Episode 35: Giving Boutique Business Owners The Tools To Thrive, with Ciara Stockeland

Super excited to share my conversation with Ciara Stockeland today — going into this, I had an idea of what she did and what we would talk about and WOW was I blown away by where things went!

Ciara has taken her experiences, her failures (which she owns up to!) and her passions to help boutique owners thrive! We start on talk with all the steps that led Ciara to where she is today — from starting her own theater company in college, to opening a maternity boutique in North Dakota with no retail experience, she dives into everything she experienced and learned along the way! After a chance opportunity she expanded into a wholesale business, and continued to build her knowledge and edged closer to her current coaching business. We then talk about a big change that happened, including losing her business and her house. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming everything and everyone else, Ciara looked at how SHE had a part in what happened, and used that to make sure she (and her now clients) didn’t make the same mistake again! One of my favorite parts of her story is when she realizes that what she is doing now (and thriving at) is the EXACT thing that she told herself she wanted to stay away from. We finish with some talk around imposter syndrome and what she continues to bring to her clients!

I truly loved hearing about Ciara’s story and how she leans into things when they don’t go the right way. Ciara left me (and all of you) with the courage to ask questions, to make things work when it seems like they wont — and I cannot wait to see what that does for her, you and me!! Make sure to check out Ciara’s Instagram and site to learn about all the amazing offers she has!

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35. Giving Boutique Business Owners The Tools To Thrive, with Ciara Stockeland

Super excited to share my conversation with Ciara Stockeland today — I had an idea of what she did and what we would talk about and WOW was I blown away by where things went! Ciara has taken her experiences, her failures (which she owns up to!)

Ciara Stockeland, has owned and operated businesses since her early teens.  As a serial entrepreneur, her business mindset and tenacity led her to opening her first store, Mama Mia, a high-end maternity store located in Fargo, ND in 2006.  Her vast experience in both retail and wholesale industries led her to launch the first to market wholesale subscription box for boutique retailers, which she built and sold within 18 months. Most recently Ciara has launched the Boutique Workshop, a coaching program for retailers.

Full Transcript:

Dana: Are you dying at the thought of missing a single one of your babies. First, we have no idea how you’d give up the security that your nine to five job brings. My name is Dana Graham and I had no clue how to escape that vicious 40 Hour Workweek cycle either until I did, as the wife of a traveling husband and mom of two tiny humans, and made the terrifying and totally bizarre leap from health insurance with a two year old and newborn into, but I’m not the only one. I’m so glad you’re joining me as I chat with other moms who took the leap into entrepreneurship and created the ultimate best of both worlds life doing it all amidst the chaos. Hello everybody and welcome back to another episode of amidst the chaos, I am here today with a really exciting guest who is just going to dive into so many things and I feel like she does so many things and is so many things to all the different people so CRS Stockland is here. Welcome, Sierra. Hi, I’m excited to visit with you, this is gonna be fun. And she is no stranger to podcast interviews and I’m just so thrilled to have her here on this side of the mic and to hear her story from her perspective So Sarah, tell us what you do now give us like a brief overview elevator pitch for anybody that doesn’t know of you yet. What is your current business life look like.

Ciara: Yes, so I am a full time coach, consultant, and I work specifically with inventory based businesses so I love to take the science part of business that freaks everyone out the numbers and make it accessible and interesting, and just break it down into bite sized actionable steps, so that’s what I do all day long.

Dana: And so, we’ll back up and start your story from the beginning, but like, looking back now, did you go into this knowing that like this is a career like this is something that people do that you could do.

Ciara: No, and actually, when it started presenting itself more and more I fought it, which we’ll get into the story of like why, but I was heels dug in, absolutely no way. So it’s interesting that I’m here and I love it. Like I feel like this is exactly what God made me for.

Dana: I love that and I asked that because you know I, the whole point of this podcast was to find people who do things that you might not know where jobs prior to now and, you know, to not to copy but to be able to, like, be inspired by and say oh, like I actually have a skill similar to that and how. Look how she monetized that and built this business from there and so it’s just funny when, when I found you, I’ve been looking for a variety and so I found him like, oh my god that is so cool like that is not even something I knew as a job so I love, I love your hair. I had to ask that for so okay so walk us back, pre entrepreneurial life like pre everything like pre kids like what did your life look like, you know, we’re moving into the corporate world.

Ciara: Yeah, so I’m a third generation entrepreneur so I’ve always been around business and small losses. Every single Thanksgiving Easter you know they were they’re fighting about the business or planning the business or a mix of both. So just normal. In fact, I was just talking to my sister and I was like, Do you remember every vacation we went on Dad always had to stop and measure windows and talk to people and we were like, oh my goodness, you know, so as far back as I can remember, it was all about small business. So, when I was pretty young, I was always looking for ways I think my mind is just wired to look for ways to add value to things. So I would put on little shows in the backyard and sell the neighbor’s tickets and they were like our neighbors must have at the bottom now that I’m like oh let’s see are doing no sell rocks to the neighbors lemonade stands all the time, garage sales, but it wasn’t like a passive lemonade stand, it was like all out marketing like we’re doing a lemonade stand in the middle of where nobody drives by and we will sell lemonade. So, yeah just always had that idea of like growing building creating finding problems and figuring out how to fix them. So when I got to college, it was really hard for me to nail down what I wanted to do, because I was like I don’t know like how do I say this is what I want to be. I’m going to study this and I’m gonna sit here and do this like I just don’t know. And so I ended up not finishing, so I didn’t graduate from college and I started building businesses up during college time and a little bit before I had been working on that so it was kind of a crazy journey of just and my parents were very like, do what you want to do you can figure this out if there’s a problem you fix it don’t whine about it. And so I just went into life with that attitude, and so that’s how it’s continued to grow and unfold. I love that.

