue with their conversations.
“I want to interact,” she said, noting that some parts of conversations are easier when using pen and paper.
No conversations have been insurmountable, the couple said.
“That goes back to the school. I think people are more familiar” with signing and interacting with the deaf community, Phillips said.
More than 300 students attend Maryland School for the Deaf’s Frederick campus, and about 8,000 people living in Frederick County experience hearing difficulty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.
Foster said the business has been receiving a lot of support since opening.
“I have got some great positive responses all over, but I take special pride at the response we receive from the deaf community about being a deaf business owner,” she said. “It is always inspiring to see deaf as well as hearing customers coming in the store to ask questions, get a quote or place orders.”
In December, EmbroidMe Frederick was part of a nationwide “Holiday Hop” that spotlighted deaf-owned businesses. The hop was sponsored by two other Frederick-based deaf-owned businesses, T.S. Writing and Your Desk’s Assistant.
“There are at least 10 (but definitely more) thriving deaf business owners in Frederick,” said Trudy Suggs, of T.S. Writing. Several other members of the deaf community run individual-based businesses as artists, photographers and cleaners, she said.
Suggs and Nikki Reineck, of Your Desk’s Assistant, are working with others to get a Frederick Deaf Business Owners group active.
Suggs stopped into EmbroidMe earlier this month to get a T-shirt printed, she said.
Foster and Phillips said they enjoy looking for new products to personalize or ways to add pizazz to useful items. In addition to clothing, they also produce banners, posters, stickers and car decals. A grand reopening party is planned for Feb. 27.
The couple said they hope to expand the business and leave it to Seth and Rylie one day.
The children “are very excited about the store and are fascinated with how embroidery and printing work,” Foster said. “I can already tell that they’d be great at it.”
Know someone who would make a good Slice of Life? Email your suggestion to email@example.com or call 301-662-1178 and ask for a city editor.