I was 14 years old, and who’s not surprised? I mean, with all the crap from what was going on at school, and the less-than-perfect home life. I was a sitting duck, and searching for ways to escape from reality, and forget my problems. What started out innocently enough, quickly turned into an addiction that lasted for over a decade.
My addiction was night clubs. If music was a religion a nightclub was my church, and I was a devout follower.
My love for dance in general attracted me, but it was the atmosphere, pounding bass from the Louie Devito remixes, and being surrounded by mobs of club enthusiasts; that kept me going back almost every…. single…. weekend. Night clubs became my new home away from home, and my way to escape.
Club Excalibur was the first club I ever stepped foot in. It was an underage club that catered to the under 18 crowd, but I didn’t let age deter me from sneaking into 21+ clubs by the time I was 16-17. It didn’t happen often, and I never pushed my luck by trying to score drinks. I was there to dance! I eventually made my way to Club Liquid once I was old enough to get in (17+) and it was the local hot spot for the younger club crowd. Getting in the “VIP” area (upstairs) was always the ultimate goal of the night. You could only go up by invitation, therefore, you had to know someone or get someone’s attention. This was why I always made it a priority to become friends with the security guards. They hooked me up….a lot, and I was lucky to get to hang out with a few local music artists (Toya, Pretty Willie), producers, and lots of wanna-be groupies. Liquid was where I began to build a reputation from club kid to networker and promoter.
As soon as I hit 18, my obsession blew up! I began hitting up as many night clubs as I could all over the St. Louis area. Then, I took my addiction to San Diego, Chicago, and even Mexico. At 19-20 years old, I began dancing with a group for a local St. Louis club as…I guess you could call us… “go go” dancers. We’d choreograph routines and perform them for tips….good times.
I hit the peak of my freelance promoting when I moved back to Chicago in 2008. I started promoting tattoo studios and artists, special events/parties, etc. My phone would be toppling with text messages and voice mails for future events to hit up, and being this was my only source of income at the time, I rarely missed an opportunity. I was always looking forward to that next gig because you never knew who you might run into too, or where a connection would lead, therefore, it was non-stop and exhausting. My feet would be covered in blisters from spending 10 or more hours in heels, making countless rounds and striking up a conversation with as many people as I could before dawn approached.
I eventually ended up suppressing my nightlife addiction when I met my husband at a promotional gig I as working at Navy Pier, but even to this day and after all these years, I keep that club kid part of me alive and well, and more than likely, I will have the launch party for CTA….at a night club.
Ahhh….it is that time again!
ARCH GRANTS COMPETITION 2013!
For my readers who are unfamiliar with the Arch Grants…here is a really quick run down: (20) $50K grant awards for businesses and start-ups either currently located, or willing to relocate their business to the downtown St. Louis area. It is a tough, tough competition with hundreds and hundreds of entries last year….and the AG committee is expecting the number of entries this year to grow into the thousands now that the competition is being offered worldwide. This will be Cargo Train’s 2nd year in the competition.
Last year, unfortunately, CTA did not progress far enough to win one of the grants, and that was OK. I had high hopes on winning of course, but I knew more importantly that I needed to pay close attention to the competition process that first year, and take the opportunity to strengthen Cargo Train’s foundation.
I can smile today being a last-year-loser simply because Round 1 was ultimately the event that launched the public awareness campaign for CTA, and it was the first time I had ever introduced this company to the public. This time…last year…. CTA was nothing more than all of my ideas and storefront doodles on cheap spiral-bound notebooks, and worlds away from what it is today.
Taking you back a bit….Here is the story on how I got involved with the Arch Grants.
…it was completely on accident/luck/chance/fate…..
in January 2012, I was contacted by Chris Lim, an entrepreneur based out of Los Angeles, CA, and his message to me was along the lines of, “Why are you special?” This obviously got my attention, and the first response I gave back was…. “nothing.”
Chris took my comment in stride and we began to play 20 questions after I saw that Chris was a former officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department; a department that my uncle had retired from as Lieutenant some years ago after 35+ years of service (Yes, I did call my uncle to make sure that Chris was who he said he was…not that I didn’t believe him, I just didn’t know him….Sorry Chris) And yes, everything checked out just fine 🙂
Our Twitter conversation continued on. Then Chris had asked me, “What do you do for a living?” and I told him that I was currently a police dispatcher in St. Louis….,” then I paused briefly,….and for some reason I added, “…but it [dispatching] wasn’t my life’s ambition.” Chris proceeded to ask the million-dollar question of “why?”, and that opened the door for me to confess about my secret entrepreneur life that I had been hiding since high school.
