Entrepreneurs of Waco: Penni Wise Custom Framing

(Act Locally Waco loves Waco area entrepreneurs!  For more posts about local entrepreneurs, please click here: Entrepreneurs of Waco. If you would like to nominate a Waco entrepreneur to be profiled, please email [email protected].  – ABT)

By Penni Litzau

“In my work as a business advisor for the Small Business Development Center I enjoy working with all types of small business owners every day. From time to time I run across a true craftsman/craftswoman and the business is only necessary to provide the framework for them to share their craft with the world. Penni is one of those craftswomen.” – Tim Holtkamp, Business Advisor, McLennan Small Business Development Center  

Hello, I’d like to introduce myself! My name is Penni Litzau, and, many years ago, I fell into a love affair with the art of custom framing. I first became acquainted with custom framing in the mid-80’s, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I had never even heard of custom framing, didn’t know what it was. As far as I knew, people just bought pictures and they were already framed in some magical way.

Up until that time, my sum total of work experience had been in daycare and fast food. Even though I enjoyed working with customers and the direct contact with the public, I had become less than excited about things like inordinate amounts of grease, and I remember coming home feeling covered in it.  

So, I began the hunt for a new job. I knew I was intrigued by the world of retail, and that became my new emphasis. I remember applying for a wide variety of jobs—everything from selling candles to high-end clothing sales. Then, I saw an ad at the employment commission for seasonal work at Old America in Clute, Texas.  

When I submitted my application for the job, I was asked if I knew how to read a tape measure. I said I could, and after a few successful tries at measuring an assortment of objects, the job was mine. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this “seasonal” work would grow into full time. 

From that point on, I was hooked. I was amazed at how many different directions you could follow to create a piece of art. I was mesmerized by the entire process—from working with each individual object and using my own imagination to presenting every new customer with a final product that was displayed for them in the best way possible. I was giving something precious—a memory, a photo, handmade artwork, sometimes even a shadow box—that could be enjoyed for years to come. 

In my very first encounter with the art of custom framing, I questioned the customer as to what thoughts they had and what direction they wanted to go with their print. I was not prepared for the response. “Well, you’re the expert; why don’t you tell me?” My initial thought was that they were my first customer and I wasn’t sure I would be able to give them what they expected. 

Right then and there, I made a decision. I figured if I acted like I’d been doing this for years, it would create a level of trust in me. And, boy, did I want this to work, both for them and for myself. I took the work in hand and prayed that I would be successful in making them happy and in creating something special. 

Happily, my first run at it turned out to be exactly what they were looking for. It was a wonderful experience for them and for me. From then on, I knew that, somehow, I had an innate understanding of what it took to create something like this. Most importantly, it was something I could be proud of. 

In the end, I had to give up that job because I had to move away. There followed a succession of years in which I had to leave my new-found love for a time and work once again in fast food. I had to pay my bills, and at that time, framing only paid minimum wage, regardless of one’s level of expertise. 

In all affairs of the heart, there are many twists and turns before the happy ending, and mine was no different. I explored numerous other paths, seeking education and better pay.  I made a move to Waco, Texas, to be closer to my family. Eventually, I married, and my husband, Stephen, and I began a blended family. 

After working several years pursuing a potential career in electronics, I found I was still unhappy due to the lack of artistic expression. My husband and I decided that I would leave work for a period of time and spend more time with our growing family. Later, after the kids went back to school, I returned to the work field. 

Throughout the years, I had longed to return to framing, so I applied to the two chain stores with frame shops in Waco, Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Miraculously, when I walked into Hobby Lobby and told them I had a background in framing, they told me there was a position needing to be filled in their frame shop. I got hired on the spot! 

For the next sixteen years, I worked in framing, and, finally, realized it had become my passion. After all these years, I found myself not only loving what I was doing but slowly progressing to a better living wage. Beyond all doubt, framing was the perfect career I wanted to pursue.  

So now, the time has come to end one story and begin the next. It is an exhilarating, almost breathtaking experience to start my own business doing what I love the most. But, you know what they say, “If you do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”  

I’m looking forward to this new, next journey—that of helping people preserve their special artwork, personal memories and experiences in the best way possible. Through the use of specialized framing techniques and artistic expression, I know I can make your next memory one that will last you a lifetime. 

Penni Wise Custom Framing is located at 7033 Sanger Avenue in Waco, Texas, right on the access road of Highway 6. My hours of operation will be Tuesday through Friday 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM and Saturday 10:00 AM to 2 PM. I will be open the first week in September with an official Grand Opening October 1st, 2016. Please come and visit. I would love to meet you and together create a thing of beauty.

penni-litzauPenni Coleman Litzau was born in San Antonio, Texas and has spent the majority of her life in Texas. She attributes, in part, her eye for detail to being raised by a mother who lost her eyesight due to Multiple Sclerosis. Penni became her “mother’s eyes” and described everything she saw in great detail and vivid color. In 1996, she moved to Waco, Texas to be closer to her mother, sister, and family. A year later, Penni met her husband Stephen Litzau, the Millwork Supervisor and longtime master craftsman for CM Trautschold. They blended their family in 1998. You can contact Penni through email at [email protected] , www.penniwisecustomframes.com , or facebook.




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