Dana: Okay so you’re in school, you were just overwhelmed I guess with like unsure of how you wanted to go and how you wanted the future to be so what were the businesses that you’re growing and then how did they transition into what you’re doing now.

Ciara: Yeah, so my first formal business would probably be, we would travel around to all the Lakes Country in Minnesota and going to these little boutique so I’ve always loved little boutiques and I was always enamored so I was like hey they sell things I could create things and sell things so I started knitting little baby sweaters and making jewelry, and my dad made me this little wooden box and I put all my displays in there and then I would literally march up to the counter and be like highest the owner here. You know Hi my name is Sierra, here’s my you know what I have, would you be willing to carry, I got a ton of nose, but I had some gracious women, I wish I could go back and say thank you to all of them. That gave me yeses, you know, and so that was my first kind of informal business and then I was a homeschool kid so freshman in high school, or a little before then I wanted to be involved in theater there was no opportunity so I was complaining to my mom about how homeschooling was awful and I had no opportunity and she’s like well if you want to do it, how about you just do it. Great idea. So I literally sat down with the Anna Green Gables VHS, and I’d like play a little bit, and then pause it and write down what they said. So I wrote like the script out my friends is yep so doing this little performance in our backyard, and that blossomed into like homeschool families saying hey how can our kids being your acting company and I was like I didn’t know I had an acting company but okay. So sure, you know, come on in to when I was like teaching classes and then I rented a studio so this is all happening in high school, both of those jobs. And so then when I went into college, I was a flute player, and really good at it, but I was like to play flute.

Dana: Yeah,

Ciara: I tried to be full of all the things on silver, you know, and I love performing, but I didn’t want to teach. And so what are you going to do with a flute I’m like really, you know, there’s amazing orchestras but they only take two of us, so I smile. Yes, yes, you know, and so I remember talking to my dad and I’m like, I just don’t know I’m going to college for music but I don’t want to teach what should I do and just like what do you want to do, it was a struggle because you literally, I had the same exact conversation. That is so funny. And yet here we are, oh yeah so you know just kind of struggling through that and meanwhile while I was making my way through that, I met my husband, my acting company was blossoming so I was working with private public college age high school kids like I had a massive theatre company that I built. And so I thought you know what, I’m just gonna keep building this and doing my own thing. And so then we continued on with the acting company through our second child and then that’s really when I moved on to retail.

Dana: And so in this acting company you have grown up since you were like literally a child. So, how did you, and this isn’t even part of what we’re supposed to be talking about but how did you make that business into something that was profitable when you had had literally no experience I mean nothing. That’s it. You were brand new so how did you make that sustain you and sustain that massive company for so long coming out of nothing.

Ciara: I think I just have a way of looking at something that has zero value, and figuring out how to make it valuable. And then figuring out how I’m different. So with the action company I was like okay well there’s community theater, there’s college theaters, how am I going to be different. Well, we started with the homeschool group so that’s different, we offered this online, and then I was like you know there’s no classical theater like literal classic Winnie the Pooh. Little Women Shakespeare, so if I did the classics, in a way that was truly classic with amazing beautiful costumes. I feel like people would come. And then, this is what it would cost me so now I need to figure out how to make the money to support the habit, you know, so hey, just that’s how I build everything like really looking at the end. My goal with the Theatre Company was, we had a local downtown beautiful theater, I want some rent that and sell out. That is my goal. I want to rent it and sell it out so how do I get to that place. So we started in the high schools and then you know we just kind of work your way up so I think with everything I’ve built that I look at the end like where I want to go and then just what are all the puzzle pieces to make it and then it grows along the way.

Dana: I mean, so in there, you’ve probably had setbacks i mean i Nobody likes to be setbacks but there probably been them so how do you keep that goal at the top of your mind, to help you get through it I mean I definitely use my end goal to like get me through a slump, but sometimes like a slump just makes the end goal seem so much further away than within the moment, how did you use any of those harder times to remind you that that goal is still there.

Ciara: Yeah, I think, you develop the muscles. When you’re willing to get up and learn. So when you don’t look at something as a failure but you’re like okay, that did not work, but what can I take away from it, how can I change it so an example right now I’m training for an Iron Man, doing it in October I know crazy I know, but I’m having a lot of trouble with my knee so I’m, you know I have 11 weeks of training left and so yesterday I couldn’t swim on my shoulder was bad I couldn’t do my run workout I started it, and I was, you know I had literally had a bad day I’m pretty optimistic person, so I came home and I’m like this, I mean I need to train like I can’t, I can’t skip a day. And so I was like okay well I can’t run I can’t swim well I guess there’s one of the things I can do that doesn’t hurt so like ride it is, you know, it’s not on my training plan but it will get me in shape for the day, I’ll put my time in, and it’s something I can do so I think looking at every experience that way. Yep, this didn’t work, we couldn’t rent that out, we lost our lease, we don’t have customers, whatever it might be, but what do we what do we have in our toolbox like what am I able to do to keep moving forward and take one more step. And if you can come from that type of attitude with everything. You will keep moving forward the path might look a lot different, the day might look different, but you’re gonna keep moving forward instead of that stopping and getting stuck off,