Chris was intrigued and we agreed on a phone meeting, and this is when I took the opportunity of asking Chris why he thought I was “special”, and he told me that he was just curious since he saw that Tony Robbins was one of my followers on Twitter, and that is what lead him to initially contact me.
As our phone conversation continued, we went through my background and what lead me to…. just start designing this company back in high school. After hearing my story, Chris said that he wanted to help me pursue my life’s “true purpose” of pushing myself into the fashion industry somehow. I had the passion but no plan what so ever.
Chris heard information about the Arch Grants competition, and I love what he told me that day, which was in such a confident tone of voice: “We are going to get you one of those grants” It was one of the best feelings ever…..and at that moment, Cargo Train had began to SLOWLY take shape into what it where it is today.
Before the Arch Grants, I only knew that I wanted to be involved in fashion, and that I didn’t want to pursue apparel design or manufacturing (I suck at drawing & sewing) as much as I wanted to find an area where I could exploit my obsession for shopping and extreme bargain-hunting………and then..
My knowledge was vast among brand labels and designers after chasing them damn near my entire life, as well as, several more fun facts, and an OPEN MARKET OPPORTUNITY that show me this venture is more than possible to obtain with a true potential of ranking within the top 3 consignment/resale apparel companies within the Greater St. Louis area, and eventually paving the way to expand nationally
Round 1 did a lot in the initial development of this company, I can hardly begin to imagine what Round 2 will bring! If interested in learning more about the competition, here is the official Arch Grant website
You have to take negative situations and find a way to turn them into positive solutions, and I feel that this has been accomplished by dedicating many years into designing a company that has a simple, yet powerful, mission statement — Unite first class with secondhand.
This letter is to provide you with an insight of what we do, what we plan to accomplish, our current projects and efforts, and most importantly, how we plan to become an established brand and a recognized leader within this booming industry.
We have all felt the financial crisis affect each of our lives in one way or another, including myself, regardless of: social status, financial situation, or educational background. Everyone from the struggling college student to leaders of local Fortune 500 companies; we’ve all had to take a step back to reevaluate our own unique challenges, and begin to utilize more cost-conscious decisions as consumers, as well as, business owners. This company is designed to do just that without the need to sacrifice quality, service or value to our customers, and doing so, in a cost-conscious and sustainable manner.
Cargo Train is an apparel exchange company, privately owned, that offers clients and guests to: buy, sell, trade, and consign a wide-range of new and pre-owned, designer and name-brand merchandise, such as: clothing, fashion accessories, jewelry and select interior decor items at industry competitive prices. What we do is nothing new, but HOW we plan to utilize our resources and network, will clearly set Cargo Train apart from local competitors.
If you are unfamiliar to the resale industry, these types of businesses are commonly known as “thrift” or “secondhand” stores; however, Cargo Train is designed to be much more than this common ideology, and even more, we strive to be the first resale provider of its kind offered to the residents and visitors of our target location. It would not only be a great addition to the resale industry, but more importantly, a great addition to the City of St. Louis due to its focus on community engagement, That will benefit, not only our clients and customers, but several local charities and non-profit organizations. We are a company that continues to create innovative ideas that give back to our communities and actively pursues a ‘pay it forward’ attitude.
As I continue to publicly promote this company through the means of several social media platforms, local news publications, word-of-mouth advertising, and launching an informational website, my biggest challenge is locating a strong financial partner and/or investor(s) to secure start-up capitol, and take this company to the next level in its physical and social developments.
My strategies are primarily based on direct observations and market research from a vast background working for top private retail labels, including global retail giant, Hennes and Mauritz (H&M); where I focused my time in the areas of: visual merchandising, loss prevention, customer relations, and employee growth.
The location I have chosen is based upon on-site, real-time area analysis collected over a time span of three (3) years; with a heavy focus on high volume pedestrian traffic. All aspects of the primary location offer the most idealistic conditions that will make Cargo Train a successful venture, and offer the future opportunity to aggressively expand through out the Midwest region.
I have further discovered through my research, the primary location I have selected is found to be an open market opportunity. There are currently no known competitors that specialize in apparel exchange within a 5 mile radius of where Cargo Train will be located.
Again, this venture is time sensitive, and taking advantage of the open market availability will quickly set Cargo Train’s foundation within the City of St. Louis and officially become part of a 13 billion dollar industry. I strongly urge interested persons to contact me for further information about how I plan to make this company an innovative success.
