Almost every significant event starts off with a good story. And the creation of The Herb Shoppe is no different.
Some say I’m a risk taker, others say I’m naive and still others think I’m too much of this or that. If I were to describe myself, I’d say I’m optimistic and do believe that anything is possible.
I’ve spent my life trying to fit it and it wasn’t until I discovered my connection to plants and their healing potential did I find my place. I thoroughly enjoy the company of fellow humans, but my experiences with them have mostly led me to anxiety, stress and self doubt. But with plants – there is a simple acceptance and beauty in their acceptance of me.
I’d always known I wanted to own a business. Before graduate school I had worked at the most amazing herb shop, Wonderland Tea & Spice in Bellingham, WA. Under the careful guidance and watchful eye of Linda Quintana I grew into something I’d always wanted – myself. But eventually, as every good teacher does, she guided me onward and out of the nest. I accepted a place in the graduate class of NUNM (NCNM) and moved from my peaceful, by the bay, studio apartment to the busy hustle of Portland, Oregon.
Once I was fully submerged in the world of urban life and academia, I realized I truly missed being surrounded by plants. I also realized there were no herb shops in this thriving mecca of creatives and healers, all of the shops had gone by the wayside. With a blessing from Cascade Geller Anderson I took my vision of opening an herb shop began manifesting.
I do not come from an affluent family. There was no bank account to draw upon or lender who was about to give me a loan with the student debt I had already begun to wrack up. But – the universe guided me to a micro-lending group based in New York city called Count Me In. This group of women were reviewing applicants and business plans of people like me who needed help to get the wheel turning. I sat a many a summer nights on my front stoop daydreaming about my shop and writing a business plan to submit to this group. I had decided that if they believed in me, then I could believe in me. I submitted the application and waited.
5 weeks later, with no other notice, I received a $5000 check in the mail. I cried with joy and the disbelief that someone out in the world really thought my idea was a good one.
Now $5k isn’t going to get anyone very far, and although I had a credit card, I really didn’t want to use it being all too familiar with their dangers. So I made an executive decision to use part of my student loan debt for the year to open my business. I joke that I ate a lot of Ramen noodles that year, but truly, I did. I skimped, I forwent my favorites, I sacrificed – because I believed in what I was doing.
My opening day was September 15th, 2005. One of my dearest friends went into labor on September 14th and I was her doula. Needless to say it was a fun and crazy 24 hours and I showed up to my own opening day party late but with joy in my heart. My boyfriend at the time Dan and my best friend Tatiana were holding down the party and I knew life would never be the same. I’d just started something way out of my league but was excited for the journey.
As a business owner you are rarely ahead of the game and the first years on Burnside were slow and steady. Ups and downs but so much community and joy. I had the best first employee ever, Jessie who literally busted through the front door 30 minutes after I had posted an ad on Craigslist. Melissa walked in with the energy of the green earth mama herself and decided we should have a volunteer internship program. My friends Tatiana, Susan and Lily worked for free because they believed in me and what I was created for the community. Elderberry School of Herbal medicine blossomed in the early years with us. Even my mom volunteered one day a week. She knew absolutely nothing but felt the pull to be involved. It really was a magical time.
In spring of 2008 I made the terribly frightening decision to move my business to Hawthorne. It was more money and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to cover expenses. Once again, my paycheck went on hold for the sake of the business. I would spend my days in school, studying or working at the clinic and my nights at the shoppe cleaning, organizing, dancing with the music really loud and doing inventory.
2008 was a year I distinctly remember. First, it was the year of the recession. A major hardship. We did the best we could offering discounts and services to anyone in need. But I was continually surprised that our sales were going up. In a time when so many lost their healthcare, they were turning to natural alternatives to meet their health care needs. There were so many conversation and so much community made that year that I’ll cherish forever. It was also the year that Katelyn came to work at the shop. A complete newbie to the herbal world but her integrity, positivity and smile (and hat) created a new level of cohesive for the shoppe.
Things went along so well for the next couple of years, despite persistent financial stress as any small business faces and the lack of sleep and stress of being a new mom. So – I decided it was time to open my second location….in Brooklyn, NY in 2011. I had always wanted to live in NY, and with the latest technologies I could run my second business from Portland and I could visit regularly to support the shoppe and the growing herbal community in Brooklyn, NY. The coming to fruition of this second location is truly one driven by the cosmos, but I’ll save that story for another day.
