Monday, October 16, 2017

A Birthday Post: A Reflection on Success (Finally) During 2017, Being 31, and Risk

Yesterday, after the craziest whirlwind weekend for our business wound to a close, I got a text from my mom. Apparently I'd forgotten it was my birthday! I stopped birthday celebrations at 25 but I do enjoy arbitrary dates for reflection. It was 12:45AM when I got the text, we were unloading the car after a 3-day long double-booked outdoor market (Octoberfest at the Beach). Murphy's Law was at work and my car, our employee's car AND my boyfriend's car all had car trouble at different crucial times! As it does only when you're at your busiest!

Our recently depleted shelves, I had AJ snap a quick phone shot for my birthday. Now to order supplies!

I looked up at my 2nd floor brownstone apartment window, glowing radioactive orange from our ample Halloween string lights. I was utterly exhausted, but satisfied.

All the crazy risk taking was worth it.

When I look back at my life from say 25-30 there was a lot of floundering and struggling. (And before THAT let's just say I've worked LOTS of crazy odd jobs.) I'd left the security of my copywriter day job and it was liberating at first but I soon learned I didn't want to resell vintage anymore. At my wit's end with it I, very serendipitously, ended up being able to be certified in clinical herbalism and aromatherapy. I spent a couple of years studying and learning at that school while ever-so-slowly trying to build up the confidence to start our new natural body care business venture.

I don't know if I'd have ever guessed (merely dreamed) at any age that by 31 I'd be:

  • Still living in my quirky, historic, beautiful bohemian Riverside, Jacksonville neighborhood
  • Owning a brick and mortar SHOP in my childhood favorite neighborhood/artsy area
  • AND doing exceptionally well with it + making big plans for expansion
  • A Team-builder, boss and employer
  • Eating SUPER-healthy; feeling younger/fitter each year vs. all-burger-all-the-time eating days
  • Owner of my own apothecary (dream since very young) sharing holistic care with 100s weekly
  • Constantly surrounded by interesting creative people at outdoor markets and business events
  • Constantly making sales and running my most successful business to date, the cumulative experiences of my creative experimenting paying off at last.

It's taken hard times to get here and we're still, of course, ramping up. I went broke during my transition, living off savings because I knew in my heart I had to, that I would figure things out with just a little more patience. I got used to living on the most extreme frugal lifestyle so everything could go to my new business. 

The past few years there were lots of times were I would feel hopeless, like I'd never be successful or get out of on and off creative slumps.

This weekend was a huge record sales breaker and all our data shows it's going to keep going like this.

25-30 feels like a blur. What stands out starkly in that haze are the huge risks. All the times I was scared or hurt but kept going, these are the events and experiences that paid off. The true growth zone stuff. These are what slows down time, having these missions are what makes life worth living. Having the store keeps me in that challenge zone. I lost my keys until a few minutes ago, (haha) I'm typing this between helping my team re-stocking the store, but I'm really living! 

The mid to late 20s was a lot of learning hard lessons that are paying off now. I'm enjoying rolling into the thirties with more wisdom. Now I just need some more time to craft and travel, haha... :)

Note: I had lots of posts ready to go for October but I've had lots of on-and-off trouble with the web, some possibly still Hurricane related. I update my Body&Soul Instagram regularly, I also have a personal Instagram. Our store website is here and our online store is here. 

For daily updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Vintage Halloween Decorating 2017: Retro Halloween Finds and Childhood Favorites


The best time of the year is back, it's October! This year I didn't wait and put most of my decorations up late September. I also get to decorate a local shop and LOTS of outdoor markets and pop-ups this year, too! I'm overdue for Halloween crafting and decor hunting, if I can get it in.

I thought I'd share some quick shots of my decor so far for 2017. This is a mix of stuff I've found while thrifting the past year and other things from my childhood.

And you just can't go wrong with mini haystacks.

I crafted the banner above last year. I need to make more of these!

Can't go wrong with Pumpkins and plants.

It looks I'll be out tomorrow to get a few more little things like replacements for my pumpkin and eyeball string lights, I can't wait to hook them up at art walk. Now's also he time to hit up flea markets and thrift stores, the hidden Halloween goods make their way out for purchase! Hopefully you get in some Halloween gatherings and explorations this season, we'll be doing a LOT of business events but I'm going to try my best to fit them in. There's a definite spooky and fun one I'm mixing with business at the end of the month.
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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Business Update June - August: A Summer of Growth (and Succulents!) for Body&Soul

By the end of the summer we'd racked up more markets and events than ever. For September we had 16 market days scheduled though 3 were cancelled due to weather concerns. August (and even September so far) have had some record-breaking sales days. I've also realized just how routine everything's getting. Early this year I was staying in the store until 3AM trying to play catch-up. I often couldn't sleep before new markets because of the anxiety. Now I leave right when store hours end, we're far more caught-up on things, and I'm sleeping like normal again! Of course there's still problems and stressors like all start-up shops and businesses face, but still, the growth is promising.