Dana: I love that that is so, so true and I think it’s so much about mindset and it’s hard when, like your example, like it wasn’t just your shoulder. Then it was your knee, like it’s when there’s it’s never a clear path and you have to recognize that that path is probably going to change but to have that, like encouragement of like, okay, what do we have, what can we do I feel like really can shift. And for me it’s sometimes like I need to sit and like the crack, you know, I need just a minute and then be like, that really does suck, and then I can be like it and I think sometimes if I try and shove it down too quickly, it comes back up again. You know, it’s like, Back up in like the in the downward spiral of oh no this isn’t working so I love that like your perspective is like okay, but this is what we have this is how we can kind of turn that around and I think that really helps get a lot of people out of a slump is to turn around and focus on the good.

Ciara: So, and let’s be real, that it’s not pretty, you know, It wasn’t like I was like woohoo I get to my grind No, literally I was crying yesterday, and I am not a crier. I am not a pessimistic person, but I was like this is not working, you know, the tears come. My poor bike I took it out on my bike, like angry riding. It’s all about like, but what can I do, and it’s not glamorous and glorious and it’s not the thing that we see on Instagram and the beautiful picture most often in the background but it’s just about taking another step, like you can’t sit still and you do not want to go backwards. So just move forward, just do what you can do, but it might be ugly, there might be ugly tears, that’s okay. Yeah,

Dana: I know I had a good car cry yesterday, just right in the front seat, pull over and we need that. And and to be honest like I literally wasn’t even like okay, like, what next and then I was fine and then of course I like posted my profile and I’m just like, are you okay, is everything we do to help you like no no I’m actually good. Now I just, I just wanted to not look like everything’s fine all the time. But, okay, so you’re writing this massive theatre company you’ve got all this going on, you’ve had two babies at this point. Yes. Is that where you were okay so then what happened next to get you into the boutique world, how did you because that’s a big shift too. That’s cool.

Ciara: So, you know, I was looking I’m like okay it’s all night it’s all weekends right because it’s theater nonprofit, I just want to be done with that I have two little people and so we just, you know, we had a great run. I sold out that theater multiple times and met my goals, had amazing kids, and I was just done, you know, it’s like 12 years or however long they did it. And so, my husband and I talked about it and so we had our final I’m like, here’s the final production I want to have so I did that, and then he’s like okay so what do you want to do next. I’m like, like you know, I really like to have a store. I’d like to have a store I never worked retail in my life, but I know I need something different. I know it’s crazy and so he’s like, cool, let’s do it and so we’re thinking you know three years, five years, whatever. Oh no, six months later, here we go, because I just don’t sit still very long so again like just with the theater company and this is what I tell my clients, you have to be different, you cannot go into a market and expect that well she does this like that and they do this like that and I’m gonna do it but just better I’m gonna have amazing customer service, yep, you and everyone else, like you have to have something different so I decided maternity baby would be really different for my community high end maternity baby store and so, six months later, we started working on that and then launched my first brick and mortar retail downtown.

Dana: Wow let’s see your first was in baby products and baby products, yes. So what made you decide that round, like what made you decide okay this is the store I want to have this is how it’s going to be different but like what, because again it’s a big jump and I feel like people are so hesitant to pivot in their life and in their career without having some sort of like passion behind something so was it passion was it just you knew a lot about beta products like did you have a connection in the industry like what made you be like okay this is the right thing for for us in this season.

Ciara: Yeah, so for no connections, no information. It was just okay I want to do I want to build a brand. I don’t want to do it through retail, and I need something that sets me apart. So there’s other boutiques, how can I be different in our community, like, literally you could buy maternity at JC Penney, and we had been taught my husband travels a lot so I had seen what was out there, and that if we could bring this to our community, and I believe in the product. You know I never got to wear it because I only had two kids and they had them before I had the maternity store but yeah so it was just understanding like I need to niche in this somehow. And so how can I get behind something that I would enjoy doing, but it’s very different and unique.

Dana: And so, Who did you rely on at this point in your career because doing this all by yourself is hard in the first place, you know, being an entrepreneur and building, especially a brick and mortar store that’s very different than the world today where you can build an online business like pretty much overnight. So how did you really know that this was going to work and that you had the confidence to do this, who was helping you in that path.

Ciara: So I am a question asker, I love to learn from other people because you know they know a lot more than me, so I started you know when we had this idea I was like, Well, who do we know, and I always think about this in everything I do and I would encourage your listeners like Who do I know that has gone down this path or similar path and so there was a guy at our church who had built help build a very successful retail brand so I said, Hey, would you come over to dinner and can I ask you questions, so I asked him, here’s what I’m thinking what do you think is good about this idea what’s bad about it, what am I missing. And so just started to kind of collect my, you know, informal advisory group, if you will, connected with a formal mentor at score went into other boutiques and I’d say, Hey, can I ask you some questions and I would literally ask them if you did this, if you could do it again. Would you do it again, and one of the gals who actually directed me to my main mentor said nope, absolutely not. But that’s good though, like to ask questions to listen to both sides of it really open mindedly to look at like what mistakes you could avoid before you even get there. So that’s why I started just asking because Google wasn’t. I mean, Facebook wasn’t around, like it was personal, making phone calls asking people if I could have 30 minutes, their time, and then just researching and collecting information and then doing. Oh, like, don’t just keep collecting but then like analysis paralysis forever, collect to collect do refine it and do it some more.

