Alumni Issue: Gisele Littrell — Tapping into excellence

Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 10:50 AM
Alumni Issue: Gisele Littrell — Tapping into excellence by Nathan Brennan
Gisele Littrell standing in front of her store, the Tipsy Bean. | Photo: Nathan Brennan

It’s not just that Gisele Littrell was a business owner by 19. It’s not just that her current business is a routine-breaking combo of coffee and alcohol. It’s that the EU alum, businesswoman and owner of Erie’s Tipsy Bean does little traditionally.

Littrell, starting from a young age, has partnered that spirit with an uninhibited passion to succeed at whatever tasks she takes on, including graduating college, owning multiple businesses at the same time and questioning societal norms.

The end result of her hard work? According to her, “There’s never an end result.”

Born in southern California, Littrell is the daughter of two Marines and relocated to the Erie area when she was 12 years old. Even then, she realized there was something that set her apart from her classmates: passion.

“Most people don’t have the driving passion to just do great at whatever it is they’re doing, and no matter what I got my hand in, I just wanted to do the best that could possibly be done [and be] the most efficient I could be.”

Therefore, to set her passion to work, she started at Edinboro as a pre-veterinary major and even got a job at a pet hospital; however, she quickly discovered that it wasn’t for her.

From there, she changed course and actually withdrew from Edinboro, citing that fire. “When you have those qualities as a personality trait, there really is only one thing that will satisfy that drive, and that is running your own creation.”

She would do exactly that, opening her first business, the French Maids Cleaning Service, as well as a few other businesses over the course of a few years.

After she spent time working on her businesses and gaining valuable experience, she decided to go back to Edinboro, this time on a mission: “I knew exactly what I wanted to learn, what I needed to focus on and areas I needed to improve on.”

As a result, she tailored her education to her needs, enhancing what she knew about business as her minor, as well as taking an interest in communication as her major.

Simultaneously, Littrell continued to grow French Maids, and, breaking janitorial services into its own company, opened Strongman Services, a business she still runs to this day.

She did have her share of difficulties, though, specifically in making connections. “Because I was a non-traditional student, I didn’t really connect with a whole lot of other students,” explained Littrell.

Partly because of her age and experience, she connected better with professors, who in turn, had a better idea of how to connect with her, as well as understanding the strain of owning businesses at the same time.

This is where Dr. Timothy Thompson came in. A professor as well as the chairperson of the Communication, Journalism & Media Department at Edinboro, Thompson was able to help Littrell in a way other professors hadn’t.

She explained: “Having him understand my needs as an entrepreneur and business-owner while going back to school full-time, and the demands that that required of me, he was able to help me manage my time, choose courses that would do what I was looking for, as well as what would work within the confines of my schedule.”

“He was so inspiring,” she concluded.

Of Littrell, Thompson said: “Gisele was an ideal student — extremely motivated, great in groups, a leader. She had a wonderful ability to carry creative ideas through to fruition, making things happen in the various events we planned in classes. It is no surprise that she has been so successful in her business endeavors.”

In fact, the two even collaborated to bring a chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success to Edinboro in 2013, an organization Littrell was the president of for their inaugural year on campus. She now remains involved by serving as a member of the alumni board for the Communication, Journalism & Media Department.

Once she graduated in 2015, she continued to work on her businesses, until about a year and half ago, when she sold French Maids to pursue her dream of opening a café.

This dream materialized in the Tipsy Bean, located on Peach Street, which opened in November 2018.

Operating in the heart of the Hill District neighborhood in Erie, the Tipsy Bean sports the combination of coffee, cocktails and pastries, a concept that came to her quite simply. “Anything I enjoy a lot, I dive into the micro-organism that creates it.”

In essence, she explained that she loves wine, coffee and liquor, and noticed that the three were never usually paired together in society; and, due to her driven nature, she desired to learn all she could about the processes that go behind each of these products, allowing for freedom to create unique taste experiences for her customers, influenced by her life and travels. 

She was able to showcase these skills when the Tipsy Bean hosted an alumni gathering for EU’s Art 100 Celebration, an event where she represented the Fighting Scots with specialty cocktails. The event helped benefit both Edinboro and her business.

Littrell found this event to be a rewarding experience: “I was able to make new relationships with those alum that I otherwise didn’t get a chance to have while I was in school,” adding that she’s seen returning customers to the café from the event.

As for her future plans, Littrell mentioned possibly getting a bakery in-house at the Tipsy Bean, getting into helping other entrepreneurs, and possibly doing some public speaking, but generally left the rest open-ended.

“My future is not defined by what I’m doing now, it’s just another step in the journey of where I want to go.”

Truly, for a person who is as passionate as Littrell, time will only tell where her dreams will take her next.

Additional Photos:

Gisele Littrell standing in front of her store, the Tipsy Bean. | Photo: Nathan BrennanThe sign for the Tipsy Bean on the side of the building. | Photo: Nathan Brennan

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