Tag Archives: st.louis

The Downfall…….

I almost don’t know where to begin.  Everything with CTA’s developement and progress was going better than I could imagine, and then a bombshell hit me, impacting every single aspect of my life; most prolifically, Cargo Train head-on!

December was a great month for the company.  I was planning a half a dozen new projects and excited to bring in the new year living a dream that I had spent my life daydreaming about, and in January of this year, that dream came to an absolute stand-still.  It’s the first time ever did a personal situation ever effect my work.  Most specifically, my marriage.

When I began building this company, doing all of the research, logo designing, networking, etc…my husband would tell me that he was so excited for me, and that he would be disappointed if I ever stopped fighting for my dream with launching Cargo Train, and I foolishly believed his words, until I slowly began to see that the further I took Cargo Train, the more friction began to build up between he and I.  I was totally perplexed.  He was telling me this, but his actions were showing me something completely different.

I knew things were getting bad when my family members started reaching out to me, and telling me that my husband was “overbearing” and “controlling” me.  Having what I thought was a solid marriage and family life, I didn’t want to believe what they were trying to tell me.  From that night, I began watching him closer than I ever have….looking for clues and signs that would somehow validate what my family was trying to tell me.  So I said, “fuck it”, let’s find out, and I simply went out with my friends one night to a cafe that I had been going to since I was 14 years old.  Something I haven’t done since getting married, being a new mom and starting CTA (common sacrifice when youre a self-funded solopreneur…the social life is always the first to go), my daughter stayed with my mother that night, and the night was going smoothly…..that was until I came back home around 1:30am.

With my daughter sleeping in my arms.  I opened the door and walked into the living room; I was completely devastated with what I saw.  My house was a disaster!  I kept my cool, and calmly put my daughter into her bed, and then went from room to room, guaging and “taking in” what he had done just because I went out against his wishes.  I walked from the kitchen to the dining room table to find one of my boxes with a knife sticking out of it, and that honestly scared me.  I took it as an immediate threat for my safety, even thought he had never been physical with me before, I knew better than to underestimate someone’s ability to do anything.  My stomach plummeted, and instantly thought of my office on the 2nd floor where I ran all of Cargo Train’s admin and shipping.  Inventory was kept in a room down the hall from my office which doubled as my make shift photography studio……everything had been destroyed!  My equipment, my files, the items I had been prepping for sale that week, my props, supplies…..he destroyed everything out of a senseless act of pure jealousy.

I almost didn’t know how to react.  So many emotions were hitting me at once.  All I could think of was the magnitude of the sacrifices I had made in order to live my dream:  time away from our daughter, saving money for more inventory or supplies instead of buying things for myself.  The hundreds of hours I had dedicated to the progress of Cargo Train.  Severals days every week only sleeping maybe 2-3 hours before going into my dispatching job (midnights), then coming home and taking care of our daughter while he worked 12+ hours, all the while, playing “perfect wife” cooking the meals, cleaning the house….I was cinderella without the fancy dress and my prince charming being my worst nightmare —I was just…..devastated.

He killed my dream.  He took the one thing I loved as much as being a mother……my ability to adequetly operate my company.

To me, CTA was just like having a 2nd child.  I created it, nurtured it, supported it, sacrificed for it, dreamt about it my whole life….I saw CTA no different than my own daughter, of course the only difference being that I would never sacrifice my daughter’s well-being for Cargo Train, she always came first…regarless of the dreams I had.  So mentally, he took one of my children from me.  I swallowed hard, and walked into the guest bedroom, where he was passed out on the bed, and I calmly informed him that he had 48 hours to remove himself from the house, or I was going to do it for him.  The hardest part was the confirmation of all the “feelings” and “signs” I had been noticing for awhile, but refused to acknowledge. What “good wife” would? I was in denial because I loved him as much as I did.

This was my husband, the man who made an oath to love me and be there  for me until the end of time. Never expecting ever that he would be the one that was sabatoging my every effort, every step of the way!  Placing roadblocks in front of me, and getting more and more constricting when I was overcoming, not only, being the underdog entrepreneur of St. Louis, but all the extras he was throwing at me as well.  I kept reaching goals, and his resentment towards my ambitions kept growing!

