Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Raising G.R.A.C.E.

In the land of retail, the holidays strolled weeks ago amid piles of cardboard, glitter that lost its place, and an excitement for the pending season, that was quickly swallowed up by days of tagging and unwrapping.  I have been bedazzled, be-burlaped, be-glittered. I have driven home covered in stickers and tags - what a bargain. Throw me a coupon and I might be yours. Nevertheless, we managed to get done with the store and launch a brand which has found its way to 6 new stores in just a few weeks. 

I am blessed with opportunity I refuse to take for granted. The stubborn cowgirl in my suitcase. In the midst of all the recent chaos, multi-tasking and planning,  along came G.R.A.C.E. - a solution and an opportunity.  I would love your thoughts and feedback, as we begin to evolve and develop. Like an old house with great bones - I see potential. 

G.R.A.C.E. - 
Giving Real Artists A Chance (at) Entrepreneurship

Cowgirl Yes. Graceful probably not. Me- raising Freckled Laundry totes in our store. 
Grace is an artisan cooperative directed by Boots & Pearls to give women artists, designers, and crafters an opportunity at entrepreneurship.  As we expand our brand to include new lines, primarily in jewelry and women's accessories (scarves, belts, totes, purses, hair access), we are heading to the heart of America to find the gifts, passions and talents of real women.  Our goal is provide a means of working as a collaborative team of nationwide talent to create, inspire and expand the lines and branding of Boots & Pearls. In addition, we are providing a real source of income, an outlet for creativity, and an opportunity to go wholesale without the complexity of dealing with multiple companies. We are also infusing Economic development by utilizing our homegrown resources rather than importing overseas.  Our goal is to develop and foster successful partnerships with selected vendors and enable their products to be sold in higher volume, and more importantly, have their name as a part of our brand. They grow as we grow.  

We are hoping to launch the campaign in early 2013. During that time, applicants may submit a sample product and application for evaluation into our line in hopes for making the summer markets.  We will select our team based on cohesive fit of product into line, pricing, production capacity, overall concept and creativeness, and most of all quality and craftsmanship.

Our brand expansion depends on our ability to find great talent, and pull it all together GRACEfully. This Southern Farmgirl will try my best. Glitter and burlap and stickers and all. 

More to come, more to share, and thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement!
Happy Thanksgiving from Boots & Pearls!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Today, I would like to share our new friend and jewelry designer, Sarah,  of Blue Soul Designs with you.  I stumbled across Sarah, in a sea of jewelry designers while trying to bring in a new line for the store.  Something drew me to her. No glitter, no flashy gems, just a pure, simple quality that kept drawing me back to look at her pieces.  To this day, I can't tell you how we managed to find her- other than countless searches that all lead me back to Blue Soul.  It's a God thing. And I am glad I listened. After the first email, I knew she was a keeper. And so, Sarah and Blue Soul became part of the Farmhouse.  I appreciated her attention to detail, her incredible communication, and her craftsman.  A rare gem to be treasured.  It wasn't until weeks after receiving our order, did she share her story with me. Now, we not only carry her pieces, but we cheer her on, and pray we have many reorders ahead. What an amazing lady, mother, artist, and entrepreneur - inspiring us to dig deep into out suitcases -  to find a way. Thank you Sarah, for sharing your story and having the courage to try on something new.  It makes you sparkle... K
                                                                                                         (Photo by Pink Marmalade Designs)

*********************************************************************************************************Hi!  My name is Sarah and I am the owner of Blue Soul Designs.  I am so thankful to have met Kristen, she's such a sweet heart!  She asked me to guest post today.  I am brand new to blogging, so bear with me!  I make handmade jewelry and it is my passion.  Blue Soul Designs was born in December of last year, after my family and I experienced something extremely traumatic.  

Our family lost our home to toxic mold. We lost everything. My kids cried when they had to let go of teddy bears and toys that were sentimental to them.  I cried along with them. The shock of what happened, plus the financial burden, sent me on a quest to find a way to not only keep my sanity, but try to help provide extra income for medical costs.  