Sitting in my office, enjoying the few moments of down time from dispatching on the radio. I start scrolling through my Twitter time line and coming across another story of success for a new start-up company that has secured (what is to me) a massive amount of funding, $250,000 to be exact, and all I could think of was “OH MY GOODNESS! I ONLY NEED A FRACTION OF THAT AMOUNT TO LAUNCH MY FIRST LOCATION”. I felt jealous and motivated at the same time. It’s an awkward feeling, and it’s an experience I have had many times before since I start putting my ideas into motion. I’m sure it won’t be the last.
I can see all of the vital pieces I need to reach my goal in opening the Cargo Train headquarters/home-store, and it gets tougher the more time passes by and you still haven’t found what you are looking for. This is one personality characteristic that I do have, which is a lack of patience, especially when I am trying to be the first store and company of its kind in an open market area. I want to take advantage of having some breathing room to establish my company and begin building its reputation and customer loyalty without the competition smothering me, or being branded as a ‘knock-off” or “copy cat”.
As of right now, the closest location of my main competitor is over 15 miles away from where I want to launch.
Feelings of despair trying to knock you off course and try to make you lose your focus, and all you have to keep yourself going is knowing what an amazing opportunity your company really is, and not just for me, but for my future partners, employees, customers, and for the community itself. The biggest challenge is getting the ones who have the ability to take your venture to the next level believe in your idea as strongly as you do. Strong enough to confidently partner up and bring all of the pieces together.
I know I will be an incredibly strong force to be reckoned with in this particular industry. My strategies and advantages give me leaps above my competitors, and I am keeping those strategies very safe and quiet until the time comes to utilize them. The connections and relationships I have been developing and growing over the past 10+ years, & everyone who is standing by waiting for me to inform them that we’ve secured a financial partner(s) and are finally ready to hit this industry with everything we’ve got, is the pivotal moment that I am waiting for.
I’m working for that opportunity to prove what I’ve been speaking out about for the past year, and to show what I am fully capable of doing. After all, I was born and raised in the “show me” state…ironically.
My husband and I are currently in talks of relocating our family from what was our dream house into a much smaller place, as well as, begin to sell off as many of our belongings as we can. All of the money saved and earned will be going into, what I am calling, the “CTA Dream Fund”. This will be the beginning of the financial foundation of my company. It breaks my heart to let everything we’ve worked so hard for go, but this company means much more to me than my possessions right now.
A big part of getting to where you want to be is having the strength to let go of what you have. – Me
We are currently searching for available places to call our new home.
I was talking to a friend of mine who happens to be a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) based out of Florida, and he had asked how my venture was going since the Arch Grant small biz competition back in March of this year. I was happy to tell him I was still fighting for it, and then told him the unfortunate news of another entrepreneur beating me to the open market in downtown. Our conversation followed:
Nick: Any luck on the storefront?
Me: Nothing secured yet [financial partner] but the interest is growing from social media
Nick: Very Good!
Me: But my time is running out, the launch in downtown showed me that A.) I have a solid concept and B.) people are starting to listening. I have one more effing GOLDEN location left. Wash Ave, was my second choice, not my primary
Me: I’m not stupid 😛
Me: I need a financial partner. Someone who is as crazy and passionate as I am, which is pretty extreme. And I can’t find one….not one 😦
Nick: LOL it’s tough to find someone with money
Me: I have friends with money
Me: They just don’t have my intensity for this business
Nick: oh ok
Me: Motivating some people is like carrying a 400lbs woman….HARD!!! That’s why I am generating the public interest, show future partners the impact this place will have on STL
Me: Im stuck!
Nick: Yes 😦
Me: Help me get unstuck, find me a financial partner
Nick: How much do you need this partner to invest?
Me: $20K to launch, profits in as little as 6 months, 99% recession proof – when the economy sucks, my business booms 🙂
Nick: I’ll see what I can do.
Me: [trying to keep it cool, calm and collected] OK!!! 😀 THANK YOU!!!! [didnt work, I was beyond excited]
It’s nothing definite…..yet, but it’s a step closer than where I was before. Nick has connections that I don’t have. His background is solid and professional reputation is strong. It means the world to me that he would put his own reputation on the line for my business, huge compliment!
And Nick isn’t the only one actively searching for financial partners to work with me 😀 My army is growing….
I WILL LAUNCH THIS COMPANY!!!!