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Entrepreneurs Find Opportunities for New Business in Tyler, TX

Tyler is experiencing a new wave of creativity.

By Kim Madlom on August 9, 2022

Lightbox Collective
Lightbox Collective

In a region already known for innovation, Tyler is experiencing a new wave of creativity as people find interesting ways to earn a living, get into business or start a side hustle.

Online content creators and storytellers are launching podcasts while others are helping businesses build a brand. Young people are also getting into business and establishing partnerships to create interesting products.

“This region is a hidden gem,” says Ciara Polikretis, co-host of ETX Podcast, which highlights women-owned businesses and women leaders in East Texas. “We have a lot of creative people in this area whether we are talking about artists, students in film school or business entrepreneurs.”

A blogger/influencer, Polikretis co-hosts the podcast with Holli Fourniquet, senior vice president at Visit Tyler. Both women have deep ties to East Texas. Holli’s husband, Cory, is the host of GT Garage Talk, a podcast highlighting people throughout the automotive industry and a car review YouTube channel. Tyler is home to several social media influencers across all platforms, and other popular podcasts include Roses & Weeds and Rambling Roses.

ETX Podcast

ETX Podcast began as an extension of the ETX Life blog.

“We could tell East Texas has a lot of great small businesses without robust advertising budgets,” Polikretis says. “So we wanted to place a special focus on women in business and highlight the challenges and opportunities for women.”

Now in its second year, ETX Podcast has covered topics ranging from managing holiday stress to shopping with small retailers to rebranding a business, typically through a discussion with a woman in business or applicable professional field.

Polikretis says Tyler’s pro-business atmosphere helps creative people fi nd their niche and succeed.

She says Tyler ticks all the boxes for creative types – arts, food, a supportive community.

“Tyler already has something for everyone, but we are also growing,” Polikretis says. “Dallas is spreading our way. But the cool thing is, Tyler won’t lose our sense of smaller-town living. We’ll still be the type of community where people come out and help each other. We’ll never be so big that we lost that community aspect.”

Lightbox Collective
Lightbox Collective

Shining Brightly

LightBox Collective works with businesses large and small to create on-brand content for each platform and channel, build multi-platform social experiences, and execute high-level commercials and campaigns to bring their brands or projects into the best light.

Lightbox has built a reputation for valuing its clients.

“This is our passion, it’s not just a career or a means to an end,” says Shadai Perez, director of photography. “How our clients are represented is representative of us. That is why we are a 100 percent in-house studio. We don’t outsource, so clients get consistency.”

“Tyler already has something for everyone, but we are also growing.”

Ciara Polikretis, ETX Podcast

Perez says the company is always pushing for innovative ways to use a new technique or try something to help it stay ahead of its competitors.

“Our team can produce massive amounts of branding for clients including commercial video, photography, web design and social management,” Perez says.

Owner Samuel Richmann says the next step for Lightbox Collective is to consolidate and refi ne. “We have been in growth mode for seven years and it’s time to stabilize,” he says.

“We want to work with more localized businesses for their web, video and photography needs to see our city grow. In times like these, we need to focus on what’s close to home and support our locals. Tyler is in a massive growth phase, and we want to be at the forefront of making it look the best it can.”

Pineywood Pets
Pineywood Pets

Local Pet Shop Curates Natural, Handmade Goods

Pineywoods Pets, owned and operated by Whitney and Brendan Johnson, has been featured on an episode of the ETX Podcast. Created from the merger of Pineywoods Pet Bakery and Purple Thread Bandanas, Pineywoods Pets makes dog treats and dog bandanas.

Since taking over the business in 2020, the Johnsons updated the logo, revamped the packaging and added some doggie doughnuts and personalized jumbo bones to the product line.

“This is the first time we’ve owned our own business and it’s been great,” Whitney says. “I’m not saying it hasn’t been a lot of hard work, because it has. We are both still working full time and doing this on the side, so it has been interesting finding that balance.”

It’s all hands on deck when it’s time to bake and package the products. Friends and family pitch in to help, with the Johnsons’ four dogs volunteering as product tasters.

“We’ve had good support from the community,” she says.

Pineywoods Pet Bakery partners with ETX Brewing Co. to use spent grains from the brewing process as ingredients in the dog treats. The treats are dry, crunchy and easy to break apart.

In addition to the mail order business, the treats are sold at Rancher’s Market, in a market in Whitehouse and at the Visit Tyler store. The Johnsons also sell their products at the Whitehouse Farmers Market every Saturday.

“Our dream is to open our own storefront,” Whitney says. “We know it’s going to be a process, but it’s definitely on our radar.”

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