Dana: Yeah and I think that having that information and that’s really amazing advice too about the collecting I feel like this day and age, like, even for me like when I first started, like, you can buy a bajillion courses on anything, he’s able to do of course and like, oh, even mentorships, you can just get them and collect them and then not actually act like that is so that’s such great advice for anybody listening who already has a business or is thinking about launching one and you’re just a course collector, right.

Ciara: Yeah, actually, actually finishing them or implemented at the top told you to do and those courses like this is a time to pause and be like okay, I actually could elevate my business and branch so much from what I’ve already like collected but I need to actually analyze that information and apply it into my everyday life and into my business because that’s where you can get stuck, like on the hamster wheel if I need to learn more, I need to do more before I can do anything else, like, No, you learn what you, what you can and absorb what you can and then implement it, and then keep going on that hamster wheel like, like we just skip that step, and I was definitely guilty of that at the beginning of my career, too, so.

Dana: Okay, so you have this brick and mortar store, tell me about your home life at this point, how old are your kids like how are you managing your day to day with the kids around and the business and being away so

Ciara: yeah. So first brick and mortar store, Bella was a year and her son was three, so they were really little. I didn’t work Sundays or Monday so we had typical retail days off, I did hire someone right away, so I had someone that worked for me pretty part time I trusted her though and that was awesome, but I put the time like I worked Saturdays because Saturday was the day where I could make the most money, you know, those kinds of pieces husband’s super supportive we were done I think at five every day, but I’m not a very organized person so I’ve had to really no not detail oriented, so I’ve had to really work at finding tools that would help me so for instance I had this big old bag that sat by the back door, and every day when I think about stuff or in the evening I put it in the bag that needed to go to work with me, like just little tools like that that would help me remember Okay, put it in my bag do it right now, or you’re gonna forget it in the morning, you know, things that would help me go back and forth, finding good team members, and just being super willing to put the hard work in knowing that that, like that’s part of small business, you can skip that part. Like you got to do that, but then Jim was has always been super supportive, and he’s a very different person. He’s very detail oriented so he helps me stay on track and I help them think big picture, and pick up the slack.

Dana: I love that. Yes, there’s a big compliment that’s all my husband our we’re very opposite in a lot of things and I feel like it definitely helps. On the business side of things for sure, on the family side of things too because there’s so many things that have to get done in a day, you know, as you’re part of a family you know and raising kids like you have to have that compliment to be able to make it actually work. Yes. Okay, so you have this brick and mortar store and you’re, you’re, you’re growing it from there what happens next, what happens to get you into this more consulting role.

Dana: So there’s quite a bit in here, I’ll make it pretty fast. So I’m in doing the maternity baby store my husband’s working for a trucking company, and the owner, they would haul for large department stores high end department stores and they would end up with salvage product pallets or damaged Miss ships whatever they pay the claim, and then they have this product vendor doesn’t want to back department store doesn’t want it. So the trucking company really pays the freight for the claim and they have it, so it’s collecting in their warehouse. So he came to me and is like, hey, Sierra, You know I have two truckloads of product that’s awesome like Kate Spade and Spanx and like all this beautiful, Nike, he’s like, you know, would you put it in your store and sell it because you have a retail store and I was like, well let me kind of weird in a maternity store but I never say no to an opportunity or at least looking at one. And so I was like, how about if I rent the hole in the wall spot next door to me, and I just sell your product there, like he said sure. So handshake deal no paperwork just handshake deal. Like I’ll pay for, I’ll give you the product and I think he paid for the rent. And then I did the employees and I ran it, and we just split, split it, I mean, and so handshake deals with good people do work, like, it was awesome. Yeah, you have to work with good people, that’s the key to handshake or to paper written. But anyway, so we opened up the second location six months after the first, and it was amazing because we’re selling all this products we have. And it wasn’t, I mean, while the brands were awesome like one time we got a whole palette of size 21 Men’s Nike tennis shoes, and I had to figure out how to sell that. So it taught me that we sold them for gay gifts, by the way our next idea. So but it taught me to be super creative. I had no idea what I was gonna get it would just show up on a pallet, I could get the same of multiple things or I could get randomness, I could get men’s kids Disney, like all this different stuff. So it taught me to be super creative with how to reach out to customers how to merchandise how to sell anything how to be optimistic instead of I don’t like this I’m not gonna figure it out. No, I better figure it out because it’s in my store. And so I had the two stores going at the same time. Of course this one appeals to the masses margins are awesome. My high end maternity store is beautiful, it’s my baby margins are not there it doesn’t appeal to the masses. So I have this first dilemma as an entrepreneur of do I go with what I love and what I have a passion for or do I do what people are telling me they want. That was yes so that was my first, like, and I remember sitting down again asking questions if someone smarter than me and he’s like well, would you like to have something beautiful or would you like to make money and I’m like, don’t say the worst option.