I'll just share some bullet-points here:

- We recently had a product and a blurb about our shop featured on our local news. Seen here

- I hosted my first Succulent planting class as part of a collaboration with a local succulent grower. I learned some pointers on not killing the precious succulent babies I think I'll have to share on the blog. It's given me big-time inspiration with filling any vessel I can with loads of the beautiful desert plants.

- Damn you Florida weather, we had lots of outdoor events cancelled due to the rain all summer long with the max amount being three this week. It's great our sales were still better than ever despite this.

Our finished pots

- We now have an ad in our local Natural Awakenings magazine and host a couple of monthly open houses and tea tastings. I made some new tea blends too which is always exciting.

- Behind-the-scenes I've been writing and plotting. I'm sleeping normally I'm waking up early and having lots of tarot-studying, journaling, self-improvement journaling time and even some meditation time at night, which is nice. It doesn't make all the stress and problems go away of course but still, so much better than it was earlier this year.

The past few months have just been a lot of making stuff, packing it up for markets, taking it to markets, selling it, packing it down, rinse, repeat, save for our short eclipse reprieve. It's been so busy time's flown since May and my last business update, yet we've grown so much in terms of getting experienced that June feels like ages ago.

Another note on summer, it's been raining nearly every day here. As I type this it's raining hard outside my store's door. It's been a relaxing season to work, though. The view of the rain and wind from my store window makes the interior cozy. I put a short video above. One of these days I want to just set up a tripod and record the beautiful Florida rain. (Although there's already a very nice one here.)

* * *

I update frequently on my Body&Soul and sometimes (haha) on my personal Instagram. Our online shop of natural goodies is here.

If you're in the path of Hurricane Irma (currently heading our way where I'm located in Florida, USA) I hope you stay safe!
For daily updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Great American Eclipse 2017: A Short Savannah Stay and Eclipse Viewing Mini-Vacay

This past Sunday we stayed in Savannah, Georgia so we could drive to South Carolina the next day to be in the line of Totality for the 2017 solar eclipse! Clouds came and completely obscured the sun right in time for the total eclipse, haha! But it was still amazing to be there and nice to get a short break. We've been working nonstop in the shop and doing pop-ups like crazy and even a one-day break is helpful for coming back to home and work with a different perspective amid chaos.

Staying at  and photographing hotels is a favorite passtime. I'm a rolling stone gypsy at heart! This Travelodge in Savannah Georgia wasn't bad for the price. The indoor salt water pool was closed though, boo!

An awesome thing about running a natural body care shop and business, right before we left I grabbed a bunch of our goodies so make my hotel room stay spa like, short though it was. Coming back home after a hotel say gives you a fresh perspective. Inspired to get to work on lots of kits and travel sets for the shop.

The next day after not enough sleep (boo again, the breakfast wasn't worth getting up for, note to self for next trip, sleep the hell in!) we drove until we were well into the path of totality for seeing the eclipse and luckily found parking in the packed rest stop, haha.

This is a quick shot AJ took of me setting up the camera. Poor AJ, what an unflattering shot of him, haha, but I liked the moment.

And a quick bad shot of the eclipse with the eclipse glasses we bought over the camera lens. You couldn't look at the sun and see it (ah, your poor eyes!) but it was neat to watch the moon slowly create a crescent sun when wearing the correct protective eyewear! It was like phases of the sun.

Then right before totality was going to begin the clouds came and completely obscured the sun, haha!

It started slowly getting darker. The street lights came on. People took our their cameras.

Above is the sky with the eclipse at totality. It didn't get pitch black like we thought it would. It was still neat to the sky so dark at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Above a crane operator snaps some shots. The sky was beautiful! It wasn't twilight or golden hour colors. The tints were different. You can't predict the future, but AJ and I hope to be around and together for the next American Eclipse in 2024. We'll fly out to Texas where it starts and where it hopefully won't be cloudy, haha ;)

Did you get to see any part of The Great American Eclipse of 2017?
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Our New One-Eared Cat: Yack the Black Tail. Adventures in Stray Adoption.

Our household now has two cats! Marianne (my roommate) named him Meow but I call him Squeak, Squeaker or Yack because he has a raspy barely-there meow from talking too much, according to the Vet. AJ call him "Black Tail".

