My Inspiration

I’m sitting at work on this Valentine’s Day and I’m thinking about the two women who were and are my biggest inspiration for starting this store and becoming an entrepreneur. It seems appropriate to love on them today, and I’ve wanted to scream out their names to everyone since this store started. They are just awesome women and would never toot their own horns!

Many people know the story of how the store came about – my mom and I took a trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law after their new baby was born. They were living in San Francisco at the time and we ended up at several toy stores to browse and of course buy things for the new baby. The stores were all independently owned and just simply cool – all hands on and ran counter to everything “big box.” Boom. The idea was done. We just needed money, space, and to create a brand. Easy peasy, right?

But most do not know what in the world would even put our minds into the place to be looking for a business idea in the first place. Well, I don’t know about my mom, but for me my grandmothers are my inspiration. They were both business owners, and they both carved out a niche for themselves in this world. They were both able to help support their families, and they both did it despite any odds against them. And they both have loved on me my whole life and in no small measure made me believe we could do this.

My Grandma Cullison was a hair dresser and owned her own beauty shop. It was really known as Janice’s Fash-n-aire. (I hope I spelled that right because I have never actually called it that! It was just grandma’s beauty shop.) From what I understand in the family history, she went back to school and got her cosmetology license after she had her two kids. And in a very small town in eastern Ohio my grandparents built a new house and turned part of the walk-out basement into a section for grandma to have her own business. She had a waiting area/drying area with three of those drying chairs with the hood things. And on the other side of a short counter there was the work space – one of those fun lift-y chairs and a hair washing bowl. There was also a storage area and a bathroom in the back. And for a short time she added on some space and had some tanning beds, as well.

I have so many memories of sitting in the shop with my grandma and all the ladies; watching The Young and the Restless, and listening to them all discuss the drama of Victor and Victoria. I remember the phone ringing and watching grandma multitask without missing a beat. She handled it so smoothly. I remember being impressed, but it was also just grandma being grandma. There was hair to cut, set, and sweep up, combs and brushes to disinfect, and appointments to take down. And her appointment book was always full. Now as an adult with my own children I have no idea how she managed so smoothly. She was on her feet all day, still cooked and cleaned house, and I’m sure managed the kids (and I know my dad was a handful!). Needless to say I’m impressed. She never complained; I always complain. She’s an amazing, determined woman. I love you, Grandma!

My Grandma Hosler was an artist who worked in dried flowers and owned her own gift shop. I’m not sure how she would feel about me calling her an artist, but she was. She started her career as a business owner later in life. She was always a working mom, but after her youngest child went off to college she decided she wanted to go to college, too. So she did. When all was said and done she had a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in business. I think she just wanted to use her degrees, so she and Grandpa decided to start a business – she created wreaths and other arrangements out of dried flowers and he did the books, but I think he would even say she was the boss. She had an amazing sense of aesthetic and her stuff was just beautiful. Her business was called Country Herbs. They started small – doing craft shows, passing out business cards and such. At some point along the line they decided to go bigger, actually put down roots, and open a brick and mortar store. To minimize overhead they opened up the lower half of their split-level house and turned it into a store. In the middle of the country. With no one around. Talk about bold! Grandpa has said that on their first day open they just waited for people to come. Waited and waited. But people did come. They came and they came. Eventually the store outgrew the space they had, so naturally they added on to their house and the store doubled (maybe more!) in size. Grandma taught classes on wreath making and working with dried flowers, they sold their herbal dips to local grocery stores, and had amazing Christmas open houses.

I was alive when she went into business, but still very young, so it was really the first time I had really given any thought into signage, overhead, logos, bookkeeping, credit card fees, expansion, advertising, business associations, shipping and receiving, customer service, and creating shopping experiences. I remember all of this stuff and more from her store. I also got the opportunity to learn how to wrangle hot glue and make my own arrangements that went out to the sales floor (and occasionally sold without having to be put on sale!). I have memories of trying to help during Christmas open house weekend, the smell of hot cider, sneaking the jam samples, wrapping up breakable items, and hearing the cash register ding. My grandmother was a quiet, sweet, and unassuming lady who got stuff done. I love you, Grandma!

Both of my grandmothers were bosses, and it shows in the businesses they built and ran for decades. They put business into my blood in different ways. It took me a little longer to figure that out than it should have, but I got there. And both of them have been able to visit and see what we’ve created with our vision, although they are not both still here to follow us through the years.

In all the days, months, and years ahead I will look to them to know how to run my business and my life. You are wonderful, inspiring ladies, and this is my thank you and I love you. You will always be my inspiration.