How do you connect to us?

 

Did you know…

We have a retail site: http://www.courageinstone.com

We have a wholesale site: http://www.shopgivecourage.net

We have an Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/CourageInStone

We have an Amazon store: http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html?ie=UTF8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&me=A3D3XC5WPNZHQI

We have an EBAY store: http://stores.ebay.com/courageinstone

We tweet:  @courageinstone

We’re on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CourageInStone

We’re on Instagram:  CourageInStone

Our blog is: www.courageinstone.blog

Whew! That’s a lot of social media.

And I’m sure in a couple of days/months/years, there will be something else that we’ll need to connect to or join.  Sometimes it’s just too much.  But most of the time it’s a whole lot of fun.  It’s very, very cool to be able to connect to all of our customers all over the world with just a few clicks!

And we love each and every one of you…no matter how you connect to us!

 

And Now Introducing…

Back in October, I wrote a post describing how a ‘Behind the Scenes’ day came to be.  You can read it here.  My talented photographer friend from Three Continents Photography came out to the warehouse and captured a ‘day in the life’ of CourageInStone.com.  I have to admit, it was kinda weird.  When you’re having your photo taken of your everyday actions, it’s terribly difficult to remember to act naturally.  But, all the dusting and cleaning and primping paid off and I think she created a perfect photo story of what life is like here at our offices.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy ‘meeting’ us and getting to know us a little bit better.

I will start by showing off a series of my favorites from the day.  These photos I think capture the essence of our business, personalities and philosophy.

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Come on in!
This is me, Brenda, looking through the glass window from my office into the front office. Suzi works at her desk in the background.
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A broader view of the pass through window in my office. Just to the right of me are several framed newspaper articles from 2002 and 2004 when the business was just getting going. I like that they remind me of how far we’ve come.  You can also see a few clues that my son spends time in the office with me!
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So lucky to work with these ladies everyday. We laugh. A lot.
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An integral part of the business. Both the truck and the dogs. Suzi’s Baxter is on the edge of the dock; my dog Louie is a cautious distance back.
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Beth is in charge of packing and shipping.
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Bins, bins, bins. We ship thousands of packages via the United States Postal Service.
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It took years to tweak a perfect packing station and this is the result. It’s roomy, efficient and custom built by my helpful hubby.
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I don’t get to do it much anymore, but I really enjoy pulling and packing the orders. There is a huge sense of satisfaction in seeing the order on paper, neatly packaging the items and sending them on their way. I know how much I enjoy getting packages delivered to me, so I like to think of how our customers will be excited when they see our package show up.
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Our entire staff. Some are squirmier than others.

Obviously, packing is a huge piece of our business.  Like the packing station, it took years of trial and error to fine tune our shipping methods.  Finding the right packaging materials and most efficient manner of shipping sounds easy, but it’s an oddly tedious undertaking.  Customers order all kinds of different combinations of items.  And the difference of a few ounces in weight or a day or two quicker in time in transit can mean a huge difference in shipping costs.  So over the years we’ve gotten pretty darn good at using each shipping method to our advantage.  So, while our shipping ‘department’ is only one person, it’s a very, very important and detailed part of the company.   Here’s Beth in action!

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One of the super fun parts of the job is bringing in or designing new merchandise.  It’s a tricky thing, though.  Even after years and years of practice, sometimes we just don’t get it right.  But, when we do, it’s super satisfying and exciting.  Once we decide on a new product, photos need to be taken and merchandising begins.  We have to think of descriptions, take measurements, and list them on 5 different websites.  It’s a process, for sure.  Here is Suzi and I working on a new project – these are our new Ceramic Stone Necklaces, which are only found in our Etsy shop.

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And what office is complete without a canine staff?  Surely we have the cutest and cuddliest 4-legged workers in all the east?!  Baxter is the worlds friendliest cockapoo and most definitely the favorite of the delivery folks.  He takes his job as dock door greeter very, very seriously.  Louie, on the other hand, is a mutt who is slightly suspicious of those loud trucks…but he serves as a great guard dog!  Of course, he can always be convinced to relax with a cookie or two.  The delivery people take great pride in winning him over!

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So, the next time you order, I hope it helps that we’ve ‘introduced’ ourselves.  Are we and this place what you imagined?

~Brenda, Suzi, Beth, Louie and Baxter

Behind the Scenes of Behind the Scenes Day

Louie

One of our great challenges around here is connecting with our customers on a personal level.  Although we sell very personal things, our business format is very impersonal.  A few clicks and keystrokes and a package shows up at your door, right?!  Bam!   Sometimes I wonder if customers think there are just a large bunch of robots sitting in a warehouse somewhere…pulling merchandise and somehow magically transporting it your front door.  Well, check that.  I don’t wonder…I know.   When we get email messages that say things like “please place behind screen on side door” or when someone places an order at 10PM and wants it in hand by noon the next day we are often left shaking our heads thinking “um, you do realize that’s physically impossible, right?!”