Dana: Right.

Ciara: But I ended up saying you know what, why couldn’t I have the best the best of both. And so we merged the concepts and brought the outlet products into a boutique environment. So instead of saying it has to be an either or why can’t it be an end but. And so we merged the concepts brought it into my beautiful maternity space, and then decided, you know, like I had been wanting to build a brand we were going to franchise. And so we went into the next phase of entrepreneurship, which was franchising and we did that around for around a decade. Not quite a decade, franchised.

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Okay, so many questions for you now. So, okay, first off didn’t realize this was a thing I didn’t realize this was a problem that trucking companies had no idea no clue. So, what is crazy to me in this world right now, that we live in with social media and like building businesses and online businesses or any business branding is like the hot button, button topic, like clients that took it to people that trust you and believe you and know you and want to want to support you. How in the world did you brand a business where you had no idea what inventory you were going to be selling a week later, like how in the world did your mind even, I’m like, my brain couldn’t be further from my skull right now I’m like,

Ciara: you know, it goes back to what we talked about with the theater company, how am I different, what is the unique mind blowing thing that I’ve got going on, what is buzzworthy craze worthy. And so for us it was the excitement of the deal. So here’s what’s super crazy so we would unload a full truckload into our store put it all in the backroom, and then I would bring out inventory every single Saturday, new delivery. Well we got them in the morning if you know, three months ago, but for our customer, it was a new delivery. So it was the idea I built this idea of like you never know what you’re gonna find you better get here early. And so the brand just built itself like when you can have something that’s so differentiates you from everyone else, And then you mix in a really great personality, with the staff, and you know so people come in and they love it and there’s vibrancy in your business, it will grow itself but you have to be willing to just be that problem solver. And so, yeah, so that’s how we just built it, it was a designer outlet like you never knew what you were gonna get, and then as we franchise, we had to make it a lot more replicable, you know, because it’s franchising so then we became the home of the $40 designer jeans so we would bring in 200 $250 designer jeans they were always 40 bucks in our store. And that became the trademark, and the thing that brought people in so it became more at the beginning was very rolled like whatever we get, but we refined it as we grew.

Dana: So as you grew you said okay, like, now we need to find where this extra merchandise is and bring it in. Wow, that is amazing so when you’re I do just want to touch on the the franchising for a moment so when you started into the franchising world that’s a, that’s a big jump, Like that’s relying on other people that is people relying on you like that is a huge, huge jump in business. So, what did you do to really educate yourself and know that it was time to franchise.

Ciara: So like everything else I was like this is a great idea so you know people would ask me, Can we do franchise, well no, but maybe I will sure you want to buy one, you know, researching, finding other people good franchise asking them questions I got really involved in the international International Franchise Association and working with super smart people in there, can I have 20 minutes of your time to ask a question, you know, that type of thing. Franchising is really interesting because a lot of people will come to me, retail stores and like I want a franchise, like, but do you really let me tell you about. So I would never tell someone not to franchise, but on the franchising side, it is a completely different business model, so no longer was I buying and figuring out how to make my brand, and you know work now I was for a franchisor and that’s very different especially for, you know visionaries and founders, they don’t often fit into the franchisor role very well because it’s, it’s, I don’t want to say it’s a babysitter, but it’s very like, you have to hold people to the wine, it’s very operations very detailed, you’re the bad guy all the time, you know, and so that was an interesting transition that I did not know no one did tell me about that. And so that was really interesting as we transitioned into franchising what that look like,

Dana: especially for you like you’re even we’re not even to the end of the story but you’re like the queen of the pivot, I mean really, and like rebranding you are and so I feel like that must have been really hard to then because once you build that franchise and you have your sisters. This is what it is, you can’t really change it so yeah so for you. How did you then, like, deal with this because you you said you did it for like 10 years. Yes. So how did that must have been like kind of difficult for you like how did you manage that mentally and like, and deal with being in a role that like doesn’t necessarily play to your favorite parts of your strengths.

Ciara: Yeah, it was really hard. It was a really hard, eight or so years, we were really successful like the height of it 2015 seven figure business, you know, boutiques opening around the country. I was invited to the White House. I was on the small business chamber in DC, you know, we were getting awards, but I had this feeling and I told my team I’m like something is happening, like there’s a storm I feel it in my soul. And I’m so happy now, but I was not happy then I realized it like because the growth was awesome, and I loved bringing in the boutique owners and the franchisees and like training them, which is what I do now, funny enough, is I train them how to, and I love that part of it. But yeah, just I could, I don’t know I just felt something was happening and sure enough it did, it exploded.

Dana: Okay, so tell me about that like what was expose Yeah.

