This is a big one for me, but as promised I wanted to share my story of how SHOP | SLO came to fruition and how following your dream can become a reality.
Here is the abridged version of my story:
I was about 9 when I started my first business, Katie's Pet Sitting Club. That didn't last too long, especially growing up in a town of 16,000 people. But as I got older I knew that owning my own business was something I was meant to do. Fashion, food, and travel are some of my favorites and I knew I wanted to incorporate that info a business. I attended business school at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL. In 2012 I graduated with my Bachelors in Business Management and minored in Marketing and Retail Management. Fast forward 5 years and I found myself living in Denver, CO and working for Whole Foods Market. Don't get me wrong, the job was good, but something was missing. The idea and dream of owning my own business was still in the back of my head. however, retail and where the industry is heading made it hard for me to imagine owning my own brick and mortar store.
As soon as I started with Whole Foods Market in 2013 I had been told about Whole Planet Foundation. My first manager, who no longer works for WFM, but is one of my mentors and BFF had just gotten back from a Whole Planet Foundation (WPF) to Kenya. Seeing how much this trip changed her I immediately knew I wanted to go on one. From 2013-2016, life and some personal events got in the way and I was unable to make the time to apply for the volunteer trip. Looking back I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I was not meant to go on any of the those past trips. Finally, in the beginning of 2017 the emails started coming out about applying. I started telling family and friends about the trips and Whole Planet Foundation. At that point I knew if I told people about it I was holding myself accountable and had no other choice but to apply.
Fast forward to September 29th, the day I left for Morocco from Denver International Airport. I knew going into this trip that it was going to change me. I welcome change and think that it is a good thing. Words cannot describe how that trip made a difference in my personal and professional life. I can go on forever but will spare you the details.
After the WPF trip I spent another week in Morocco traveling to the Sahara, Cedar Forests, Fes, and Tangier. I then took a ferry to Spain and spent a week traveling the eastern coast, from Algezares to Barcelona, Spain. While I was traveling I could not get out of my head the souks, the conversations, quality of textiles, hard working ethics, and culture that the exotic country of Morocco had to offer.
Once I was back in the US I immediately got the travel bug. I wanted to go back and explore more of morocco. I was looking into tickets because 1. I wanted to return on a personal level and felt so connected to the country and 2. I wanted to build a business based on importing and thought morocco would be a great opportunity. Long story short, I started researching importing and exporting, international business, and starting a company. With my business background I understood what I needed to get and the process was fairly seamless (knocking on wood). I already knew how to build a website and have always excelled in digital marketing. I started making conversation with suppliers in Morocco online and getting quotes on wholesale orders. I took a risk with purchasing product, but knew I wasn't going to be investing my life savings on my first PO! I had to be smart about this people, hello!
the long-term plan is to start working with artisans directly in the countries that I source products from: Morocco, Thailand, and Vietnam. I would love to be able to travel back-and-forth and have direct relationships with the people I work with. My plan was to always have a philanthropic tie-in and WPF was just the obvious choice. It makes sense because the trip is what jumpstarted this whole idea. It changed me and I want to be able to make a difference in these countries by doing business with them and helping support financially.
So that is about it. I have been in business since 01/01/2018 and have slowly been starting to build a following and drive people to my website. All of my products are sustainable, which is very important to me. It's shocking the amount of waste and environmental harm that is caused from the fashion and textile industry. According to VICE News, "...the textile industry emits more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined. And the amount of waste the industry generates, as well as how much water and resources it uses, is increasing." Its amazing how knowledge and understanding can change a behavior. Think about this the next time you are in-search of that staple for your closet or home.
Thanks for reading and happy hump day!
SHOP | SLO