I am still coping with the aftermath and the separation to this day now nearly 10 months later, and the struggle didn’t end in back in January…..little did I know, they were only the beginning!  The worst was still to come.  It probably took me about 2 weeks before I had the strength to walk back into my office and begin salvaging what I could. Being a self-funded startup, I knew I had no extra finances to replace what was destroyed.  I cried….a lot, the pain from the betrayal was bad enough, but battling both the loss of my company and the loss of the “ideal” family life was overwhelming. Faking smiles for my daughter so that she didn’t have to see how sad mommy was all the time, and that daddy was to blame.  I didn’t want to push my feelings and thoughts of my ex-husband out on her, she still very much adored her father, and coming from someone who never had that privilege, I wasn’t about to take that from her…..so I would lie day after day and say mommy got mascara or my infamous liquid liner in my eye…it made for a perfect excuse for the tears.

That night in January changed me completely…..inside and out!  I turned to fitness as an outlet for the pain and increidble anger I was stuck with and as a way of preparing me to become a single mom, and all that was to follow after the separation.  Even though, CTA was growing up beautifully, my ex-husband was still the bread winner after my “night job” closed for business; so I relied solely on Cargo Train to fill in the financial gap.  The next several months after we separated, I lost everything one by one….the car (repo’d), the house (expired lease), sold many of my possessions just to make ends meet for me and my daughter, and accepting that I was about to become homeless for the first time in my life.  I had to send my daughter to stay with my mother while I began this very…….long……road….back to where it was before everything came tumbling down.  I am still working on that as I write this.  I am still homeless, but looking forward to a new apartment within the next month, and when that happens, you bet your ass, Cargo Train will be coming with me.  I will pick up the pieces, and this time around, it will be on my own terms, not under the dictation of another!  Some dreams come and go, but real dreams never die! Not a day passed that I didn’t think of my dream that was taken from me.  Real dreams stick with you when there seems to be “no hope”, always know……THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE!

Today, I am working hard and looking forward at relaunching Cargo Train Apparel (hopefully) by January 2015. Until then, I am focusing on the crucial steps I need to take in order to reach this massive goal; only this time around, it will be on my own terms, and not under the the controlling dictation of someone else.  ():-)

–After some time had passed, I later asked my ex-husband (after we regained our civility for the sake of our young daughter) why he did what he did, and his response….”I couldn’t accept having a wife more successful than me”  –My lips pressed together, I simply just nodded, and responded, “Ok”

Ridiculous!

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CTA IS OFFICIAL!!

CTA IS OFFICIAL!!

From years of dreaming and that single college-rule spiral bound notebook to this moment; I can’t begin to describe what I’m feeling, but one immense emotion I have at the moment is just pure gratitude to EVERY SINGLE ONE of my team members, mentors, customers, fans, supporters, and CTA cheerleaders that never allowed me, for a moment, to think that giving up was ever an option. After 2+ years of holding on to the dream, CTA officially becomes a reality. Let’s get to work!

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Rant and a Rave

…:::RANT:::…

AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

I feel like I am losing my mind!  I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing only to be pushed back.  A lot has been going on lately: losing my job, an upcoming marriage separation, giving up my “dream” house….it’s all starting to take a toll on me.  I feel trapped.  I try to bury myself in my work with progressing CTA, but can’t keep the distractions out long enough to make some serious traction.  Beyond frustrating!

But Nothing hurts more than some who will CONTINUOUSLY tell me “oh, if you need anything, just let me know…im here for you” then when I go to them for help, I get a cold shoulder.  I am not one that enjoys the lip service.  I am a do’er, not a talker.  I am beginning to see that those who should be behind me the most are never there, and that is what hurts the most.

Fair warning to those people………

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A lot like screaming in the middle of a crowded room, and no one even gives you a side-ways glance.  Makes you feel empty…..truly.

 

…:::RAVE:::….

The website is up, and growing everyday!

Mobile site up, it’s a work in progress

On my way of signing the lease agreement for the store (nerve wrecking and exciting at the same time)

Progress is slow but sure!  

All in all, it’s a never-ending battle that I just refuse to give up.  I just can’t; I’m already in it to win it.

The possibility of homelessness doesn’t even scare me, I will sleep in my car if that’s what it will take for my company to make it. So be it!

