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After a business profile in a well-known area magazine last month and the 24th anniversary of her shop coming up in October, Leslie McCarthy is riding Cloud Nine.
Poised, elegant, stylish, one would never think that McCarthy– who was even selected by Today’s Woman magazine as one of 2013’s Most Admired Women in Kentucky – was once shy and unsure of herself.
“The hardest thing that I had to overcome was lack of belief in myself,” she said. “I literally was afraid that my business would not be successful enough to pay the rent.”
But more than two decades of operating a successful fabric business, Making Ends Meet, has turned this shy duckling into an a graceful, talented swan, an analogy she laughs at, saying she only thrives on being creative.
“After twenty-four years, I realize that the reason I love my job is that there is not a typical day,” she said. “Things are different every day that you walk through the door. You may think you want to do one thing and then something else may inspire you – it keeps things fun.”
McCarthy, a native of Hamilton, Ohio, who has a degree in fashion merchandising from Eastern Kentucky University, is an inspiration herself, not only to her friends and family – husband, Jeff, and sons, Jason and Brent – but to women all over the state who may have read her profile in the June edition of Today’s Woman.
With a circulation of more than 50,000 in the Louisville area, the magazine has been publishing its most admired women list for 11 years.
McCarthy said she was flattered to have been chosen because the women nominated to be profiled were selected by a poll of readers.
“Reader votes determined the winners,” she said.
McCarthy’s shop has also been featured in Southern Living and HOME magazine.
All that recognition demonstrates McCarthy’s love for what she does.
And what is that, exactly?
When asked what creative avenue she excels in most, she giggled, saying, “That all depends on what day you ask me.”
She is not only an interior decorator, but she also designs and makes clothing – something that she discovered at age 13 that she loved to do – as well as jewelry, furniture, accessories. Oh, and she teaches art classes. She never knows what type of inspiration may strike her at any given moment, she said.
“What do I do at Making Ends Meet? I do a lot of creating, playing and designing, and not necessarily what needs to be done or what my employees would like me to do,” she said mischievously, glancing at an employee who was trying hard to keep a straight face.
Walking through her huge shop, which includes an immense fabric selection, an art studio, and rooms filled with crafts, furniture, clothing, jewelry, handbags, and draperies for sale that she has created, one has to wonder how she can keep coming up with new ideas. After 24 years, what is there that she hasn’t done?
“[We have some]New and exciting changes,” she said. “I am working on a new line of fun whimsical clothing, just a new venture that has peaked my interest and am enjoying the creative side of that.”
Her shop was not always so all-inclusive or large, but it has grown throughout the years, from a small room in a church basement in 1989 to encompassing two connected houses for a spacious, multifaceted facility at the corner of Washington and 7th streets.
“Business has evolved, changed with the times,” she said, “[with] the need for more or less space, more or less employees and different hours. It will continue to change as the economy and demand for fabric changes. The newest change we have is a large art studio and classroom space that is now in the rear of the store.”
McCarthy said it gives her a feeling of accomplishment when she thinks of how her business has grown since those early days.
“The most rewarding thing is looking at the business, knowing where it came from and wondering where it is going next, and enjoying the folks that I work with and the customers that come in,” she said, adding that she really enjoys helping people find just what they are search for, even if they didn’t know what it was at first.
“The store is a great place to come and be inspired with new ideas, new fabrics, great prices and employees that are ready to help you put together a look to match your home,” she said.
McCarthy’s energy and enthusiasm doesn’t end when she steps out of her shop.
Eileen Collins, executive director of Shelby Development Corporation, says McCarthy has been an invaluable member of the business community for a number of years.
“Leslie is a very active member of our Shelby Development Corporation Business Recruitment and Retention Committee,” she said, adding that she also served on Shelby Development’s board of directors for 3 years.
“Leslie does the table decorations for our Jubilee Kickoff Breakfast,” Collins said. “She is just amazing. She is a whirlwind of creativity. She is energy personified.”
That’s the reason McCarthy was chosen in 2012 to receive the Neil Hackworth Award, which
Shelby Development launched in 1994 to commemorate in the name of a former mayor an exemplarity example of what a civic volunteer should be.
“It’s for community participation, and not just with Shelby Development Corporation,” Collins said. “That’s why we chose Leslie last year. She is a ball of fire. She has been a tremendous asset, not only to Shelby Development Corporation and the Jubilee, but also to the city of Shelbyville.”
McCarthy is also a second-term board member of the Shelby County Tourism Board of Directors, and has brought a wealth of energy and business experience to the table, Tour Director Charlie Kramer said.
“We try to keep a balance of people that are involved in downtown business, and she has made a huge contribution to our board,” he said.
As McCarthy prepares to celebrate Making Ends Meet’s 24th year in business, she reflected on a simple question: Is she where she imagined she would be at this point in her business career?
“As to where I want to be in my life at this point, I have never thought about where I want to be at any given time,” she said. “I enjoy where I am and know that if I am not where I want to be, it’s OK to start over and enjoy the journey.”