When Sarah received her degree from Mt. Holyoke College in 1993, she faced a dilemma common to many liberal arts majors—finding a job in a world dominated by high-tech industries. She eventually joined a computer consulting firm and worked in Lisbon, Portugal for 18 months. When she returned to the United States, she consider ways to capitalize on her experiences and education exploring the world of antiques during her travels.
Hill's shop, Curzon Hill Antiques, is now a staple of the Alexandria, Virginia main-street shopping scene. Since 1993, Hill has sold vintage and antique fine linens, European porcelain, holiday decor and books. In 1997, she started offering cleaning, repair, and preservation services for antique lovers in the Washington, D.C. area.
Hill works alongside her mother, Betty, and her daughter, Charlotte. Most recently, they added a new division to their business called Needles & Hooks, through which they stock traditional rug-hooking supplies.
Hill's quick success paired with media attention led to her expand her business to specialize in linen care and preservation. Along with her SCORE mentors, Hill has been able to make wise decisions for the long-term health of her business.
When Hill was considering a retail location for her business, she had her eye on a building that had been empty for some time. “One site that seemed very promising had been vacant for two years,” Hill recalls. “Mr. Rosen sensed that something was wrong and suggested that I first find out why it had been on the market so long. It turned out that the landlord didn’t have a good reputation. I found a much better location near the heart of Old Town while that other space has stayed unoccupied.”
Sarah’s grandfather, who had owned a successful advertising and printing business in Omaha, suggested that she contact the local chapter of SCORE. After attending seminars on start-ups and developing business plans, Sarah began working with mentor Eugene Rosen, a former small business coordinator for NASA. Rosen helped Sarah understand the nuances of cash flow, advertising, and expenses, as well as preparing and analyzing financial reports.
As Hill’s business has grown, so too has the value of SCORE’s expertise. Along with Rosen, Hill started working with mentor Herb Robinson, who formerly owned five dress shops in the metropolitan Washington area.
"Mr. Robinson has brought some great insights into specialty retail markets," Hill says. "Both he and Mr. Rosen have been wonderful about staying in touch and taking a personal interest in my business. Now, I’m doing something that I’d always dreamed about, but wasn’t always sure could really happen. I’m really having the time of my life."