 

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Well, that pivotal time has finally come, I’ll be permanently resigning from dispatching within the next 30 hours. My center will be closed, and my blind leap of faith begins towards pursuing this company. I blogged about this very day several months ago in “Risking it All…” just awkward to see this day actually arrive.

I am grateful for what I’ve been taught over the last almost 4 and a half years.  Honestly, without this position or the opportunity given to me by my supervisor, I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to begin building my company, to obtain the goals I have, or have met some amazing people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know….

So when people ask me if I am sad; I honestly can’t say that I am.  I’m proud of how long I held in for, when I wanted to walk away so many times in the past.  I persevered at a time when I wasn’t sure if I could. Therefore, I can comfortably hold my head high, feeling that I did an excellent job, and hope that some of the impacts I’ve made will go on through the people I’ve been able to help.

My last hope is that the next dispatchers are as passionate about their job as I was, and that my officers continue to improve the communities they serve.

As this chapter now closes, I am optimistic and anxious to start the next one; the Cargo Train one…

Thank you.

():-)

  Well, that pivotal time has finally come…..

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WCE VS CTA

Like I’ve said before, the buzz is flying all over the St. Louis area about a women’s only resale shop in south county getting a reality TV deal with the Style Network…. I have personally never shopped at this particular store before, in fact, I had only heard of this store a handful of times before hearing about the TV deal.

So naturally, I began to look into it. From a glance it looks to be an amazing opportunity for this store, as well as, an opportunity to bring St. Louis resale into the national spotlight. Of course this is excellent (general) news for the St. Louis resale community (myself included), but looking into the company’s reviews from it’s customers, my impressions are beginning to shift from optimistic to more concerned.

Here are a few that I found within just a few minutes on google.

I found this a decent place to shop for designer clothing items, however unless they are on sale, the pricing is not much better than retail. Most disappointing was their attitude about consignment, I’ll go elsewhere in the future for that. One day I brought in about 40 items, most of them were formal gowns and cocktail dresses bought in the last year or so and worn once. A few had matching shoes and purses. I was shocked that they turned down ALL of them! 40 really nice items and they could not accept even ONE??? Unbelievable! No explanation nor reason was given. Shocked! Maybe they were over-stocked or something, but if so it would be nice to be told that before I hauled it all inside. If you’d like to consign designer clothing, it may not be worth the time and trouble to bother bringing it to Women’s Closet Exchange. Many of the exact same items were accepted at other ‘upscale resale’ shops. – A WCE customer review – 3 weeks ago.

I feel the same. I brought in formal wear several of which still had the tags on them, but I cannot wear them as I have lost a significant amount of weight. While I spent time shopping for an outfit for a wedding, they were supposed to be evaluating them. When I was finally called, the “Buyer” was so rude, telling me that these were not what they are looking for at this time and “take your items right out; unhuh huh right out,” repeating this several times across the store as I was carrying my dresses out. I was made to feel like I had brought in rags. This was my first time in this shop and my last. I understand each business has a right to say yes or no, but to be rude about it was unnecessary. Do yourself a favor, shop somewhere else. – A WCE customer review – About a year ago.

I’ve never felt so disrespected. I brought four bags of carefully folded clothes from high quality brands (Banana Republic, J. Crew, Ann Taylor) worth over $1000. I wanted to get an estimate of what the clothes would be worth were I to sell them to the store. They offered me $20. They put down many articles of my clothing as they were disrespectfully rummaging through my bags (commenting that many of them were too small for their shoppers – size M!) and then shoved the clothes back into the bags. I pointed out that my clothes had been folded when I went in and they had the nerve to sass me and tell me that they didn’t have time. Needless to say, I left with my clothes and intend to sell them for a fair market value on eBay. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME WITH THIS PLACE. The women working there should be ashamed of the scam that they are trying to pull. – A WCE customer review – About 2 years ago.

Now I know you can’t please everyone, but these are minor, and should not have made it all the way to a customer writing a poor review due to defective attitudes from the staff.

This honestly makes me want to throw my arms up in frustration!. Here, this company has the most incredible opportunity, that many of us could only dream about, and they are squandering its full potential. Their focused appears to have shifted from bettering the company and the community, to bettering only themselves. This truly is a shame, not only for this company, but for the rest of us that are trying to bring the resale industry up in St. Louis, and bad business just makes the rest of us work harder to make up for their downfalls. Bad reviews don’t hurt individual resale shops, per say, but they damage the overall industry. We want to grow the percentage of resale shoppers, and these reviews aren’t helping.

