Putting Her Best Foot Forward

“Small business is a rollercoaster. But when you feel supported, it’s exciting and comfortable. It feels safe.”

 Amy Collins smiling behind the counter of her business, The Village Sock Shop in Mendocino

Amy Collins wants to see you smile. She’s new to Mendocino and the owner of the Village Sock Shop, where functional is fun and business meets whimsy.

When Amy and her sweetie moved to the coast last October, she had no business plan, but opportunity presented itself, sooner than later. When she advertised on the community List Serve that she had empty moving boxes available, the previous owner of the sock shop responded. She was selling the business and a fateful conversation began.

Amy knew the sock shop! She herself had purchased socks as souvenirs on previous trips to Mendocino. She loved the sock shop! A seed was then planted, and that seed just grew.

Amy’s professional background is in Education Administration. Her experience in retail was limited to working at Barnes & Noble in college, but she decided to jump in. Although it was daunting to be on her own, the sock shop was already a strong business and a well known entity in the community. She felt confident that her commitment and foundation of skills could pull her through.

When she connected with the West Business Development Center, they helped her develop an overall strategy and assess her personal strengths and weaknesses. Her West Company mentors were able to boost her understanding of accounting and marketing, as well as offering a finance class. It was calming and reassuring to have people who were cheering for her and also giving it to her straight.

“You know, you feel like you’re making it up sometimes.. and West Business Development Center says, ‘It’s ok. Here are some people who are going to educate you and give you more background in these areas. Even before you start your business, even if it’s just a seed.. they support you from idea, all the way through.”

Curiosity has been key for Amy. In her first year of business, Amy feels she is still in the learning curve. She hasn’t experienced the full cycle of a business year and it’s all new. She says learning from mistakes is part of the process and you have be comfortable with that, but being a quick learner and a social person, Amy is feeling strong. The lights are on, the socks are coming in, she’s able to employ somebody and she’s enjoying herself.

The environment in the shop is dynamic. Everyone needs socks and her stock is so whimsical, she delights her customers response. They might call out, “Oh look! Llamas!” and shopping becomes an interactive experience. In the full swing of summer, the customer traffic has been great. She’s met people from all over the world and whether they’re from Comptche or Korea, they can engage and find something for themselves. She’s learning to say ‘thank you’ in several languages.

Accounting is the biggest challenge for Amy and she meets with her West Business Development Center mentor once a month. Initially she was learning the how and whys, now she’s doing the work but values having that mentor to ask questions of and affirm she’s doing things correctly. “Having access to this resource is amazing. Small business is a roller coaster, but when you feel supported, it’s exciting and comfortable. It feels safe.”

Her new role as a business woman has felt empowering. “It’s satisfying to know that as a woman, I can have a business on my own and make it work. It’s a grounding feeling, to come into town and say, ‘That’s mine.’ It’s a built-in connection and a way to way show I have optimism for the future of this community and dare I say, this country. That we are going to be able to move forward and we can grow and do creative things.”

At the end of the day, Amy’s idea of success is knowing she made a difference in someone’s day. With a smile, an experience, or a pair of socks that made them happy.

Torrey Douglass