Amy Collins was newly moved to Mendocino when she posted on the local listserv that she had free empty moving boxes available. As fate would have it, the owner of the Village Sock Shop answered her ad and the two quickly connected. It turned out the business was for sale, and Amy was a huge fan of the little sock boutique in town.
Amy’s previous career was in Education Administration, and though her experience in retail was limited to working at Barnes & Noble in college, she was excited to make the jump to own the shop. It had two major things going for it; it was an already well-known and loved entity in the community, and it had a strong business foundation. Soon Amy was the new owner – and she headed straight to West Business Development Center to help get her started.
When Amy connected with West BDC, they helped her develop an overall strategy and assess her personal strengths and weaknesses. Her advisors helped boost her understanding of accounting and marketing, and she took a finance class to understand all the ins and outs of inventory, cash flow, and profits.
“You know, you feel like you’re making it up sometimes, and West 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 to the actual business.”
Curiosity has been key for Amy. In her first year of business, Amy feels she is still on a learning curve, but she says learning from mistakes is part of the process and she feels it’s important to be comfortable with that.
The environment in the shop is dynamic. Bright colored socks, in fun patterns and prints fill the walls. Amy’s stock is whimsical, and she delights in her customer’s responses. “They might call out, ‘Oh look! Llamas!’ and shopping suddenly becomes an interactive experience,” she notes. In the full swing of summer, the customer traffic has included people from all over the world and whether they’re from Comptche or Korea, they can engage and find something for themselves. Amy is learning to say ‘thank you’ in several languages.
With accounting being the biggest learning curve for Amy, she meets with her West advisor once a month. Initially she was learning the how and whys, and now she’s doing the work herself. She used her time with her advisor to bounce ideas off of, and for validation on the right strategy. She says, “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.”
As a woman owning her own business, it has been 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.”
Village Sock Shop, 44966 Ukiah Street, Mendocino, (707) 397-1622, https://villagesockshop.com/.