When we set out to create Enriching Elements, it wasn’t really about making money. Sure, we understand that businesses exist to make money, but the business end of our shop is more about supporting what we really wanted to create–something that has been diminishing in our society for years now–community. It is our hope that through our drum circles, group meetups, and other events we have been bringing people together to share ideas, activities, and interests that they feel passionate about. We hope that their lives have been enriched by our being here. To that end, we feel like things have been going well. The financial end of things have been improving consistently, but not fast enough to meet the needs of the store. We’re not good at asking for help–we’d rather be giving it–but the time has come for us to reach out to the community to help us keep Enriching Elements going on the path forward.
What we’re trying to accomplish/create
Enriching Elements provides products and services to enrich the lives of its customers, with an emphasis on connection—to the earth, the elements, and the community.
Enriching elements would like to be a destination that people are excited to come to for events and workshops and where people feel welcomed and energized. We would like to become known for selling quality local art and jewelry, alternative spiritual practice supplies and resources, and beautiful percussion instruments. We hope to be known for selling items that are either locally sourced or fair trade, and environmentally conscious.
Why are we doing this?
We have been talking about starting our own business for our entire marriage. In fact we met at a business seminar back in high school! We came to Boulder to do this. And because we were sick (literally, in Amy’s case!) of humid climates and wanted somewhere drier.
Back in Illinois, Amy had been working out of a cramped studio in our house, and Brian was running drum circles and trying to build his shamanic practice out of our living room. But he needed an office he could close the door to, and Amy needed more space. We also knew we needed a place away from the home, so that there would be a clear distinction between work time and home time.
We also wanted to create a space for the pagan community to come together. We very deliberately picked a location that would allow, and we included in our designs, a space for gatherings and events. Not just for drum circles, but for discussion groups and events like we’ve had so far. We wanted walls for art showings. We had bigger plans, but had to scale back. Those plans are still with us!
What we’ve accomplished so far
We’ve had to start our inventory at about half the size we hoped to start with. We’ve been expanding all the time. Since we opened we’ve placed 13 product orders, and each one has added new products. We are the only vendor in town for Shoyeido Japanese Incense, which has its headquarters right here in Boulder! And we’re keeping our prices fair. We’ve seen stones, for example, at twice the price in Denver!
We’ve brought in consignment goods from five locals so far (seven if you count both of us). Even our children have crafted little toys and pouches that are selling. We’ve provided work space for local practitioners: card readers, an astrologer, an herbalist, and a massage therapist.
We provide space for a number of Meetup discussion groups ranging from Paganism to alternative relationship dynamics. We’ve provided space for the local druids for their Solstice ritual and for one of their workshops.
We’ve hosted an adult story telling event which was very well received, and we’re talking to a pair of local Celtic storytellers about setting up another storytelling event.
We’ve hosted three art gallery events featuring local artists, and we are working with the Boulder Art Association (BAA) on lining up others. We have two more booked and a third who hasn’t settled on a date yet.
In addition to the Pagan community, we’ve made inroads into the local art community (through the BAA), Naropa (through the Pagans of Naropa attending the Boulder Pagan Meetup), the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism (through John, our herbalist), Front Range Community College (through Joy, our first exhibiting artist), and the Shining Mountain Waldorf School community ( through Blair of Blair’s Herbals who makes the soaps and bath salts we sell).
We’ve hit the 150 Likes mark on Facebook, and we’ve started building followings on Google Plus and Twitter. Just over 450 people have joined our mailing list! We’ve been featured in Boulder Weekly a couple of times, once profiling us and once when they chose to promote one of our Meetup event listings. We’ve been mentioned on KGNU radio.
We have guest bloggers helping contribute a range of content for our web site. We rank highly in search results for most of the major keywords. Part of that is because we really have very little local competition.
So many of the people who come in tell us they are happy to have found us. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the people who come in (not counting events) find something they want or need. We have a growing number of regular, repeat customers. Our November sales were a little more than double our October sales. December was about double what November was. January slumped slightly, which is normal, but February has picked up and should end up as our best month yet. Everything we’re doing is helping create more momentum.
From the beginning there have been additional or unforeseen challenges. Our move here from Illinois ended up costing about double what we had budgeted.