Fast forward past all of the joys of Brooklyn and the finding of an all-star manager, Jackie things were really good. I’d created a cohesive team founded on respect, friendship and community.
But with so much go go go, the truth was at this point I was tired/burned out/not as fulfilled as I had once been with running my business. But I fell into the trap of the “must keep going” mental attitude. Looking back, these moments are almost always when I made the wrong turns in my life. In the past it was so hard for me to fully pause while trying to stay on top of the business and examine my own life and my level of joy. It was simply – go go go. So inline with that thinking I partnered up on a new adventure and The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy was opened on Mississippi ave in 2014. I had always wanted to open an herb shoppe in the Mississippi business district in Portland and went for it.
The universe is a funny thing. Surely you’ve heard the saying of being in the zone, or in the flow. I’ve been very fortunate to have a couple of times like that in my life and it definitely feels very different than any other time. You can physically, mentially and emotionally feel the benefits of being in the flow and for lack of a better word, it’s magical. The thing is, the universe is FULL of opportunity and a lot of these opportunities look really good. I mean like, really, really good. Combine the abundance of opportunities with optimism and the belief that everyone around you naturally wants what’s best for you and you can easily choose the wrong path. Let me say this in a different way. Imagine 20 perfect carrots dangling in front of you. You are capable of grabbing any one you choose and most of them will provide you with an incredible experience. But if you pause and consider what is in line with your core values and your authentic self, there really is only one or two carrots that you should be reaching for.
In my case, I think I’ve at some point grabbed all of the carrots because I’ve needed to learn different lessons. (and I’m really stubborn)
So various things happened from 2015-2018 until the end of my business. I rebranded from The Herb Shoppe to Fettle Botanic Supply & Counsel. With the help of Sally Morrow & Co. I did something I’d never done before. I took a loan, a big loan and went all out with a rebrand. Honestly folks, one of the biggest mistakes of my business career. Not the rebrand – that was incredible and such a fun process. But the loan. It went against my core values and I ended up paying for it. UP Design Lounge and my fabulous friend Ullika redesigned the interior to reflect the new brand and it really was incredibly beautiful.
But cracks in my business partnership at Mississippi were coming to a head. I broke up with my business partner and walked away from the Mississippi location. I lost a lot both financially and proprietarily. She changed the name from The Herb Shoppe Pharmacy to my founding name The Herb Shoppe. This hurt as The Herb Shoppe was my creation, my baby, but what are you going to do? It was official, I was exhausted and I needed my life back.
Unfortunately the downside to helping others open their wings means they fly away and in early 2016 my beloved manager at Hawthorne, Vicky flew off to experience Peru. This is when a new level of business fatigue set in. I was pregnant with my second child and not actively involved in the day to day of my business. When there is too much distance between you and your business, problems arise, miscommunication happens and resentment festers.
Portland was changing in a big way and I wasn’t sure I still fit in. I’d always said I would stay open as Iong as I was needed. At this point many new herb shops were in Portland and many of our interns had started their own herbal companies. In the fall of 2017 I was preparing to close the shoppe after the holiday seasons when a I jumped at the opportunity to partner up with another group of dynamite women to grow the business in a new direction, but once again, it was a beautiful carrot not in line with my authentic self or my needs.
Here is some advice. If you are forcing your way through something – it is not the direction you are supposed to be moving. Despite the amount of time, energy, money or work you may have contributed in the past – it is best just to stop. And in my case, that is what I did. I stopped. Things weren’t lining up or making sense anymore. Stress was at an all time high and my life was not enjoyable, or at least not in the way I knew it should be. These moments can feel tortuous for the soul but it really isn’t the soul, it’s the ego and the moment I let go…my soul was relieved and at peace.
So – here I am. Still dreaming, creating, manifesting in all sorts of ways. Trying to stay in my lane, in line with myself, my needs and as always, believing the best in others to a fault. And I will never, ever regret one moment of owning this dynamic business. Blood, sweat and tears were poured into this journey and it will remain one of the best adventures of this lifetime.