Ciara: Yeah, so 2017 So I had this feeling like something was going on we were growing, we were building we were making money, but it just I didn’t feel settled and I didn’t really know why I had compromised, a lot of like, why, and I didn’t know this, but I know now like what I’m good at like living in my sweet spot, living into my superpowers of what I ever like I was now managing people I was dealing with problems I was a regulatory person in the business I was writing manuals like all the stuff that drained me, is what I found myself doing so that was part of it, but franchising, like you need to be really capitalized, to do it really well it’s expensive because you’re suddenly supporting and we purchase all the inventory as well. So we were the bank to our franchisees, like we were suddenly finding ourselves in this massive like, like we were funding and supporting, and we had a team of 12 to support all of these franchises, it was really interesting so 2017 We saw some things happen in the franchise system and a bunch of our group of franchisees decided to break their contracts and leave. And so that unwound it was horrible. I have a picture I’m so glad I snapped it. This was towards the end of the unwinding of a bottle of Tums on my desk, a crumpled up tissue, and my, my mouse that had my logo on it, it was sitting there and I was like that’s so prophetic so I took a picture and I’m glad I have it because that was my life for about six months. Tom Hall, ulcers, tons of tears and this stupid brand that I was stuck to, and I couldn’t understand like why is this happening like what have I done wrong like what, why am I being treated I mean crazy bullying on social media, like so many things. It was awful. I ended up with ulcers surgery like it’s amazing what stress our body, like absorbs and I was literally like God what on earth for, like, I was trying to invest in people I wanted to build this like how could this all happen. And of course at the time you can’t see it but I say now God unwalled unwound and, like, pulled from my grimy little hand when I was holding on to so tightly like I don’t want to let it go. And when we finally decide, we got to be done, like we just have to be done. We ended up losing our home, because everything was tied to our business loans like it was, it was pretty ugly. I gave myself a little more than I did yesterday morning to cry. Like I sat on the couch. I mean, I’ve never been a depressed person I didn’t think now looking back and like I was severely depressed like just curled up in a ball, but then I started to think and I remember the walk that I was on, it was freezing cold because it was in North Dakota in the winter, I was gonna say, yeah, what was this. What was this all for why did I go to the White House, why did I learn these things, why do people you know all this stuff. And I was like you know what, there’s things that I can see problems in the retail industry, and maybe I could fix them and so that little fire ignited again of like, okay, this is an issue, and yes, a lot of things were done to me in the unwinding but we always pay apart, I think in everything that happens in life, we have to own part of it. So what could I have done different. What did I do wrong that I’m not going to do again. And so I decided to launch another business kind of crazy but a subscription box for boutique owners because I saw through all of that, that there was a discombobulation between how they were finding inventory and the old way of going to market and you know and so launched a business subscription model business for boutique owners a wholesale and I but I wanted to build it and sell it and I was very like, I will not talk to boutique owners, I will not talk to people, my managers like build this business, sell it be done. Leave me alone. But through that came the coaching. So what happened was, as I was starting to build this, people would come into my life and they asked boutique owners and ask me questions like how do you know how much inventory to buy or whatever, and I know the answers like I built a seven figure boutique business, I have the answers for them. And so God sent one lady in particular Lisa will always love her, try not to cry, but Lisa came into the subscription box business. She signed up and she sent me this email and she was like, Hey, I just want to let you know my husband opened this fashion truck, and I think it was within six months or something, her husband was tragically killed in an accident, she’s like I’m on my own, I’m doing this by myself, like whatever help you could, and I was like, oh my goodness, I cannot be selfish because of pain that people inflicted on me before, and not help them like that is that is the waste. Not that my business went down the tubes way different than I thought it would or quicker or whatever. Not that perceived failure the failure would be if I sat in my office and said, I will not help you because other people hurt me. And so I slowly opened up, ended up launching a beta coaching program, sold the subscription box like I had planned, and then the boutique workshop which was what I have now blossomed out of that,

Dana: which is exactly what you said you wouldn’t do literally exactly, exactly. I’d like to talk to boutique owners, ever again. Yeah. So how okay so you you’ve met you met Lisa and you talked to her and you started this, this beta program so talk to me about how you knew that you had enough experience and skill and clout, even to be justified enough to be a coach, because in this day and age like coaching is really expensive, it can be really really really expensive. And that’s really the only way to do it if you’re going to be a coach full time because you have to you have to give your time its direct minutes of your day that can’t be duplicated, it’s one on one, it’s coaching so for you. You clearly have the cloud, but what and the experience and knowledge and the wisdom and all the things but what made you be like, Okay, I, this, this will work. This is something that I’m justified to do this is some because I feel like, coaches, before they get into it. That’s one of the big blocks of like, Yeah, you can’t have imposter syndrome syndrome because you’re charging a lot and you’re and you’re using your direct one on one time that then can’t replicate it.

