7 Years of Local, and 7 Learnings

7 Years of Local, and 7 Learnings

Over seven years of owning and operating a small business, there are many things we've learned along this wild ride.


1. The creative drive is self-replenishing

It is not an understatement to say that Kelly and I care deeply about every detail of our stores. From telling stories with merchandising and the curated seasonal collections, we love bringing visions to life.  Lately we've found great joy in manifesting products that our customers request and that our team dream up. After 7 years you'd think we might run out of ideas but instead we have more than we could ever act upon. The beauty of the creative drive is that it self replenishes, the more you use, the more you have.


2. Ask the universe for what you want

Sitting at a picnic table at 1700 Penn Ave, Kelly, Don and I were reflecting on a property we just toured as a possible new store front. It didn't seem like a good fit, and not in the quite-right location.  Being the second or third property we seriously considered, out of frustration I pointed to the then Parma Sausage store front and said, that's where love, Pittsburgh should be. Not even a week later Kelly was driving by and saw the for rent sign in the window and immediately made the call.  Almost three years later we are still in love with our Strip District storefront, and couldn't be happier to call Parma our neighbor as they moved just next door.  Would we have had the same outcome had I not spoken my intention? Perhaps, but it doesn't hurt to ask.


3. Say yes and trust that you are ready

Not even a year into our first store in Mount Washington, the business development manager of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership inquired if we would want to open a store downtown.  Intrigued by the idea we visited a space that was available. 

At the time we were a small team of four, including Kelly and I, and while we were encouraged by the positive response from customers, our concept wasn't completely proven.  Be it naivete or a quixotic belief in ourselves, we dove right in, excited to expand our footprint and have even more impact on supporting artists and makers. This move set us up for additional expansion opportunities that if we had hesitated to take, we might not have had the means or guts to grab when they presented themselves. If you believe you can do something, trust that you can and go for it.


4. 1+1=Infinity

An unlikely creative duo standing in a hallway outside of a ballroom full of technology professionals, Kelly and I had our first conversation, the topic was about how we wished there was a place where you knew you were shopping local.
After a few studio visits and coffee meet ups I told Kelly about a storefront I had considered renting for my previous business, Pop Craft.  Being that it wasn't a great fit for craft workshops, I shared that I wanted to start a gift shop carrying local artists, the very concept that sparked our initial connection. 

I had wanted Kelly's collaboration on the project, her fashion background, her notebook business toomanysparkles, and her natural ability to cultivate community were the perfect compliments to my project management and business background. Thankfully, she wanted to be involved.

We've touted our kismet partnership as the lucky stars aligning to bring love, Pittsburgh to life. It's that and so much more. Being each other's sounding boards, cheerleaders, and therapists, the limits to what we can make are not bound by either of our capacities, the true beauty of working in a partnership. 


5. Small connections add up

I sometimes wish that we had a simple business where we sold one thing and could make a living doing that. But, with over a hundred artists and makers, multiplied by all of their products we carry, that is far from our reality. While complexity for complexities sake is not productive, we've found that each little magic moment is what contributes to the whole.  From friendly conversations with customers to the artists we can rely on in a moments notice, we relish the small things, because they add up to be what's most important. 


6. Collaborations create win-wins

Standing at the counter in Mount Washington with a candle maker we tinkered with oil blends mixing bamboo, black tea, and bergamot resulting in our first collaboration, our LOVE candle.  Since we've partnered with dozens of local artists, combining inspiration and craftsmanship creating products celebrating store milestones, holiday collections, and products that are much-requested by our customers.  We love that the overflowing amount of ideas are something we can share in creating, helping many of us win in synchrony.


7. Kindness carries us 

Bragging about our dream team is easy to do when things are going smoothly. There have been many bumps in the road recently, and it has truly been a team effort to manage it all.  Watching as those step up and step in when we're in need has been a relief.  Feeling the wave of caring when I or another team member are in need helps make the impossible feel more manageable. This is the true power of kindness, and we couldn't be luckier to have a business bursting with it. 


Bonus: Fill your cup first to overflow into others

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a lesson that I have learned over and over (and over) again. That is, to take care of others, be it a business, family member or perhaps even a pet (looking at you Lola), you must have first taken care of yourself. There are so many ways to say this, like "if you don't have it to give you can't give it," and "it's not selfish to take care of yourself." My personal favorite is "fill your cup first, and then you can overflow into others." We feel so strongly about this undeniable truth that we've modeled our newest business love, to be a manifestation of this idea.  Let this be your reminder for today, to fill your cup until it overflows. 

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