It has come as no surprise to learn that my years in retail sales throughout college and beyond didn't quite prepare me for starting and operating a business. I have been challenged in so many ways and consistently pushed outside of my comfort zone. I frequently feel like I've gone back to school and for me, that's just the way I like it. My mom, very wisely, encouraged me to contact the Northwest Minnesota Foundation in Bemidji to explore how they might help me bring the dream of the En Liten Svensk (A Little Swedish) Shoppe into reality.
(Great resource! Click on the image if you'd like to learn more.)
Before I contacted the wonderful folks in Bemidji, I did a little bit of what I refer to as "field research." I began exploring websites, blogs, books and resources that had anything and everything to do with Scandinavia. I have found some wonderful websites that delve into the beauty of the people, the culture, the food and so much more. One of my favorite sources of information has been a book I found late last summer. I plan to carry it in the Shoppe and know others will enjoy it as much as I have. The book is a great blend of history and humor (a fair amount of sarcasm) and offers a glimpse of Scandinavia and its people.
For the past several months, as I dream up ideas for the business, I've visited retail and cultural spots from Red Wing to Alexandria and one of my favorite places is the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. I encouraged (yes, bribed) my husband and son to come along and we discovered a truly lovely and historic space that certainly offered inspiration for the vision and purpose of the Shoppe.
(Click the photo to learn more... and plan a visit!)
The gift shop at the Swedish Institute was especially lovely. It was the perfect blend of traditional Scandinavian design along with more contemporary products and colors. It was during that particular visit that I thought to myself, I think I can do this. The field trip confirmed my decision to open a small, authentic space to celebrate the culture and heritage of Scandinavia.
After a few road trips and many, many hours spent delving into online content, I got in touch with Minnesota's Small Business Development Center and asked for all of the help they were willing and able to provide related to my interest in starting a business in Roseau.
(Click on the image to link to MN resources.)
For those of you that may be contemplating an adventure like this one, I encourage you to explore, to dream and to consider the wealth of resources available to all of us if we give ourselves permission to take some risks. There are educational articles, webinars and guidance to assist a new entrepreneur (like me!)
I've had regular phone consultation and numerous email exchanges with the business consultants from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation - free of charge! What an invaluable resource the consultants have been for me. From thought provoking questions to gentle reassurances, I am truly grateful for their expertise and guidance. Every business development site conveys the same message, "Have a Business Plan!" And so with a lot of work, imagining and editing, I have created a plan I am proud of and one that will serve as a guide for the future.
I'm looking for inspiration wherever I go these days. I am noticing all of the Scandinavian influenced items, including (and especially) food, art, home goods and traditions. Recently, I was on a "field research" trip to begin the process of finding some great display pieces for the Shoppe's future products.
There were many, MANY great options for display! It was a bit overwhelming (I must admit) but mostly inspiring and thrilling. The Swedish meatballs, lingonberries and chocolate coconut balls certainly helped sustain us during the lengthy process... (all in the name of research, of course!)
(Click on the photo of the treat for a link to the recipe!)
Our next big adventure includes a trip to market to find the best of what Scandinavia has to offer in terms of gift items, home decor, food and well, just about anything else that inspires us. Please stay tuned as we are excited to share the gifts and goods we will soon be bringing to you.
I'm so grateful you've checked in!