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

 

 

 

 

Scrapbooking has gone to the dogs

Scrapbooking is one of my great passions and many people run away from it because pages can look very complex and hard to recreate.   Not true!

For this adorable page I wanted to really focus on the picture of the dogs but added a few tokens from www.CourageInStone.com to make the page really “talk” to you.  I chose the 3 inspiration coins (Frog-Smile #6471, Bee-Happy #6475, & Flower-Joy #6534) and used only the word side of the coin to add some interesting emotions to this page.  Then I used the Friendship Blessing Coin (# 3628mm ) which has “Friends Forever” on the reverse side as a final touch.

This page, as well as these dogs, will bring smiles for years to come!    ~Suzi

The peanut shoot is pooping strange things

About 2 months ago, we were playing with Baxter and Bynum in the warehouse (hey, we all need a break from work once in a while!)  The dogs have many, many toys (all strewn about the office) but one of their favorite is a squeaky orange duck.  Watching Baxter and Bynum play fetch is quite a site.  Here is how it goes:

Step 1:  Throw toy.

Step 2:  See Baxter race as fast as his furry little legs can take him to catch said toy.

Step 3:  Watch Bynum frantically chase Baxter (and surpass him), barking furiously.

Step 4:  Watch Bynum pickup toy in mouth.

Step 5:  Watch Baxter steal toy from Bynum.

Step 6:  Watch both dogs race back and deposit toy.

Step 7:  Repeat.

We were having a jolly good time, when Brenda got a bit overzealous and launched the duck at just the right angle, causing it to soar high through the air…and land right into the large packing peanuts dispenser shoot.  We have not seen it since.

Now, you don't see this everyday!

Until today.

It was with great joy as we all watched the duck re-emerge from the peanut shoot.  And it was certainly a happy reunion of duck and dog.

And now, as I write this, the sounds of squeaker toy fill the air once again.  All is right with the world.
A dog and his toy.