To be clear, there’s a lot of this we love.  We want our customers to be able to push a few buttons and have what they need delivered to their front door with very little effort.  We want them to say “Wow, that was easy!  Let’s do that again!”  But sometimes it’s also fun to reveal ‘The (wo)Man Behind the Curtain.’  After all, we don’t have anything to hide…we’re quite proud of our little world over here.

I am lucky to have a lot of talented friends that I consult with on random things that make my business better.  One of these friends is a phenomenal photographer (take a peek at her website www.ThreeContinentsPhotography.com, you won’t be disappointed.)  We were chatting one day and came up with the idea that a ‘A Day in the Life’ photo shoot would be fun…a way for our customers to get a glimpse behind the scenes, see us in action, and get to know us a little better.  We discussed what things would be good to shoot, then set a date.  Exciting!

Oh, wait a minute.  Someone’s gonna take pictures of us!  At work!  In the warehouse, that looks like a warehouse!  Gah!

Luckily we scheduled the shoot a few weeks out, which gave us time to scrub down the warehouse, dust off our desks, and discuss our outfits.  One thing I did forget to do was get my dog Louie groomed.  But he’s so dang cute, you’ll forgive me I’m sure.

But as I was cleaning and straightening and preparing, I had some concerns.  How much do I really want folks to see?   I occasionally bring my toddler son to the office with me.  Do I want customers to see his toys mingled with our stones?  Do I want people to see his toilet paper roll artwork – albeit the most adorable toilet paper roll artwork ever – on my desk?   And what about the fact that we are only three people?  In the world of companies like Amazon, maybe bigger is better and we’ll lose respect because of our size.  And then, what about having my photo published for all the world to see?   Am I who people think I am?  Do I have a face that makes you like me, my company, my products?  Do I look honest and funny and happy?

But then I realized, all these concerns **were** the point.  The point to having a ‘Behind the Scenes’ photo shoot is to divulge ourselves.   Our customers share their private, personal, painful, sad, happy stories with us all. the. time.  It is without a doubt a huge privilege to be a part of these strangers lives.  So, it’s about time we share our ‘stuff’, too.  And so we’ll start with our faces, desks, dogs and maybe a few glimpses of some brightly colored toys.

The full series will be coming soon.  In the meantime, the above is a sneak peek at my non-groomed dog named Louie.  He’s a mutt my husband and I found at our local SPCA.  He is named after a now closed restaurant that my husband and I used to enjoy in Healdsburg, CA called Felix and Louie’s.  He and my son are best buds.  (Side note, we someday hope to have a dog (or cat) named Felix in our life, too.)

~Brenda

 

 

 

 

Yes, We Are a Faith-Based Company – But Not How You Think

6107 Faith Key bulk

FAITH-BASED
[feyth-beyst]
adjective
1. affiliated with, supported by, or based on a religion or religious group:
faith-based charities.

(Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.)

Contemporary definitions for faith-based

adjective
pertaining to a connection with a religion, faith, or belief system

Examples
Faith-based books are selling well.

Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon
Copyright © 2003-2014 Dictionary.com, LLC

Recently we received an email from a customer that started out “I assume you are a faith-based company…”   She went on to explain that she was looking for a particular word on a stone that she thought we carried since we appeared to trend towards Christian items.   I don’t know why, but I was taken aback by this assumption.  We do sell a large amount of ‘faith-based’ items, particularly Christian scripture, and we have a large Christian bookstore and church clientele.   But rather than pinpoint our business to one belief system, I’ve tended towards trying to carry items with a positive message, those items that have an uplifting spirit to them and overall comforting energy.  At the same time, this is a retail business, so we have to sell what sells – in other words, as we’ve honed our craft, we just happened to have found our niche within the Christian community.

Does it matter whether we actually define ourselves as faith-based – as described in the definition above?  I don’t think so.  I think what matters is that we are a company that believes in integrity, honesty and hard work, a company that sells great items for reasonable prices and a company that you feel comfortable giving your hard earned money.  Oh, and I think it matters that we have a sense of humor.

If pressed to answer that customer about whether we are faith-based, here is what I would say.  Yes, we are a company based in faith.  We have faith that our manufacturers will continuing turning out quality products for reasonable prices.  We have faith that our employees care about their job and will work hard to ensure great service.  We have faith that our delivery handlers at UPS, FedEx, the US Postal Service and DHL will treat our packages kindly and will make sure our products get to the right people in the right amount of time.  We have faith that our landlord will continue maintaining our warehouse space so that we have a safe and efficient space to work in.  We have faith in our customers, that they will continue to want to buy our items and trust us enough to send us orders.   And most importantly, we have faith that we will be able to keep our sense of humor and good spirits through it all.

