The ONE STEP … and Chocolate!

It was the summer of 2009, I was home recovering from major surgery, my husband walks in the door from work and hands me a jar, “Here. Try this and tell me what you think. A local company wants us to put this in our store.” It was a jar of dark chocolate sauce. I will NEVER pass up an opportunity to try chocolate so I took a big spoonful for my “professional” opinion. It was smooth, velvety, scrumptious, heaven, delightful,  “O-H!  M-Y! This is wonderful!! This is the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted! Where did you get this? Are they going to carry it in the store?!”

Izzybelle Chocolate Sauce started it all!

“The buyers in California have to approve it first. I’ve sent a sample off to them. Everyone at the store loves it.”,  my husband replied.  Ah yes, California.  Both my husband and I worked at the same tourist venue in Colorado (that’s how we met – another story for another time) and all of the buying decisions came from California.  It didn’t really make sense. Tourists want locally produced items when they visit Colorado – and who better to decide what our tourists want than people from Colorado – not California, but, hey, not my business, not my decision.

My husband and I both loved our jobs in retail, especially interacting with the tourists but this was the most frustrating aspect of where we worked. Our biggest request was for locally made products and we just didn’t have it. This was on my mind quite a bit, and especially now. I was at a juncture.  I had been home since June recovery from major surgery, my husband and I had just been married and so I was really questioning whether I should return to work since now that I was married to the “boss” it made things a little awkward at times plus my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I was an entrepreneur at heart. I had spent the last 10 years trying to earn enough of my own income through direct-sales so I could stay at home and raise my son. I was passionate about being able to home school him. I had only started working in my current position a year earlier because, as a single-mom, I just wasn’t making ends meet. I was working full-time and home schooling at night. Now I was remarried and had some flexibility in what I chose to do.

A few weeks later I was a a couple of days away from returning to work and I pulled myself out of bed after spending some time praying about what to do. Suddenly the words “It’s time” came in my head. It was so clear it was almost audible. I stood still for a second almost questioning what I had just heard, but my gut immediately knew what it meant. It was time to start a business. “Ok God. Let’s do it. You want me to start up a direct sales business again?”, I said out loud.  No, I knew this was different. “It’s TIME”. It was time to take a step of faith and start what I’ve really wanted to do for a long time – MY OWN BUSINESS. I knew exactly what it would be: Locally made products. That was the easy part. “Great. What do you want me to call it?”, I prayed. I was still standing at the side of my bed. I hadn’t moved.  I didn’t want to move. It was like a surreal moment. “Out West Gifts” came very clearly to my mind again.  I’ve only heard God speak to me like that a few times in my life, but when He does it sets a very definite course. There was no question what I was going to do. It was now a matter of how and when. How do I start? I didn’t have any money. What’s the first thing to do?

I made my way downstairs and there was the jar of chocolate. “One step at a time”, I told myself.  At this point, the buyers in California had kept stalling on the chocolate so I decided to start there.  If our venue wasn’t going to carry the chocolate then I would see if I could.  I wasn’t sure WHERE.  I had no store, no website, no nothing.  Again, one-step-at-a-time.  The chocolate was made by a couple here in Colorado. It was fabulous. That is what God had placed before me. I sat down and wrote out a business plan. I had told my husband about what I wanted to do and he was on board. Now it was time to take the first step.

I contacted the owners of Izzybelle Chocolate, Jim and Karen Day. A fabulous couple and they agreed to do business with me even though I didn’t have one yet.  I scraped together $500 from my savings, built a simple website, and started looking for other products that could be possibilities.  I just needed to find a few artists who would be willing to work with me.  The Days recommended a lady who made salsa, we met another artist at a craft fair, I dug up names of artists who had come to our place of work that were turned down and I contacted them.  Soon I had a few different artists pulled together, I scheduled a small focus group in my home, got some great feedback, and then started doing what I knew how to do – home shows.  I only had to do a few of those before other opportunities arose that would take our business to the next level.

I am so grateful for each step.  It prepared me for the next one.  It has built a solid foundation for us to grow on.  Most of all I am grateful for people like Jim and Karen Day – who believe in you, who are willing to give you a chance and be patient while you get your feet wet – that make the difference. I am thankful for all the help and support from my husband, and from other small business owners like Jim and Karen that provided the starting point and encouragement that got this business started.  That first step led to many more and now here we are 3 years later with an actual storefront in Old Colorado City.  I would have never guessed!

So what is the ONE STEP you can take today to move toward your dream?

Note:  We still have our Out West Gifts business in addition to our storefront.  Visit our great artists here at www.OutWestColorado.com


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