Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beach Dreams... and a long journey to get here - Part 1


It's been a whole week since I have had a free moment to sit and compose a new blog post...where to start, so much to write about... Finally, I think I will share a little of my journey, how I started (re-started) a coastal lifestyle company, and the pathway to live my dreams.  It has not been easy,  still so far to go, and so much more to learn and experience. Yay! More beach walking and traveling!

Caron's Beach Cottage and Caron's... the finest in Coastal Living, were created in 2002 after 3 years of research, reading and planning. Actually having my own retail store had been my dream since I was a teenager. We opened our first retail store in downtown Poulsbo in May of 2002 in less than 900 square feet- no back room. Within 6 months, it was incredibly obvious that we'd already outgrown the small store. Our customers were demanding more coastal home decor and furniture, and eventually we grew to about 3500 square feet, a big backroom and 2 bathrooms!
















Then we built a successful website in 2004.  Eventually, within 6 months of launching the site, Caron's Beach Cottage.com was featured in many national magazines, including our favorite - Coastal Living Magazine. It was a fabulous ride for 5 years!  Didn't have a clue, but it all seemed to work.

And then, the big crash and burn....

Brokenhearted, but determined to survive I went back to what I knew 2nd best; mortgage banking. Remember that industry??? Picked myself up, dusted off the suits, complete with pantyhose and high heels, from the back of the closet.  Some of the skirts were a tad bit snug! Off I went to make sales calls to mortgage brokers in Seattle, Bellevue and Kitsap County, Washington. Average time in the car every day = 4 hours.  My mortgage customers were glad to see me, but I was in such a fog - trying desperately to forget about everything that I had worked so hard to build, the dreams, the coastal customers, seashells, trips to market...

It was so bad that I wouldn't talk about it to anyone. Could not face my garage full of old inventory. Friends had to come over and help organize the garage for me, it was just too darn daunting to tackle by myself. I would not go into ANY home decorating store - even avoided those departments in Macy's and Nordstrom's! Didn't EVER buy or look at Coastal Living, Country Living, Oprah Home, BHG... none of the home decorating magazines made it in my grocery cart.  Awful, awful time in my life.

Guess what? At the fall of 2008, CitiMortgage announced on a 5 minute conference call that 1000 of us didn't need a job anymore.. hmmmm.  Now what to do?  Of course, I know - find another great job in the mortgage industry!  Yeah that was a great idea. Interviewed with 6 different companies, all are out of business now.

It's a good thing that I know how to be frugal - am a big fan of pb & j sandwiches!  Lived the high life (ha ha ha) on commissions and bonuses and unemployment $$ while I tried to figure out what to do.

One night on a trip down to San Francisco, before my house sold, Tom took me out for fancy cocktails at the Cliff House. Beautiful January night, cute boyfriend,  fog rolling into the Bay, orange sky with the sun setting in the Pacific.

Perfectly romantic with Tom's gorgeous martini,, and a cranberry-vodka concoction for me  All of a sudden, I looked up behind the bar, my "Caron's" inventory was displayed - pretty vintage bathing beauties, big beautiful chunks of coral,  porcelain shells,and delicate hand-blown vases from Roost.  That was all it took.  Within 30 seconds I was sobbing uncontrollably. I realized that I wanted it all back, I wanted that life back - even when it was scary and difficult. Thank goodness Tom finally made me talk about it.

Step One: Attended C.A.S.H. class for 8 weeks to relearn some lessons about having a business.  Great class offered through the unemployment office in Washington. (Still HATE the accounting part)  Made some great new friends and really listened for some ideas to make the next venture work. I knew that it could not be a regular storefront retail business again, but what was it going to look like?

Graduated with a gold seal certificate.

Step Two: Buy domain names for  www.caronsbeachhouse.com and www.everythingcoastal.com. Was so depressed and stupid that I let my very successful domain name, www.caronsbeachcottage.com lapse - so dumb!!! It was only $10.00 to renew - and someone else bought it!

Step Three: Thanks to my buddy, Suzanne Droppert, I start blogging, facebooking, twittering. What the heck???  Decided that until I had the cash from the sale of my house, I would try to engage potential customers, reconnect with previous customers and friends, before launching the website. Maybe that way I would have a built in support system and maybe even some customers. (I hope I hope I hope!)

