The Highs and Lows of Opening a Brick and Mortar Herb Store
Owning an herbal store is not for the faint of heart, yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I began digging deeper into my studies, I kept asking myself, “What do you want to do with this knowledge? Is this something for yourself? Do you want it to supplement your yoga career? Or do you want something more?” I sat with those questions as I continued my studies, and I finally decided that I wanted to open my own brick and mortar store. Once the words left my lips, the Universe signed on the dotted line, and a new path forward was laid out in front of me. The road to entrepreneurship has had its highs and lows, but opening my brick and mortar herb store was ultimately the best decision I have made.
When I chose to open a shop in 2019, I had no idea that a pandemic was just around the corner. When quarantine hit, I had a few shelves of herbal products in a local yoga studio, and since they had to shut down, my business was closed as well. Like everyone else, I had no idea how to proceed forward and truly felt lost. I pulled my products out of the space and created a small shop in my house.
In the early months of the shutdown, I started focusing on all of the behind the scenes work that was not so fun or exciting. I spent time researching LLC, insurance coverages, and those good ole FDA GMPs. I can’t say that I woke up excited to do these things, but it was the only way I could still actively participate in my dreams of owning my brick and mortar.
Originally, my herbal business was tied into my yoga and meditation teaching. As I got more specific with my vision of a brick-and-mortar herb store I knew it needed to exist separately from my yoga teachings. I made the decision right then and there to do an entire re-brand of my business. I started a mini think tank session in my room to get clear on what I wanted my brand to be called, what my brand values were, who I wanted to serve, and how I wanted to operate. If you walked into my room during these weeks it would’ve been a mess of post-it notes, vision boards, and notebooks strewn about! I love the way my mind works and even though it was a messy process, The Herbal Scoop was born in these weeks. The Herbal Scoop is a place of discovery. Whether you are new to herbs or have a long-standing herbal practice, The Herbal Scoop has something for everyone. I sell bulk herbs, blended teas, tinctures, and other herbal self-care items. My main goal in my offerings is to have my customers feel like they are in the drivers’ seat of their own wellness. The name was set, the colors were picked, my logo was in process, and my brand values were strong, now it was time to get my vision from my head and out into the real world.
I consider myself to be a pretty confident person under normal circumstances. So I was surprised at how much doubt began to creep into my daily thoughts about my herbal store. One minute I would be excitedly choosing furniture and paint colors, and the next moment I’d question if I was even qualified to run an herb store. I’ve never experienced so many self-defeating feelings before. Now that I’m mostly on the other side of doubt, I‘ve realized those feelings came up because opening my store mattered more than any other career move I’ve made. I needed to ask myself those questions to work through my insecurities and build the confidence I needed to take the next steps forward.
Doubt, as I understand it from this experience, wasn’t trying to break me down or convince me that I made the wrong choice. My feelings of inadequacy were there to push me closer to what I knew to be true: I was meant to open an herb store, and I was making the right decision. Doubt almost took me down, but there was something inside that kept telling me to take another step, and so I did. I continued to create the dream I had in my head. I was unwilling to give up, and so one day at a time, I worked and made decisions that supported my overall goal of opening an herb store.
Losing my Lease
In the journey of opening my store, I was working on getting a lease on Main Street in the town where I lived. The person I was working with approached me and asked me if I would like to rent her space’s storefront. I was shocked at the offer and was excited about finally taking the big leap after being set back by the pandemic. I was eager to move forward and asked them for a contract to keep the terms of our agreement very clear. The space was set to be turned over to me in mid-September, but two days before I was supposed to get the keys, I found out that the landlord had never cleared my lease, and they were upset that a deal was being made without their consent.
I live in Narrowsburg, NY and my town is very small. Just two landlords run Main Street. I was certainly not going to anger either of them, so I backed out of the lease. To say I was devastated was putting it lightly. It was 2020, so I was already dealing with a lot, and this blow to the gut only made things worse. I basically didn’t get off my couch for two weeks. I kept saying to my husband, “I’m just so sad.” I had told so many people that this was happening, and I felt embarrassed that this opportunity crumbled at my feet.
I tried looking for other spaces, but my heart wasn’t in it. The shop space I lost was affordable, close to home, and in a spot where I have created a community. I couldn’t move in there, but how could I go anywhere else? I loved the idea that I could live and work in the same town. If customers asked for recommendations on what to do locally, I could give them places I have visited and the owner’s names. That was the community and connection I was craving, and now the probability of that happening was non-existent.
After I emerged from my initial funk, I began to brainstorm ideas of how I could still make my herb store dream come true. My inner voice was back and telling me to keep going. I began to research new and innovative locations. I talked to some real estate agents and landlords in different towns to see what my options were. The more I searched, the less I found, and I became very frustrated with the whole process. I even considered renovating a food truck to create a mobile herb store (that idea is still a future possibility!). I knew I had to open this herb shop, and if I were patient enough, something would eventually open up for me. The dream of opening my own herbal store was too important to let go of because of the loss of a lease. If that space wasn’t for me, then I had to accept that and move forward. My space was waiting for me; I just knew it.
There’s not enough ashwagandha in the world to help with the stress of opening a brick and mortar shop. Fortunately, in early November, I finally got the opportunity I was waiting for! A customer of mine connected me with a shop owner in the next town. She ran an artist and maker co-op called The Callicoon Marketplace in Callicoon, NY, and had space available. I met with her to check out the space, and it seemed like a perfect fit. The shop space I chose was next to a modern-day bulk general store, and the commercial kitchen I work with was right behind me. Come on, Universe!