I have always been on the creative side, but not in the traditional Artsy sense.  Mine was always through photography or similar avenues.  Since I love jewelry, I wondered if I could make it. I watched a ton of tutorials, as I am a visual learner.  I do think a certain level of natural skill has to be there.  That, combined with the tutorials and lots of practice got me where I am today.  

I was extremely fortunate to have found a kind Artist on Etsy who has mentored me for an entire year. She has been so patient with answering my endless questions and has helped me if I got stuck on something.  Jewelry is heavily saturated on Etsy, so it has been hard to stand out.  It does take a lot of work, but I have found that there are a lot of kind people out there, willing to help.  A friend of mine is a designer and has an established blog.  She was kind enough to do a giveaway for me when I first started.  And, that led to other giveaways.  There have been many kind Bloggers who have been instrumental in helping me to grow my business and get the word out there.

Another thing that helped is being a part of The Artisan Group.  They are an elite group of hand picked Artists who are given opportunities to gift Celebrities!  They also take part in Official Gift Lounges for events such as the The Emmy's and the CMA's! Because of them, I have been able to gift Vanessa Lachey, Mariska Hartigay, Trista Sutter and I've designed necklaces for the Wardrobe stylists of Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, to be considered for use on the show! 

It's been a tough year and Blue Soul Designs has been one of my life lines!  It's given me something positive to focus on . My health actually got worse when we moved out of the mold, not better. Our hope is to be able to move out of the area soon, so I can begin to really recover. In the mean time, I love making jewelry and I LOVE hearing from my customers!  I am extremely OCD about the jewelry I make. If I wouldn't be happy wearing it, i'm certainly not going to send it out to my customers.  I think that is something that sets me apart from other shops.  It's so extremely important to give excellent customer service.  I never, ever thought I would be where I'm at today.  I am so very thankful and hope that it continues for many years to come. My goal for the future is to continue to grow my business, and to be able to get my jewelry into shops and boutiques across the U.S.

When I am not making jewelry, you can find me chasing after my kiddos, watching reality tv (I am kinda obsessed with Bravo), or soaking up the beach, when time allows.  We are only 90 minutes away from Panama City Beach!  We try to go 3-4 times during the spring/summer.  The Ocean is the one place I feel absolute peace at, hence the name Blue Soul Designs.  I am both in awe of the Ocean and terrified of it (sharks!)  Back when we first moved here, we had no idea swimming out the sand bar was a no no.  We swam out and when we almost reached the sandbar, saw about an 8 ft. shadow swimming underneath us.  True Story!  Scared the junk out of me!  Needless to say, we have never, ever, ever done that since.  And, I now only go waist deep in the Ocean. ;)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Evolution of a B & P Revolution...

The Final B&P Shot - it's a wrap!

Oh what a grand day! As we enter the final stages and last minute touches to our official brand launch for Boots & Pearls, I first want to say - WOW, what amazing, talented, gracious, and beautiful Southern Belles we have here in Kentucky.  For some stay at home momma's gone entrepreneur, I think we pulled it off.  At least the photo shoot that is.  We are so thankful for the support, encouragement of our families, friends and community for believing in Boots & Pearls.  We know you are cheering us on as we move forward- and we thank you.

So this is it.  We are awaiting the arrival of our shots to complete the finishing touches and start the show.  Scary, risky, nervous, stress, anxiety and exhaustion come to mind.  But oh, what a grand day. It makes my heart happy.   I am inspired by so many women doing what they love, loving what they do.  Boots & Pearls isn't about a t-shirt, but more about the girl wearing it.
I hope we inspire women to stand taller, to shine brighter and know wherever they are in life, to kick it up and celebrate what makes you, YOU.  

We are reaching out to BIG CITY FARMGIRLS EVERYWHERE. And I do mean everywhere - from Kentucky to California. If they'll invite us in, we'll show them what a Southern Girl is all about - B & P style.

In the coming weeks ahead, I have a laundry list of ideas to share, and guest bloggers who are truly B&P Girls. Small business owners, entrepreneurs, DIYers and women still trying to figure it all out (which is fine place to be!). Follow our journey with B & P as we forge ahead and evolve our brand.  Maybe we'll inspire you to check back into that suitcase - there may be a pair of boots and set of pearls YOU need to dust off.   Trust me, they're in there somewhere.