Cannot begin to tell you the value of getting involved with Social Media. Wow, have met some incredibly smart, honest, kind, fascinating people.  So much of what I've learned, I have incorporated into building the website and better blogging.  Truly, it's like I have been in college.  A lot for my 46 year old brain to take in!

Step Four: Get the house SOLD!!!!  Sold my view home in the Pacific NW in July for less that I wanted, but it's sold. Now, I had the $$ and the determination to make this all happen.  Lived at my Mom and Dad's beach house for 6 months while I planned my move to San Francisco . After I lost my job at Citi, I also realized that I needed to live in the sun, and COULD NOT live one more winter in the gray and rain of Seattle. It's amazing what happens when you lose security, your eyes are opened; never really had security anyway, so why not create a life that you really want?

Step Five:  Back to the Pacific Market Center in Seattle!  How fun! Went to my first gift show in January, and started researching and planning for beach house style inventory.  What to order? What vendors would let us re-establish accounts? What companies will drop-ship?  How much inventory should we store? What vendors were out of business?  Catalogs were scattered all over the living room, kitchen, dining room, bedroom, bathroom.  It's a good thing that I was living by myself, it was a mess!

Step Six:  During that 6-7 months' time period I wrote and wrote and wrote, both for the blog and  for all of the content pages, and all of the product descriptions on the "Caron's" website.  OMG!! Cannot begin to describe the days of writing "nautical", " beach house", "coastal" in every creative way that I can think of. Some of the products are in constant revision, as I learn more about writing for SEO using the meta tags and key words.  (any volunteers to be my copywriter?)

When things got tough or overwhelming (like they always do!) you could find me on the beach. Picking up shells, sea glass, really just looking for inspiration and to have a zen-like breather before going back and tackling more writing, e-mailing, ordering, reading, planning.


So here's part of the real story,  when you all thought I was having these fabulous exciting adventures, I was really in my pj's, hair sticking up,  having pb & j's, working furiously to get my coastal home website business up and running.  Thanks for hanging with me on this adventure. Stay tuned to see where it all goes!

Comments like these from new and old friends keep me going, and I am so grateful that I can bring just a little part of my world to all of you! You are all inspiring me to keep going - 

My FB friend Theresa: "ahhh I am so blessed because of you and your posts take me far far away from my desk & chair  here at Casa Mendoza. Through your eyes my world had grown because you share so much in such fine detail .... I am there walking the beach .. combing for shells and glass "


My friend KJ Lange: "I love that spot. Are you sure you're not living MY life?" LOL  (we were headed out to Pt. Bonita)


From Treasured Customer Karen: "Caron...the bowls arrived today and they are even more beautiful than I remembered !!! Thanks !!"

From new friend and fellow coastal artist Joan: " I LOVE you! I feel like I enjoyed some time at the beach everytime I see your postings...or when I visit your site!!!!
Thank you....keep posting!"

From my fellow blogger - Privet and Holly on a blog post down to Annie Glass: "What a dreamy day....chocolate stains, and all! I especially like the first two images of the Annie Glass. Almost magical! I will definitely pop over there and take a peek. Thanks for the introduction! Have a wonderful rest of the week.
xx P&H"

Lastly, from my new friend Annie Morhauser - fabulous glass artist in Santa Cruz: 

"It makes me so happy to see others get excited about my work. I don't mind your using the images from my site at all! Spreading the word about sustainable seafood is very important. Thank you for helping to get the word out."


Anniemglas said...

Caron-
I have to tell you about my evening at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Cooking for Solutions event last Friday. It is the 9th year and I am kicking myself for not having gone sooner- the food, the wine, meeting all the celebrity chefs! I did not even get all the way through it! The ENTIRE aquarium was set up with booths from the best restaurants from Boston to Carmel....and equal amount of excellent wineries, oysters, strawberry farms, all food related. It is the tastiest fundraiser I have ever been to.
Annie Morhauser
Annieglass"



I am lucky lucky lucky!

















13 comments:

Sally Lee by the Sea said...