It truly is time for something better.

Time to step up our game, and hit this area with everything we’ve got.

WE WILL show the STL area what this industry is truly about.

This is why our company is hardcore about community improvement and involvement, we stay true to our roots!

STL = Show The Love

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My Addiction

ImageI 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.

— FiN

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ARCH GRANTS LOCATION CONFLICT

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OK… UPDATE ON ARCH GRANT PROCESS….THERE’S ONE LITTLE PROBLEM…..

I emailed the committee through their website requesting permission to submit my business as a valid entry even though it wouldn’t be located within Downtown St. Louis, but IS still located within the city limits. I have yet to receive a decision…so I am currently stuck in limbo, but I am not stopping any momentum I am trying to build up.  I am continuing on as I have been for the past year, and hopefully will get a big thumbs up…soon. There are major reasons why I want to launch outside of downtown; which I expressed my main ones through my email to the Arch Grants, and wanted to express in a little more detail why I don’t feel downtown is the best market to consider at this time (not to exclude it completely from future local expansion plans)

1.) Limited pedestrian traffic, and limited vehicle traffic. — Yes, this area is rebuilding and rebounding, which is awesome and amazing, but it hasn’t yet hit it’s peak, and there is no guarantee that, once it is completed, that it will pull people back to the downtown area.  My business could actually have a GREATER chance of FAILING by simply having to “wait and see” if the area does in fact, rebound.  Currently,  I don’t see a lot of daytime traffic (pedestrian or vehicle) outside of Washington Ave. and Market St.  And even then, it is only certain blocks on Wash Ave and Market that would make it a viable market for my company.

I don’t have the time to wait for my target market to come to me, nor, do I have the extra finances to invest in additional marketing, advertising, and enticing promotions.  I have to go to them….SIMPLE!  I find locations that ALREADY have the pedestrian and vehicle traffic established, in combination with, my customer demographics. Downtown, currently, is a POSSIBLE market, but not appropriate for my action plan at this time…unfortunately.

2.) Not exactly an open market….anymore — My initial excitement about launching in downtown was the fact that it was an open market opportunity.  There were no current resale providers (with a positive public image) within the area. However, last June, MOV clothing store launched at Washington and 13th. (My Round 1 Arch Grant submission last Feb/March listed CTA’s location to be at or near Washington and 4th) One of my stronger advantages is locating open or under-served locations, and as closely located to my target market as physically possible. It’s having that “head-start” in building the company’s customer/client loyalty that will be a big factor in CTA’s overall sustainability, and most importantly, being EASILY ACCESSIBLE to my customers and clients.  I welcome the competition, but there are big perks in being first!

St. Louis (as a whole) is a very business-loyal community.  If you execute your business correctly, you will have loyal customers for life — FOR EXAMPLE:  The Coffee Cartel  (located at Euclid and Maryland in the CWE) is a single location, and yet, their customers and associates are so die-hard loyal that this one little St. Louis coffee shop put big ‘ol Starbucks (which was located across the street) out of business.

3.) Crime in downtown – Being a police dispatcher for areas bordering with St. Louis City, I hear of a lot more that goes on than what most St. Louis residents and businesses know of.  Most crimes never make it to the evening news, and my confidence is still insecure for a few different reasons that I can’t currently disclose of at this time (professional/political conflict of interest) but they are compelling.

4.) Target market conflict – Like I said before, my business needs to be located as close to my customers  as possible.  This is one of my marketing strategies that will greatly increase my appeal to my customers, the flow of customer traffic into the store, and provide me with an endless supply of potential employees.  I do not have this advantage if I launch in downtown right now. The building I have picked out to become my “living business model” has a large concentration of my target market located right across the street, and directly next door….no joke. This is an area that most in my position could only dream of having, and yet, here I am, looking at the big FOR SALE sign on the building and dying a bit inside by truly knowing its full potential.

……I am really hoping that they will accept my business submission, and that I will be able to confidently pursue the competition! Right now, only time will tell.

–FIN

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One year later……

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..

LIGHTBULB!

Consignment Retail…BINGO!

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

():-)

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