Black tail fits because he's a raggedy pirate cat.

We let him in one rainy day when he came meowing to our door. He's missing half his right ear, he had fleas, flea allergies, and a hole in his paw. He's also missing a lot of his teeth.

He was aged between 7-9. You can tell he's been through a lot in his life.

Yack is mostly mild-mannered except when it comes to food. He begs for it all day! If you leave food alone for a moment he will swipe it up in his mostly toothless jaws in a moment and chow down! The vet says this is from his rough life outdoors. He never knew when he was going to eat again so he's always searching for food. We may never train that opportunistic eating out of him.

The photo above is a rare example of Yuko and Yack actually being near each other peacefully, Yuko's still territorial and fighting with him a couple of months later. Regardless of the adjustments, I feel good that Yack's off the streets and being fed and watered regularly. If anyone has tips on getting two cats acclimatized to each other or abating the hunger of a forever-ravenous cat, let me know!
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What I've Learned the Hard Way - Focus on Self-Care: Rituals for Health and Wellness

We've been selling our natural body care wares since 2015! I dove into herbalism study starting late December ‘14 during a difficult, transitional period in my life. A couple of years (and certifications in Clinical Herbalism, Medical Aromatherapy, Reiki, and much more along the way) we turned our frequent pop-ups into a local brick&mortar and online store!

Along the way I learned, more than ever, personally and via our customers, how important self-care is in our busy, modern, stressful world.

My self-care drawer with essential oils, gemstones, incense, sage, palo santo, resins, taort cards & items from my reiki class

In fact, self-care was everything they needed. It is now the cornerstone of my business.

When customers and visitors smell our essential oils infused oils, inhalers, soaps and incenses I watch them light up. They smile, they’re transported. For a moment they forget the stresses in their lives. Work, family, kids, bosses, money, it all melts away.

Our number one selling product* is our anxiety essential oil inhaler, infused with antidepressant may chang essential oil. The tiny molecules cross the blood-brain barrier and are processed by the limbic system quickly, I watch people instantly perk-up. (And yes, when things are tough with the business, I want to walk around with our anxiety inhaler shoved up my nose! I advise people not to do that!)
(*Our deodorant & charcoal tooth scrub is also popular! Triple tie?)

Running a store can be stressful. Running one where you HAND CREATE, design, label, and bottle all the merchandise inside (though I pay my mom and eldest niece to help me, thank you mom for your beautiful soap, bath bomb, and bug spray formulations) is LUDICROUS. I’ve learned the hard, painful way, why people tend to order the stuff for their store instead of making it themselves. There were too many 3am to 4am nights stuck working for me early on. And this is when I learned the hard way to re-embrace self-care rituals; not just encouraging this for others, but healing myself.

When I worked in an office as a copywriter I had a favorite work ritual. I got up early enough to beat (most) of the traffic and was the first person to get to the office. The lights were off, the office was zen and peaceful without the hustle and bustle of my coworkers. I used the porcelain Japanese tea set in my cubicle (on a silver, tray, even!) to make a delicious tea and sipped that while checking e-mails and writing, easing into the day.

The quiet time with my tea was healing.

Self-care rituals are as simple or involved as you want them to be. It’s burning sage and journaling before or after work, taking a hot bath with your favorite bath bomb or making sure you have regular spa, yoga, or friend hangout days scheduled.

When you take the time for Self-Care you life transforms. There will still be problems or stressors, but you will handle them better. You’ll be happier when you're working smarter and not harder, and MUCH more productive, ironically! When you get to a certain level with your Self-Care you’ll feel like you’re floating, not walking around. Yes, without drugs! Ha!

Get your tea mugs and journals ready and start mapping out some free time for self-care. I’m excited to share that bounty of self-care information with you.

I’ve spent a lot of this year behind-the-scenes writing loads of informative posts on how to use herbs and essential oils for healing. These are informative and scientific posts like what type of incenses to use to calm your nervous system (herbal classification: nervines). They’re posts on easy rituals to incorporate into your life that heal your body and soul.

Come back to read them. Treat yourself to self-care. You deserve it.
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why I'm Grateful we Started Our Retail Store the Broke No-Money Way

We started our retail store without a bunch of money in the bank, and I'm so grateful we did. Hell, the first half-year in I wish we'd have spent even less!

In The Seven Laws of Money, Michael Phillips writes about his experience giving grants. He noted churches, nonprofits, businesses and organizations that received them more often that not, failed. He learned from it and didn't give grants to beginners anymore. Instead he gave them advice: grow your audience first. You need a following, your buyers, your people, to grow.

