Starting Somewhere

Phoenix Rising

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -Saint Francis of Assisi

In May I officially began the undertaking of opening the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park. The goals were laid out and the mission was on the table. All I had to do was orchestrate everything involved in starting a brand new retail space from scratch. Got it. But where to begin?
Start a list – right? Ok, all I needed to do was:
  • source and order locally and/or responsibly made inventory (read more about our sourcing here),
  • research and implement a point of sales system for both online and brick and mortar stores,
  • find and buy sales displays that matched the aesthetics and history of the surrounding exhibits,
  • create stock systems,
  • price inventory,
  • display product and
  • start selling by July 1 (the soft opening of the Kinzua Bridge State Park visitors center).
Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen for the shop – but we are on track for an August 1 opening. The opening date is still over a month before the visitor center’s official grand opening and still less than 94 days it took to construct the original bridge in 1882.
Early on in the project I declared “I am going to blog throughout the process”. At the time my declaration did not seem ambitious. Now as I finish my first post mid-way through July I am re-thinking the ambitious nature of my statement. I must have started 10 different posts in my brain. Ideas would come together while driving, in the shower or right before falling asleep. But then I would sit down to write and I would hit a block. How could I talk about sourcing if I didn’t have my full list of makers? How could I order a full line of products without knowing the pricing of yet to be designed soft goods? How could I know how to order displays if I didn’t know what I’d be displaying? So many questions! It felt like I was holding a large tangled mess of yarn. How do you write about a large tangled mess of yarn?
messy yarn just like life

Goal vs. Reality

The yarn was a lot like life, a messy jumble of string that I needed to fashion into some type of organized form so that I could in turn create something fabulous. But how do you organize something if you’re not sure of the starting point? I couldn’t wait for a clean start to magically appear. So I picked up the tangles and chose a starting point – a place along the yarn and decided to go from there. As I worked through the project I kept pulling along the yarn until I found what could be considered the beginning, where I would start next time, when it wasn’t from scratch. From there I found structure and started rolling things in an orderly fashion. I am finally at the point where my answers outweigh the questions and my processes make sense, my yarn can now be turned into something fabulous.
I have started organizing the method behind my madness of notes and photos created and collected throughout the project. Taking a moment for reflection allowed me to notice themes and patterns in the questions that I had been tasked to answer. The final result is the outline below. As I tackle blogging about my experiences the posts will be geared around the five identified steps of space, source, inventory, stock and sell.
starting somewhere
Two weeks away from the opening and one post is under the belt. Done. Acknowledged. Take a breath. Next question. What am I doing writing? I have a long list of things that still need to be done! Has life ever presented you with the task of untangling and rewinding a huge ball of yarn? If so please share how you found your starting point in a comment below.
You can learn more about opportunities at The PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park here.
Check our sneak peak of the gift shop here.

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4 comments

  • Meredith Hill /

    You’re doing a super job Abbi.
    Remember to breathe!! LOL.

  • Tataboline Enos /

    Great post Abbi! you’ve captured my life the last ten years as a entrepreneur in the private and public sectors (and as a writer). My approach as I’ve gotten older is if the idea seems sound, just start. The rest will come as you refine the idea through the process of test-fail-correct, test-fail-correct. I’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs across the Wilds and a thing that strikes me is it is amazing where people can take things when they stop talking themselves out of them and just start. And Love your 5 steps – will be a useful approach as we tackle store #2! 😀

    • Thanks Ta. The support and guidance I have received from partners in both the private and public sector during this process has been both indispensable and inspirational. My favorite part about starting this project “from scratch” is that it will never be “from scratch” again – bring on store #2!

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