When I was considering taking on Salt & Sand in 2019, a very wise family friend said that it would be a three to five year commitment, minimum. It would be at least three years before we started seeing results and a return, and it could take five before we really hit our stride.
Was I prepared to stay in the boutique game that long? Could I commit to three years in Inverloch working at this challenge? Could I make this business flourish? And how would it change me?
Suddenly, here we are at the three year mark, and I'm nowhere near finished or full.
When I imagine our highlights reel in my head, it's full of so many smiling faces. We've blitzed three summer seasons, and coasted through the quiet winters. We've got two photoshoots under our belt, and I still have to pinch myself that the brilliant images are real (and that it's really us in them!). We've painted fixtures, discovered some incredible brands, and learned to trust our gut. Sal's made friends with every person who comes through the doors, and we've watched our team expand each year with some truly special souls.
I'm not sure that things have become easier, more so that we've become better at the juggle. Being in small business means tackling a hundred different things at once - accounts, buying, customer service, website development, social media management, content creation, payroll, faults & returns, cleaning, merchandising, unpacking stock, and the list goes on. A jack of all trades, and perhaps a master of none.
An unprecedented pandemic created issues I'd never dreamed of, and challenged us and the store in ways I never could have imagined. In this world, we always move months ahead, and buying stock for upcoming seasons relies on some level of confidence in normality. In late March 2020, that all but evaporated as we, and so many other businesses, temporarily closed our doors.
At the same time, it also pushed us in new directions that I don't think we would've considered otherwise. Covid launched us into the online world in a matter of days, and while I'm still waiting for our store to go viral (I can dream!), it's been an invaluable channel in the two years we've been live.
However, with no shop to open, and minimal online activity, the most challenging aspect of stop-start closures in 2020 & 2021 was sustaining a sense of purpose. I struggled with maintaining motivation and completing any kind of task when there was no end to the uncertainty in sight. While I'd initially started early lockdowns with projects and plans, each new wave and closure chipped away at any enthusiasm I had to make the forced downtime productive.
Funnily enough, not being able to do the things you love really makes you realise just how much they mean to you.
Slowly but surely, this small business has become my world.
There's plenty of areas I don't enjoy - reporting faults, the hiring process, endless email chains, the need to always think five steps ahead - but there's a much longer list of everything I do enjoy. I love previewing ranges and choosing the pieces that will work best for our customers. I love adding to my spreadsheets and tracking the numbers. I love remerchandising the shop and feeling that rush when everything looks fresh and new. And most of all, I love talking to all of the people that connect with Salt & Sand, whether as customers, agents, visitors, staff or supporters.
We have an exceptional team behind the store, both within the business and beyond, and it is not lost on me how lucky we are to have so many brilliant people in our corner cheering us on. As time has passed, I only grow more amazed that my family didn't hesitate to encourage a 24 year old with no business experience, but I guess they knew better than I did what this could be.
We've posted parcels off to all corners of the country, and the online store has opened up a new way for friends in far-off places to shop with us. It's a special thrill when a name pops up on Shopify that we know and love, and it's always a great reminder of how many lovely people are out there watching and cheering from afar.
This year, I'm focusing on strengthening our foundations and getting really clear on our brand identity. Expect some tweaks to the website, and a few projects to make sure that we continue to surprise and delight our customers.
We've developed a pretty good understanding of our shoppers over the last three years, but predicting desires is an ever-changing game so there's always room to improve and build our offering. We're working hard to make sure our labels cater to all sizes, bodies and ages as we know how much clothes influence self esteem and confidence. We may not always get everything right, but know that we're always trying to do better.
More than anything, we want Salt & Sand to be a place where people feel welcome, comfortable, and valued.
I am constantly humbled by how many of you actively choose to shop local and support a small business. We get so excited when we see you guys fall in love with our pieces, and it is such a special feeling watching someone walk out our door with a big smile on their face.
We've met so many beautiful people through Salt & Sand, and I'm thrilled with how many faces, from both near and far, that we can now call by name.
Three years feels good, but I already can't wait for five...