Oh my dear Caron...thank you for sharing your beautiful story. We have many things in common (more than you know) and when we're going through these challenges it feels like we're all alone - I guess I wasn't. We just hadn't found each other yet.

You continue to inspire with your honesty and openness...I wish you great success with Caron's and in your new Bay Area life.

Hugs,
Marie

Beach Combing... said...

Thanks Marie! Means so much coming from you, I have learned oodles and oodles from your experience, and am so excited about what you are doing with your blog too.

So glad that we have become friends.

l,
C

Erin @ I Heart New England said...

What an inspiring story!! You've really come such a long way!

Beach House Living said...

That is quite a story and it must have been hard to write to relive it all. My friend and I own a web store Beach and Bauble with an awful website currently being redone thank goodness. No shopping cart feature at the moment nor are half the items up. We learned a well laid out web page is key and we are hoping our new one will hit the mark. We have lots of inventory that was wrong for us and other things we didn't buy enough of. One vendor you named downsized their lovely sea life items.

We had hoped to open a store but as the economy tanked we are glad we didn't. We are in the process of re-grouping and hope to come out with a bang this time. I am also making things that we hope to carry in the store as well.
Although our goods will likely be similar if not the same I wish you the greatest of success.

Jojo said...

Wow! What an interesting journey and a great story to share. You are courageous and are to be congratulated for working so hard to achieve your dream. You truly are living the life.

Wishing you continued blessings.

Beach Combing... said...

Thanks Jojo - just felt like there's a whole other story that I could tell to help other struggling entrepreneurs. Main lesson - don't give up!

Beach Combing... said...

Beach House Living -
Wishing you the best of luck too! Luckily this is my 2nd website and I know a whole lot more this time, even though the 1st one worked really well. Just did not work well to have a brick and mortar store and a web store. They are 2 distinctly different animals, and require different inventory, and different talents. My 1st web store was supporting the regular store, go figure. And I learned a very important lesson about Google Adwords...

Joan said...

I am certainly lucky to have found such a wonderful, inspiring person....YOU! Your story was touching, to me personally...I owned an art school in Chsrlotte, NC for 16 yrs. Moved to FL.three years ago, and in my garage are all of the boxes from my art school. I can't bear to throw away, I will donate, but find it hard to part with the supplies. I do paint, even got into a few galleries in town, and I'm even selling my art. I finally realized that my life just turned to another "chapter"...Maybe not teaching everyday, but enjoying the joy of painting.
Good news is, some neighbors want me to teach their children this summer. I'll get to inspire children once again, and yet continue to paint what I love...anything COASTAL!!!!
You are my latest Coastal Treasure Caron! Joan

simpledaisy said...

Your story is so very inspiring!!!!
thanks so much for sharing:)

PS...I am doing a give-away on my blog!! Stop on over when you get a free moment!
Like those happen very often for you...heehee:)

Maya said...

I couldn't imagine doing anything else than coastal related. I have been thinking about finding some signature items for my blog Completely Coastal that I could sell with drop ship, but know nothing about it. Currently I'm trying a coastal theme niche sites, once set up, it doesn't require work. The internet seems to be my thing. Anyways, it was good to read your story -thanks!

Privet and Holly said...

CARON! Sounds like you are exactly where you are meant to be. How brave of you to share your story, your heart.....and to continue pursuing your dreams despite setbacks along the way. You definitely have a sunny personality, and now where you live reflects WHO you are! {Not sure what that says about me, since it's my goal to end up retired in Washington State someday, near the beach or on a lake! I love fog and rain!} Thank you for your sweet comments ~ love hearing from you ~ and for including MY comment here on this post. I was surprised and touched. Happy weekend to you! xx Suzanne

Grammy said...

I live in wet Washington State and am trying to get a product to market. It's a long road and you
are an inspiration. I have tried to find out more
about CASH, but so far no luck. I feel I need some help. That class sounds perfect. Any suggestions? Privet and Holly is my partner.

Fearless Nester said...

Oh my heart ached reading about how hard it was for you when you couldn't bring yourself to even look at your beloved coastal decor. Thank you for sharing your story and I am so inspired by your resolve to live your life as you've always dreamed! ~Lili

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