Have the best week, 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Suitcase

I am now on my third attempt at blogging.  Despite my avid love for writing, the idea of creating a "Blog" and actually having people find and follow it, threw me a curve ball I was never familiar with. Not being able to figure something out. The inability to do do what you know you can - because it's too hard.  Too many hurdles and hoops.. and for love of html how does this all work? So I cheated. Just a dollop of help from 17th Avenue Designs (thank you Kate) and a healthy dose of Freckled Laundry's (thank you Jami)insightful blogging wisdom. Here I am decked out in my boots and pearls, ready to share with the world a little inspiration from what I call - the suitcase theory.

Everybody has a suitcase. Packed for life's journey with all the gifts, talents, passions, fears, instincts, and abilities. A wardrobe of magnificent potential, or an outfit that doesn't quite fit. 

The suitcase analogy evolved for me, as a stay at home mother of two precious little ladies. I had worked hard on my career, after struggling through college trying to figure it all out.  So many passions, so many things I wanted to do. So many failed attempts and displaced notions of what I "should" be.  I tried teaching, graphic design, art, English, even Nursing. An element in each that I loved and appreciated - but I couldn't wear it, it didn't fit right, it didn't look good. Eventually I pulled out the business suit.  Not exactly what I had pictured, but it worked. I wore the suit for 10 years - right through the birth of the girls. Simmering. Knowing there was more in that suitcase I needed to try on. But it wasn't the season. I needed to "be still" and to be content. Young growing babies, needed me, and I them. I needed to find comfort in my suitcase and compromise. Staying at home was an amazing blessing. My best look ever. Then they grew. I stirred.  I needed to pull some "bling" from that suitcase to make me sparkle again. All the while KNOWING there was more to come.  I would try more on.  I could do it.  As I began to pull things from my "suitcase" again, I knew I would find something good. I was creative, resourceful, a workhorse. Gifts.  I loved writing, typography, decorating, painting, crafts, graphic design -  talents and passions packed into my suitcase. I could use them. I could wear them again. I could reconfigure and taylor them just so. In that moment, I realized I didn't have to discard the things that didn't fit or keep them locked up forever. But I would pull them out, try them all on again, mend them, and know that whatever I pulled out - would be spectacular - regardless of the season or style. I would own it, and it would be perfect, and that needed to be enough. And so it was.

So my now 13 year old daughter is trying sports and activities. Starting to pull things from her suitcase to see if they fit and more importantly if everyone else thinks they look good. Running and soccer are her favorites. The stride of a gazelle, but a heart for a soccer ball. But in my mind, I see her suitcase overflowing with choices but I know her gift is her stride. In our conversation, I learn that she likes to run because its easy for her. She doesn't practice, it just comes. With soccer, she has to practice to get better - but she loves it more. Ahhh. The suitcase theory.  Gift verses passion. The gifts from YOUR suitcase are those that are effortless. They flow. They are like your favorite jeans and your furry pajamas - familiar and comfortable. Passion is a fierce contender from the suitcase however. It can steal the show and overtake the entire suitcase. It can cause you to throw everything else out, overlooking the gifts and other talents you could try on. To donate everything. Suitcase bankruptcy. Try everything on. Wear it all and keep it all. Everything comes back in style right?

My suitcase? I think at 40, I am finally wearing the perfect outfit for ME. As the co-owner of a retail/boutique, I have learned that YES, God did pack my suitcase with options. But it's up to me to figure it, and to be thankful. I am honored that God picked me to own that suitcase. I found the outfits that combined my gifts and my passions into the most fabulous outfit. I hope I never have to take it off! It fits me. It flatters me, and makes me know that I used everything my suitcase for the journey.

What's in your suitcase? What outfit are you avoiding? Which gift or talent or passion is in there waiting for you to try it on?
Find the courage, pray for the wisdom, and know that no one else in the world has a suitcase like yours.