Permit problems delayed construction on the renovations we had to do. Our public washroom was laid out in a way that made it almost useless, and changing it to be ADA compliant was a huge portion of our renovation budget. Then the flooding happened, and while it didn’t affect us directly it meant that our contractor’s labor pool all got diverted to flood repairs, pushing us back an extra couple of weeks. We opened more than a month later than we planned, which also meant an extra month of rent without income.
We didn’t know for sure when we’d be able to open, so we couldn’t plan an opening in advance. As it was, two days before the actual opening we still weren’t guaranteed! There were problems with the sign company, so we ended up opening without a sign over the door. So we started off slower than we wanted.
One of our major sources of funding bailed on us around the time we moved. We’d already signed the lease and booked the move, we weren’t going to abort! But it was $75,000 that dropped out of our budget. That changed a lot of planning. Smaller renovations, less opening inventory. The toughest bullet to bite was having to put the advertising budget on hold.
We’ve used up our own savings and drained the 401(k). We’re literally putting all we have into this! Then in December our rental property tenant in Illinois stopped paying his rent. November was the last check we got from him. We’re working on evicting him, but that is a difficult and drawn-out process in Illinois. We haven’t been able to give ourselves paychecks since around Thanksgiving.
We’re behind on all of our bills, and behind on our rent, both at the shop and at home. Fortunately our shop landlord and apartment landlady are both incredibly understanding! We only have groceries because we recently got approved for the food stamps we applied for in November.
Each week we have to scrape something together to keep something from being turned off, whether its phones or electric. We keep having to hold off on ordering inventory.
The things we’re doing are working. We believe in the shop, we believe it will work. We just need more time. We’re trying to sell the rental house back in Illinois. We even have an offer on it, but the tenant is delaying that process by refusing access to the house for the buyer’s inspection. That lease runs out at the end of March, and we hope to close as soon as possible after that. Or sooner if the eviction can happen. At that point we’ll be able to clear out some debts and be caught up for a bit, maybe even have some cushion for a while.
But we need help right now to last until then!
We need about $2500 to get caught up on utilities.
We need money for advertising. $4-500 can get a fair amount of internet advertising, but print advertising at places like Boulder Weekly tend to start at around $150 a month or more. The Daily Camera, for example, would be more like $4-500 per month at least, which is typical for local publications.
We need money for inventory:
- We want to seriously expand our selection of Native American made goods,
- We want to expand our book selection,
- We want to expand our crystals selection,
- We want to carry crystal singing bowls and expand into singing bowl healing,
- We want to add a couple more sets of Shoyeido Japanese incense.
- We have a wish list of other products people have asked for that we’ve been having to wait to bring in: more music, essential oils,
Each new vendor we add typically has a minimum order of $500. Minimum reorders are typically $100.
Personally, we need a little help getting caught up on our apartment rent. We paid half of February. Getting caught up on personal utilities won’t be quite as hard.
All in all we need to raise $8-10,000 as quickly as possible. Or we need to start the going out of business process. We’ve put everything we’ve got into this. It’s up to you now.
How to help
There are many ways in which you can help Enriching Elements make it through this pivotal point in its development. The most important is donation. We really need the financial help right now if we’re going to keep going.
There are other ways too. A few people have already been offering to help and they have taken flyers to post, told their friends, or forwarded information along through social media. Advertising is one of the key things we’ve had to do grass-roots style as after construction and inventory our savings was drained and there has been no real marketing budget to let people know we are here.
So spread the word–tell your friends, like us on Facebook, +1 us on GooglePlus, write a review about the store on Google, Yelp, Yahoo, or one of the other review sites.
Link to us on your blog, post flyers in the places you go, or come to an event and drop a few dollars in our donation basket. Every little bit counts and means a lot to us.
If enough people step forward to help it won’t take a lot to get us where we need to be. Together you can help save our store. Individually everyone can help make a difference.
For those who donate in larger amounts, Amy is working on jewelry-based gifts as a token of our gratitude. Significant donors will also be listed on our website (unless you ask us not to), and we’ll be happy to include links to your personal/business websites in the process.
You can donate online by credit card, or over the phone or in person. We are also looking for loans, if you prefer to loan rather than donate.
It has been a stressful but very rewarding five months. With your help the shop can continue serving Boulder.