Your loyal followers will keep you in business, not start-up money. You have to go out there and find them. My copy of the book was from 1974 but the same principles apply. Now we have social media to help us find thousands of followers easier than ever before.

98% of our store's retail displays were free or from my apartment. It's FAR from my intended vision for the store but It still earns us hundreds and let's us grow so we can replace everything with our dream retail displays down the road.

Furthermore, especially as a beginner, if you have the money, you're more likely to spend it on non-essentials. And probably on things you don't absolutely need. But when you're a lean small business without that capital you're going to learn to spend on only what you need. You'll retain those lessons, remaining a smart business spender even when your business has more capital to play with.

About five years ago I got a check in the mail for $15,000 to start a vintage retail store with a couple of friends. The check bounced when my investor ran into trouble with the IRS. I'm confident we'd have squandered those thousands on non-essentials as overwhelmed 20-something creatives with ample talent but insufficient business smarts, just liked Phillips describes in his book. I'm grateful for our slow, low-cost start-up, it's already paying off beautifully and giving us room to keep growing!

Being broke doesn't have to be a curse. Sometimes it's your biggest advantage as a new business owner.
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Monday, July 17, 2017

I'm Selling Nearly All My Stuff! And it's Bringing Back my Creativity and Main Missions

This year it's been challenging to stay creative outside of my store and product line. Every ounce of my energy went into infrastructure work; accounting, inventory, employee training, etc. This is ON TOP of formulating and bottling our product, graphic design, web work, labeling, marketing and merchandising.

This exhausted me creatively. Blog posts slowed. I went from taking daily photos to hiding my DSLR for months. Before my new business took off I was setting up professional online shops for others. I LOVE crafting beautiful shops for creatives, but it wasn't until later that I realized this meant my well of creativity was bone dry before I even opened my shop.

Nearly everything I own outside of clothing and work stuff is stored in this credenza, which will also be sold!

We're getting more caught-up, thankfully! Yet when I decided to move production back to my apartment I was forced the face the truth, while juggling business tasks I'd let my supplies get horribly cluttered.  I gave myself some time on July fourth to put my business supplies away KonMari method style. I did a swift KonMari method run of the whole house taking the longest time on my work stuff, putting hundreds of bottles and labels away neatly and accessibly.

Getting organized the KonMari way felt so amazing, as it always does, that I started devouring more media on minimalism. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism named after the book of the same name was so compelling I went out (using money I earned recently selling a table I'd sold, haha) to buy the book immediately! I consider it the spiritual successor to Marie Kondo's famous books on the KonMari method. It's for those who want to take minimalism to another level, to challenge themselves mentally and spiritually to live a life without extra Stuff.

In the upper left of the photo above is a pile of stuff I'm going to sell. I'm finally ready to sell a lot of paintings and extra bits I've been hanging on to. It feels so light and amazing to be taking another step toward being the type of minimalist I've wanted to be since my office job days, when my apartment was FULL of collections and that extreme-minimalist life felt like an impossible pipe dream.

Just a few things I took out of the apartment today. Some store stuff, some donations.

A couple of the lines in the book that really stood out to be was about how much stimuli was have to process since ancient times. Our brains are bombarded with more data in ONE DAY than people in the 1600s would process in a YEAR. Furthermore, our brain's "hardware" is 50,000 years old. It hasn't updated in the slightest to deal with modern society which bombards us with ads and information at every turn.

I identify, and most artists who look up the stats would too, as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). It means I'm very easily overstimulated. For example, if I'm excited about something that will happen the next day I won't sleep no matter how many tinctures herbs, and melatonin pills I take; damn my nerves! Having as little stimuli in my apartment (and it's related maintenance) as possible is healing to my easily-stimulated body.

The reduction of that clutter has been WONDERFUL for clearing that extra data (every object is a thing to deal with eventually) and getting my overdrawn creativity back.

Colorful Photos of my previous apartment 2010-2012ish

I used to use my things as a sense of comfort and identity. Things like my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster above, from my Italian childhood, bought a lot of happiness not just to me but visitors.

In fact my artsy-reseller's pad full of cool-stuff was kind of infamous, here it is above being used for a photoshoot at the request of a local rapper. It felt good to make visitors, locals, and thousands of readers around the world happy with my colorful home! Of course, it inspired me, too.

Photo from me packing to move to my current apartment.

But this all came at the high price of LIVING among it. Always trying to find the best means of storage. Spoiler: I never did find a good means of storage.