I walked away from the initial meeting feeling really good, but I also knew that saying “yes” to my dream meant that a whole lot of work was still coming my way.
I signed the lease, paid the rent, and it was time to get to work. I wanted a 2-week build-out, and so I did what I do best and started making lists. I put pen to paper to get organized. This dream had been living in my head for so long, and now it was time to see the physical manifestation come to life. I had so much to buy, make, and organize that it felt like I was never going to get it done on time.
I printed out day calendar pages, organized by the hour, and filled them with all the tasks I needed to accomplish that day. I would wake up at 6 a.m. and not stop until 10 p.m. I would not recommend moving at this pace normally, but I knew I wanted to be set up in the space for a few weeks before the intensity of the holiday season.
My aesthetic is clean and modern, and unfortunately, there isn’t a one-stop-shop for my look. I had to shop and build each individual piece, which added to my stress. In 2 short weeks, I had to buy everything down to the trash cans. I was responsible for buying, building, and installing the furniture, making the products, keeping up with social media (which I failed at), packaging and labeling all products, sourcing wholesale accessories, decorating, inputting new inventory, and the list goes on and on.
Every time I got one thing done, three more things were added to the list. I was barely eating, and still, I pushed on. It was me and my husband (when he was available) putting this together, and I could not and would not fail. I have ridiculously high expectations for myself and was unwilling to compromise on my vision. Was the stress worth it? Yes and no. It got me to where I needed to be, but I put aside my own self-care to get it done. I could and should have gone through this part of the experience with a little more compassion and grace. Instead, I barreled through it at the speed of light. I missed the opportunity to enjoy the journey and the magic of making my dream a reality.
It’s not all stress and doubt when opening your own herb store. There are also some tremendous wins along the way.
When the opportunity on Main Street happened, I knew two things: One, I had to jump on this opportunity. Two, I didn’t have the money to build the shop in the way I have always dreamt. Unfortunately, I don’t come from generational wealth, so I knew that when I decided to open my herb store, I would need funding in some way. I have a successful online business, but I did not have $10,000 plus laying around to get the shop up and running. After having many talks with my family I decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign. I am not one to ask for help. In fact, receiving it makes me quite uncomfortable. I struggled with launching a GoFundMe campaign but ultimately, I pressed the launch button after my sister told me that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I had ZERO clue that my campaign would take off the way it did. People donated, shared, bought products online, and offered their services and support. The way the community showed up for me brought tears to my eyes.
I had an executive from Facebook offer to run ads, nearby farms offer space to forage, and even had an interior designer create a plan for me free of charge. So many people were rooting for me and I will never forget that feeling of support.
Having the support of my local and online community further cemented the notion that I was doing the right thing. I knew that when it came time to open my doors, I would have the support of all the people who supported me along the way. I was no longer scared to open an herb store. I had and have so many people rooting for my success that I could not fail!
My Own Two Hands
There is no doubt that building my own space caused me stress, but it also brought me great joy. My shop is uniquely mine, and I am proud of that. I’ve spent an unbillable amount of time on my brand, and every detail has been the result of a lot of hard work.
I set up my cash station using a combination of bookcases and dressers. Once everything was built, I stood back and realized I needed something else and decided to build a countertop to bring it all together. It wasn’t in my budget to buy a piece of granite or butcher block, so I decided to make a countertop from scratch. I went to Lowes to pick out my wood, trim, and stain and brought it home to get to work. I sanded, stained, polished, and trimmed my brand new countertop with my own two hands, and I am thrilled with how it came out! I run my hands over it every time I am in my shop space. It brings me such joy to know that I spent my time and energy building this unique piece for my space. It was hard work, and it took me three days to bring it together, but I loved every minute!
Forging My Own Path
In the past, I have worked as a social worker, actress, fitness manager, and yoga teacher, to name a few. Every one of those jobs I held was owned by someone else. Truthfully, I have never done really well in traditional jobs because the expectations put on me never felt right to me. I was tired of working under someone else. I needed a chance to run my business the way that made sense to me.
In the simplest of joys, I love that I can set my own hours and build a schedule that fits my customers and my needs. I no longer have to find coverage so I don’t have to work on my anniversary or birthday. Now, I can adjust my hours and let my customers know I am stepping away to celebrate with my family. I want to normalize taking time off when needed. I no longer have to work if I’m sick, I can prioritize rest if needed, and I want my customers to do the same.
I’m working on releasing the traditional corporate standards that I have learned over the past 20 years, and am happily creating a business model that feels nurturing, balanced, and sustainable for everyone.
I’m genuinely excited to take my time to create products and workshops that support my customers’ needs. I no longer have to sell something I don’t believe in (I once worked in a steakhouse while being a vegan). I’m free to make conscious and educated choices of what I am offering. Each decision, creation, and mistake are all mine to make. I can’t wait to experience it all.
If I could go back and do it all over again, I would still decide to open my herbal store knowing what I know now. Yes, I would slow down and do some things differently, but I believe with everything I have that I am meant to open my own herbal shop.
If you are thinking about opening your own herbal store, keep listening to that voice, and follow it. Being a store owner isn’t easy, and there will be setbacks and disappointments along the way. Through the struggles, just know that you are capable of making your dream come true. Will there be doubt? Yes. Will there be stress? For sure. Will there be joy? I guarantee it!
We need more herb stores in the world. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll have your beautiful creation manifested right in front of your eyes. Go for it! You’ve got this!
Cheer Kendra along on Instagram @the.herbal.scoop or check out her online shop at www.TheHerbalScoop.com.
If you’re interested in opening an herb store of your own, then check out Herbal Academy’s Entrepreneur Course for guidance about regulations, requirements, and more.