~ Brenda

Summer, A Time to Simply Live and Enjoy Life

As the school year ends for many children and summer nears, it has us here feeling a little nostalgic for yesteryear. We think back to the days of our youth lounging poolside without a care in the world. As the scents of chlorine, coconut tanning oil, and charcoal grills filled the air and the sounds of the latest pop song played over the airwaves; summer marked a time to simply live and enjoy life. We have sweet memories of evenings spent indulging on s’mores and catching fireflies…ah, summertime.

Now, many years later, summer no longer holds the sweet joy of youth nor marks an extended period of absolute relaxation. The trials and tribulations of life do not cease because the temperature rises and the days grow longer. Bills still need to be paid, loved ones still need to be cared for, illnesses don’t stop, and worries remain. We are still faced with temptation and confronted with challenges. Life can be difficult. At times, it seems we are being crushed by the weight of our obligations. We all have days when we just want to crawl back into bed, pull up the covers, and hide from everything.

It’s at that lowest of moments, when we have spiraled into a miserable funk, IT happens. Sometimes, IT happens out of the blue. Sometimes, a friend makes IT happen. You know, that spark to reignite your flame, to bring the smile back to your face. Perhaps, IT is the giggle of a grandson, the taste of a favorite sundae or maybe a song. Your thoughts race to a memory filled with happiness. Even if it is for merely a moment, you are transported to a time when life was good and all was well.

We build many memories throughout our life. Knowledge is taught and wisdom is gained; we have become the person we are today because of all of that we have experienced. While we can never go back to the carefree summers of our youth, we all need to remember the importance of those ideals; simply live and enjoy life. There is an expression, “through the eyes of a child you will see the world just as it ought to be.”

As we sit around the office today reminiscing about our childhoods, we are going to try to take our own advice to simply live and enjoy life. We invite you to join us; turn the volume up, click play, and dance around like no one is watching!

It’s hard to say goodbye

marblestonesgroup

Years ago when I first started this business, my first line of word stones were very similar to the picture above.  They were made of marble, and were etched with about 50 different words.  They were great sellers, but they needed some improvement and we eventually decided to design our own using a new manufacturer.  The line pictured above was born.  We call them Marble Energy Stones.

We eventually expanded our inventory to include words engraved or imprinted on river rocks, glass, pewter and even ceramic.  But as we grew our lines, the marble stones took a back seat.  River rocks became our #1 seller…I think because of their organic nature and price points.  The marble stones just weren’t holding their own anymore.

The shift happened about 5 years ago, and each year since, as we brought in new product and liquidated old, I would campaign to keep these marble stones that reminded me of how far we’ve come and carried a nostalgic weight.  Deep down I knew it was not business savvy to keep these stones.  But I have poured my heart and soul into this business and to give up on an original product seemed like failure.

That is, until we had so many other great, wonderful and fantastic products that we just don’t have room for those original stones.  We are beyond excited about all the new stones and tokens and pocket pieces we have in stock and in the works.  Our creative juices are flowing…we’ve got so much new energy and we’re so jazzed to spread as much inspiration as we can!

And so here we are.  I am ready to say goodbye to these marble stones.  And yes, they are ‘just’ stones, but they are more than that to me, and always will be.

~Brenda

P.S. These Marble Energy Stones are now on sale while supplies last.  A superb deal at $1.25/each (down from $2.50/ea)!  They truly are beautiful stones…deeply engraved with gorgeous swirls of color.   But I’m not biased.  😉

January Blues? Not Around Here!

I read an article this week that this past Monday may have been the most depressing day of the year.  Going back to work after a period of time with family and friends, coupled with the short days of winter may send some folks into a depression.  Ugh.

Personally I will admit that the short (and cold) days of winter are tough for me to take.  But, here at the office, we take a different approach when it comes to that first Monday in January when we’re all back to work on a regular basis.  That’s a day that we actually look forward to.  Really!

Coming through the Christmas season in retail can be…**ahem**…trying to say the least.  There is a general sense of urgency in orders from late November through mid December which definitely heightens our stress levels here in the warehouse.  We’ve got the process down pretty well, so we can generally go with the flow, but there are definitely more issues and interesting customers to deal with during that time.

So, come January we’re ready for some peace and new energy.  We take this time to clean the warehouse.  Brainstorm marketing strategies.  Roll out new products.  See what products aren’t selling.  Clean our desks.  Clean out our brains so to speak.

So I enjoy this time of year at work.  My mind is happy to be sorting through marketing strategies and business goals and product ideas.  Oh, and there’s usually still chocolate left from the gift box our landlord gives us, so you can be sure we reward ourselves early and often.  New marketing idea?  Get yourself a piece of chocolate!  New idea for a token?  Go enjoy that chocolate covered almond!

Here’s hoping you’re enjoying these first few days of the new year!  Happy 2014!

~Brenda