Ciara: Yeah, so for me, oh there was a lot of mind games, and I would still say every once in a while it rears its ugly head, it doesn’t stay up very long so I’m like, yeah, not today. No, but I will say there’s a lot, especially you know thinking okay, what are they going to think, like, I’m going to pay to coach, or they’re going to pay to coach me but then I lost my business, you guys can’t see my air quotes, but I’ve lost my business, Right. So, and then, you know, so just battling through and thinking through all those things. But what’s funny is we think that people think a lot more about us and our stuff than they actually do, right, everybody thinks about their own thing. Okay, so if they have a question and I have the answer, they don’t care what I did for breakfast yesterday like they don’t, they want the answer they want their problem solved. And so the more that I could just get out of my own selfish head of like everybody’s gonna get out with my story, because I think that’s something super powerful for us as well. I’m like, it is part of my story that we file bankruptcy and I lost my house, would I have chosen that note, did I try to fight against it, absolutely yes did other people keep their stores. Well, this happened to me, and it was really tough. Absolutely yes but it’s part of my story, it’s not going away. Right. So either I can learn from it and help others learn from it and just get out in front and tell it, or I can be a coward and sit in the corner be like I hope nobody finds out, well it’s part of my story so it is what it is. So the more I came to like work through that in my own head. That was awesome and then I think one thing that really helped my like boost my confidence was the results I would see, like when I would help someone who had no idea that they should even put their cost of goods sold into their POS just tell them, just put it in like when you’re entering your what you’re going to charge enter what it costs you so that you can look at what your inventory asset is, and they’re like, oh my goodness, Sarah. Now I know, like those little pieces started to lose my comp I do know what I’m talking about. I do have a lot of experience I’ve done a ton of things wrong and I can teach from that, yeah, a lot of things right and I can teach from that. So the more you do it the more confidence you build. And then it’s just that cycle than the more you do it the more confidence you build, you know and and works round and round like that.

Dana: And I feel like too there’s this stigma with coaching, it’s like you have to be at a certain point in your business to get coach, and that’s not really true, either because there’s so many things that even, even if you found a coach that wasn’t, you know 100 steps ahead of you and was maybe only 10

Ciara: Right,

Dana: that’s there’s still value in that and even more than the skill and the experience and the knowledge they have is that is their way of communicating something that works for you to, like, is, is it a person because it is a very, very personal thing that you’re doing. Right, so is that person, someone that can really speak to and you really understand the way they think and the way they talk because there are some people that I’ve learned from that. I probably could have learned more if they had put it in a different way, you know, right, but that’s just for me for other people, their communication was perfect but for me I needed a different way to kind of hold my hand and walk through it.

So what do you do when you first started coaching and your first kind of communicating with these people that, again, you did not want to be communicating with. How did you how did you build their experience to be something that was both good for them and for you and healthy in in that way, because you are providing not only solutions but constructive criticism.

Ciara: Right. Yeah I mean I think like you said, everybody has style there’s people that I’m not for them. But I think what, what I do really differently I do a lot of visual teaching, so you can see my whiteboard behind me, I do a lot of visual because when we’re talking numbers, it’s super scary to a boutique owner, I don’t want to learn the numbers I don’t know them I feel silly when I asked them, I don’t even know what to ask like all those things. So let’s just break it down, and it’s all about like taking one thing, and making it simple. I think if I had to say what my superpower is it probably be that that I can really simplify things. And that’s why I’ve been able to build because I can look at the end and then I can just break it down, I can go into a huge mess in a garage, and I can look and see what do I need to start with and how do I just rearrange this like I’m really good at that and so being able to present information in a way that’s not making someone feel dumb, but it’s just simplifying it down in a way that they can take one step at a time, and implement it. And then I’m pretty bold with just telling what it is like stop playing store with your store. Stop, you know, copying the neighbor, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t look at the competition but use it constructively, not from a place of jealousy and fear, right, and I’ll just tell my clients that so, like, pretty straightforward. We don’t. None of us have time for sugarcoating things none of us have time to like hear kind of half truths and not go. You know I can’t go on not I can’t not go 100% of the way with what I tell my clients so I think those things together simplifying it down and just being very cut and dry in a really kind and personable way I know what it’s like to wake up at two in the morning and then three and then four and then five waiting to check my bank account to see if I could cover payroll, I know what that feels like I know what it feels like to get rid of people that have worked with you forever, but they’re not cutting it. I know what it feels like to have my husband constantly be putting his paycheck into the business, so we can make rent. And so being epithet like I get it. And I know what it likes is like to make a million dollars, I know what it’s like to make your first 100 And so bringing that piece of it in is really important when you have a coach, you have to have someone that’s done some element of where you are trying to go to coach you. Right, I think, yes, yes, absolutely.

Dana: No, you’re absolutely right and I, and I wanted to, to kind of bring that up so that people could see like, just because you found somebody that claims they could do something, and teach you something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should hire them as your coach, right, you need to do, there’s so many steps to finding the right coach for you which is the, is your personality going to match. Are you going to actually learn from them to do they actually have the experience like Have they proven time and again are there testimonials that say like this helped my business in XYZ way like have you done the research, have you talked to somebody that this has worked for you no because it is an investment and it will coaching, if done the right way will pay off for you tenfold, a hundredfold, however many fold all the folds, but you have to be you have to be matched with the right person right and I think that you were such a shining example of like great coaching that you, you can tell, like, and I, so when I do interviews like this I purposely like take a step back and I don’t do a ton of research because I want to hear your story and like get your story from an authentic point of view, but what I do do is check out your website and check out your Instagram so that I can see like what you have done and what you’re showing people that you do and so that it’s easier for me to come from a point of like hey, here are my questions but also. This is why you can vouch for somebody like you can tell that they have done all of these things and I think you do a really good job of showcasing that and showing and showing people why they should, should hire you and have you have you be their coach so okay so I want to back up just again a little bit so talk to me about your mindset because I think for some people, especially with COVID and like, people are going back to work, like they necessarily don’t want to after spending a year and a half at home, like they’re like, No, I don’t want to go back to that environment, I didn’t realize how toxic it was I didn’t realize how constraining it was to do this commute, you know, and so a lot of people are quitting their jobs, a lot of people are also being let go from their jobs now that like the needs have changed for so many businesses and I feel like you can sort of empathize in that space of like okay your business was done and over and on some levels it felt failure esque right and I think that, leaving a job, you without having that behind, you know, hindsight is 2020 without having that hindsight yet because you’re in it, right, like, how did you pick yourself up off the ground of that and have enough confidence to start this incredible coaching business that you’ve built.