When it came to moving time! Holy hell I had a LOT OF STUFF in both merchandise and personal possessions to drag to a new apartment. That was hell. Boxes and moving stuff from place to place would be part of my life for the next few years.

Years of selling off merchandise and then my personal possessions later, this little pile at my apartment represents the LAST time I have to have a mass sale/exodus of Stuff. I'm looking forward to this new era of minimal living with less stress! So if there's something you've had your eye on in my apartment (I've gotten e-mails over the years trying to buy stuff from my photos) drop me a line, it's probably available. Why yes, so is that cuttlefish anatomy poster, and other childhood treasures I'm finally ready to release.

I have many posts to come with details on this new adventure. The weight being lifted is transcendent.

Then when it's all gone I'm looking forward to working, creating and living simply knowing that releasing the past has ALWAYS, almost mystically, bought me even better shining new opportunities.
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

MODify: Should I "Destroy" This Vintage Pendant Lamp? What Do You Think? Halp!

Have you ever found something 2nd hand that you want to destroy, yet feel guilty about it? I'm at that cross road with this lovely vintage pendant lamp I found at the thrift store. Remove the orange and purple beads and you have exactly what I was looking for!

I was driving home fully intending to immediately get to work destroying it but then it hit me, this was clearly made for a little girl's room in the 70s and in a particular space it would look REALLY good just like it is.

It also already had a black light in it which looks really good with the orange and purple!

What do you think? Should I transform it into the lamp I need or sell it to someone who wants to preserve its beauty as-is?

Update: I was kindly informed via Facebook that this is a lawnware light meant for outdoors/RV use. You can see it on the bottom of this listing but mine has holes on the bottom that cut off the name. That would explain why it's plastic! You can see different unique patterns on these when you look them up online.
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Our Tour of Cassadaga, Florida: The Peaceful Spiritualist Camp of the South


Cassadaga Florida is a 122 community of spiritualists and spiritual-minded people. The town is full of mediums, tarot readers, mediums-in-training, and other reiki and esoteric healing practitioners. We finally made it down a couple of weeks ago and it didn't disappoint!

On this visit we went down for the city tour and learned some history and insider information on the tiny city/community (it contains only 55 residences!) Their main book and gift store was beautiful and filled with too many healing decks, gemstones, and herbal goods I'd like to try.

Of course there were many areas for meditation and relaxation. All with retro 60s-70s hand painted signs, I loved those!

I just knew the city would have good vibrations, but wow, I wasn't expecting the peace and quiet of this place. Because of its age it was like going back in time to an old Florida city. Just look at this silent uncluttered street! My shop and apartment are in busy, loud areas so I appreciated that calm and silence.

I liked how this old house had curtains and big gold buddha statue.

And this gorgeous memorial.

Another memorial from a story of a girl who said she was visited by spirits. This was carved with a chainsaw by a talented resident.

And I had to throw in this old unoccupied house...with asbestos siding! Aaah!

The mediums and healers had their own unique signs. There are also TONS of classes and activities going on all the time! There's something practically every day.

The sign by their large park, lake, and relaxing gazebo. Lots of peaceful places to sit here. I wish I could have a week to chill under those trees to chill, read, and write in my notebook.

This is their spiritualist temple where they host a mass of sorts and do prayers and healing.

It's rather conventional inside with historical items behind class for visitors and framed pictures of famous people in the movement. There's a lot of famous spiritualists, who knew? Cassadaga is also where I learned the my lifetime favorite flower, the sunflower, is the universal symbol for spiritualists and spiritualism. It's used liberally throughout Cassadaga.

Curious and curiouser, let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes! We were taken to a tiny room on the right side of the church.

Open a door in the little room and that's where seances are performed! I'll skip that one, thank you, I didn't even walk inside. Even if it was allowed, there's some risks I won't take for now. No bad luck spirits following me around please, life is hard enough as it is! >:D

There are a couple more little physic shops, the nice ladies at this one invited my business back to sell natural goodies at their Fairy Faire!

When we do go back for it we'll stay at the "haunted" Cassadaga Hotel and do some other activities.

I'll take some classes and enjoy some peace while there, too!

My mom got a tarot reading at this spot and was very impressed with the reader's use of a plain deck of cards, which was the way her mom used to do tarot readings. She felt like it was very accurate. He even said something about my business looking up for August which according to our data reflects reality. Whether coincidence or not, these are always fun novelties. :)

You gotta love the street names! I'm actually taking my neice and mom back tonight for their butterfly release after I finish some work at the store. If you're ever in Florida and love new age healing, spiritualism, peaceful history or just novelty and kitsch definitely check out Cassadaga! 
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