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Female entrepreneurs find home in Chatom

In rural Chatom, the nearest Wal-mart, shopping mall, or McDonalds is a half-hour drive or more away. However, local female entrepreneurs are turning this into an opportunity to serve both the community and their families.

These women are carving out more than just a living for themselves. They started business ventures with missions to meet the needs of area residents. Beyond economic advancement, they agree their small businesses serve the community in unique ways.

From storefronts for everything from health/wellness, childcare, retail shops, salons, coffee shops, and restaurants to caterers, professional service providers, and pop-up boutiques, small towns across Alabama like Chatom are fueled by these small businesses.

Several women-owned enterprises in Chatom are spotlighted here. For all of these women, Chatom means“family.” It is the place where they are raising and “doing life” with their own families while serving the greater community that has become their chosen family.


Spot for Tots

Anita McDonald, owner of Spot for Tots, opened her childcare business because she felt it was her calling. She said, “I have always thought that what I do daily is what God intended for me to do.”

Spot for Tots is known in the community for being a place where parents can bring their children and know they are receiving the best care and educational resources. McDonald, in business for 30 years, said she enjoys keeping the children of those who were also once “Spot’s Kids.”

McDonald began her business in her home with six children, and now her facility is licensed for 80 children and consistently has a lengthy waiting list. As McDonald reflected on her years in childcare, she said, “The memories of all the little lives that I have gotten to be a part of always hold a special place in my heart.”

McDonald said she believes the biggest reward of owning Spot for Tots is watching the children grow up from an infant to an adult knowing that she was able to make an impact on their lives. She said, “Spots for Tots has been a dream come true for me. I have the largest family in Washington County, with all my babies.”

McDonald said, “I have stayed in Chatom because it is where my family is. I have also stayed because Ilove the bond that the town has with everyone. I know that if I honestly ever need help on anything, there is someone I can always call for help.”


CJ’S Village Boutique

Chesley Jones, owner of CJ’S Village Boutique, is a generational business owner of women's boutiques. The first boutique was opened in 1968 by her grandmother in Gilbertown, Alabama. The business was then passed down to her mother and aunt, and now to Jones.

woman smiling

Jones said, “I have basically grown up in a shop, so I feel as comfortable as I can be there.” After high school, Jones graduated from the University of Alabama with a marketing degree.She then began working at her mother and aunt’s shop in Gilbertown. She added her own spin to her family business through social media. Jones said, “In this day and time, social media can help your business soar, no matter what town you're based in.”

Once Jones became the owner of the store, she decided to move her boutique to Chatom. “I just moved my world to another town that was closer to where we are raising our family,” Jones said.

She added, “Since owning my own business, I have a fire I’ve never had before. It’s like something is depending on you every day to be successful, so it makes you give it your all.”


Chatom Yoga and Wellness

 Chloe Wofford, owner of Chatom Yoga and Wellness, taught at Jackson Academy and then at the University of Southern Mississippi while earning her doctorate in English and creative writing with an emphasis in Old English poetry before she opened her business.

Wofford then opened Chatom Yoga and Wellness so she could serve her community while having the freedom to be a mother. She said she feels her past career as a teacher is evident in her practice as a yoga instructor.

Wofford described her studio as a “safe space that is designed by a woman for other women to feel confident and comfortable in exercising their bodies.” Her studio also “provides holistic wellness options for the entire family.”

Wofford added, “Most importantly, the space is prayed over constantly, for the women who move and breathe in the space to feel the presence of God, and for God to be glorified through how we think, move, and speak.”

Wofford said her business really is just serving others. She shared that the relationships she has formed since opening her business continue to be a dream come true.

She added, “Chatom is one of the best places to call home. It's the place I want to raise my children. The people I have formed a community with and served and the way we do life here is truly different.”


Magnolia Behavior Services, LLC

Cristie Giles, owner of Magnolia Behavior Services, LLC, opened her applied behavior analysis services inChatom when she saw a need. Giles said, “My business provides applied behavior analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. ABA works on communication skills, functional skills, and maladaptive behaviors.”

Giles fell in love with these techniques when her daughter, Sarabeth, received services from a Board-CertifiedBehavior Analyst in elementary school. Giles recalled how she tried to find someone to help her daughter outside of school, but there was not a clinic within 75 miles.

This led Giles to finish her degree in special education and later earn her master’s degree in ABA. After completing her degree, there were no Board-Certified Behavior Analyst positions open in Washington County, so she either had to work 60 miles away from Chatom or start her own clinic.

Giles said, “In my mind, it was a no-brainer. I felt called to serve children in Washington County and could not do that if I worked in Mobile. That is when Magnolia Behavior Services was born.”

Giles added, “Chatom is my home. It is where we do life, and I wanted to be able to watch my community grow in ways it has never grown before.”

Magnolia Behavior Services started out in a small 12x12 office working with three to five children regularly. Now Giles’s clinic provides services to 16 children from four counties and is currently moving to a third, larger location.

Giles said she feels that being a mother of a special needs child can be lonely. She said through her work she is “able to look at other parents and tell them, ‘I get it. Let me help.’”

She added that by providing services through her clinic and educating others about children with disabilities, she has found her way of giving back to the community.





Tags: Chatom

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