Ciara: Yeah, I think, learning to build the muscle of problem solving, be a problem solver. So in the boutique workshop in my group coaching program we have a private Facebook group, and we’re really encouraging the members, post all the questions like, ask the questions, but offer a solution, what you think might go with that question first. Don’t just give me the information on this, tell me how to do this I want to do this, what are your ideas, no, here’s what I want to do, here’s what I’m thinking what do you guys think about that that is a way different perspective than just give me the information I’m gonna take the lazy route. I am so yes, be a problem solver, the entrepreneurs that I see that I’ve seen that are successful and I know a lot of successful entrepreneurs, they are problem solvers. So when you hit a road. Okay, great. This isn’t one. It’s like what I did yesterday on the bike. Okay, I can’t run. I can’t swim, what can I do. Well, I’m not going to just sit on my couch and do nothing because that would be stupid right when I’m somewhat able bodied sort of kinda, I was like biking does not hurt me right now, so biking will get me a little bit further down the road, and I can let my knee heal and whatever whatever so being a problem solver constantly looking at like this isn’t working the way I want, but what tools do I have in my tool chest. And so I think that is what you know if someone’s thinking about okay I’m going to leave my corporate position, what do I do What skills do you have what do you love doing what do people tell you all the time you’re really good at, How can you monetize it, you can monetize, anything. Literally anything, if you look at like okay, people get paid to pick up dog poop. Okay, you can monetize anything. You just have to be creative with it and solve somebody’s problem. And what’s the solution that you’re selling, not the product you’re selling so just keep thinking about that as you’re thinking of transitioning from like a corporate or maybe you’re maybe you want to transition in a small business so many entrepreneurs keep themselves stuck like what will people think who cares what people think, if it’s not working, it’s not working. So just transition and do something different. Really, yeah, really, Like, it’s funny because I’ve helped some coaching clients, close their businesses. So I’m gonna ask NUS, and I’m like, hold it down. Why are you doing this, here’s where your skill set and your passion is, you have permission from me and yourself to be done with this chapter is totally okay. And it’s funny because on the other side we’re like oh my goodness sakes, why did I not do that. A long time ago. So,

Dana: yeah, but again the hindsight is 2020 and sometimes having somebody to kind of push you and like egg you on to be like hey, you’re this is right, like a lot of times, you don’t have that inner, inner circle, especially if people who, you know have haven’t built businesses and don’t know what it’s exactly like to be able to kind of follow that path of what you want to do and also make it profitable for you and I think it’s so funny that you, you know, looking back and when you had started your maternity store and then combined it with the outlet program, you know, it’s just hilarious that this was like you had done basically that and you had said like No, but I love the maternity store I don’t want to lose it like I want to keep yes as part of as part of my plan and then, you know, looking back, it’s just hilarious that this is exactly, exactly the expertise and wisdom and experience that you have because of your experience prior you know you know that looking back and seeing it on the end is something that’s going to prove that this was, this was a great idea to go ahead and

Ciara: it’s so interesting, you know, so thinking about that walk like what was this all for you know and you’re throwing yourself like a little pity party and you’re trying to discover, I wrote all these manuals I hated writing manuals, guess what I do with those manuals today. I teach out of food manuals, I don’t have to rewrite all my curriculum, I just have to take the brand name out of it and tweak a few things. Like it’s so interesting when you’re willing to just say I’m going to solve a problem, I’m going to use the tools I do have in my tool chest, I’m going to keep pivoting and changing and moving where I need to move everything you do in life like leads up to where you need to be like it all just keeps building, so

Dana: I love that. Well, Ciara thank you so so much for coming on today I am so excited to have someone in the space that we haven’t really talked about before, and again, you know, like, I know there’s somebody out there who’s thinking about doing something and maybe they’re not even thinking about doing something like coaching and in their niche but they’re thinking about opening a boutique and here they, there they are with a perfect example of how to how to get started and who to reach out to when they need some help so thank you for joining us, can you tell everybody where we can find you Website, Email Instagram all the places, all the things.

Ciara: Yeah so on Instagram if you want to see some fun pictures, you probably follow me at sea Stockland and Stockland is sto CK e li MD. So that’s where I’m kind of most active, making your bed RA and then my website would be Sierra Stockland calm, and then the boutique workshop calm.

Dana: Perfect. Well thank you so so much for joining us and I know everybody’s gonna be so excited to hear this episode.

Ciara: Thank you, it was a really fun conversation. Thanks for having me.

Dana: I am so honored you spent any minutes of your day listening to me babble about living this entrepreneurial life amidst the chaos in any mom’s normal day to day. If you love what you heard and more snippets of knowledge about this mom Boss Life, head over to our website at amidstthechaospodcast.com For show notes and links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. If you’re really feeling inspired, it will mean the world to me and my family if you take the time to read it with you. Thanks for joining me, amidst the chaos.

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