Decisions to Make If You Want to Run Your Business from a Beach
“I happened across Julia online [while finding a team member for another project I was on]. We hit it off very, very quickly the first time we met” begins Christopher Roberts, food industry vet and one-half of the powerhouse duo that founded innovative retailer c&j craft. The other is Julia, who has a deep background in marketing and customer fulfillment.
Both are avid travelers – Julia received her MBA in France, Chris travels whenever he can with his dog by his side – and have a deep desire to run their business from anywhere in the world. It’s woven deeply into their entrepreneurial philosophy. After all, the companies’ modest origins include a road trip across America.
“It was a Start Up through-and-through. Bootstrapping on a shoestring budget – the works, man. We got pretty rustic with it, camping along the coast on the way down. We really got to know each other on that trip. [We were] thrown into a situation where all of a sudden we were together 24/7. It’s either going to go really right or really, really wrong… and it’s going to happen fast.”
They both lived to tell the tale, but being on the road certainly doesn’t come without its challenges. And when you are faced with those challenges, resources are scarce. “No matter who you are or how good you are, there are going to be setbacks and sometimes they’re going to be absolutely brutal.”
After a particularly rough day where they were left stranded on the side of a California freeway with a broken car and their two dogs – Medley and Deluca – to care for, they decided it was time to take a step back. Was it worth it? What were they thinking? They broke out their camping grill, a bottle of red, and tried to pin down the most important question in an entrepreneur’s journey:
“How do we build a business to put us in a position where we’re much closer to the life we want to live?”
The result is an elixir of all the best parts of their trip – a business that highlights the people they met along the way. Amazing makers who are so passionate about the product they pour their life into everyday, from sea salt to craft cocktails.
“Meeting with the artisans, visiting the production facilities, trying their products, the simplicity of it all. It was more natural; it was more us” Chris continues, speaking of their business plan’s changes as they continued moving through the states.
Originally, they’d planned to have an experiential event business, but when they realized they were sitting on something even more profound (and a better fit for them), they weren’t afraid to let the vision move in a different direction. It actually turned into a concept both of us love so much more than that [original idea]” Julia excitedly chimes in.
“If ultimately you believe in yourself, trust your intelligence and make the best decisions you can with the information that you have at the time, things almost always will find a way of working out. It may not be in the way you think. It may not be in the way you hope. But things will work out.”
“In it’s simplest form, we market for artisans across the US. But essentially we try and connect our story to people who have stories of their own – whether they’re our partners or whether they’re our customers – and provide things we’ve found that we love to have in our lives. We use all of our products.”
“In almost all cases we’ve met the partners we’re working with. We genuinely like them as people, we genuinely support their business and them and want them to succeed. We love what they do and we think other people might too.”
Now that c&j craft has its feet more solidly planted, Chris and Julia are looking for ways to expand its horizons while still keeping true to the roots of the company and what their works for their current clients.
“We’re finding a way to not only sell products but be very involved in the creation of them as well” says Julia of one thing they’re experimenting with. “We’re starting to collaborate and create our own products with [the artisans in our network]. For example, The Wooden Craft – a brand that makes these beautiful custom cutting boards – is going to make some for us and burn our logo into them.”
Travel and adventure is also baked into their company (and personal) ethos. They tell us as they take our call from a bench in their local dog park. “The beauty of eCommerce is that it can largely be run from anywhere. We do get to indulge in our love of travel.”
“We’re trying to put ourselves in situations where we can learn as much as possible. I connected with a bunch of location-independent entrepreneurs online who were running similar style businesses as what we have, where it can be run in a way that you could do it from almost anywhere.”
“We don’t need to be in Silicone Valley or New York or Toronto or any of those other hubs. We really want to connect with the people who are absolutely crushing it on their own terms. I’m tying to go over to Asia and get in a room with as many people as possible who are world class at this and soak up everything I can. If I get some beach time along the way I’m not going to object to that…” and Chris trails off into a laugh.
I asked Chris and Julia what two lessons were most helpful to them in learning to run a business:
“We wake up every day and have to decide on the things that are probably not going to get done today because there’s more stuff than time. It’s literally it’s all about prioritization. Successful people, I think, find a way to prioritize others in their lives if there’s a way that you can bring each other value.”
“I would say being organized is key. That’s the foundation of everything. We use Basecamp for project management. I’ve heard there are a lot of other good tools out there [like Trello and Slack – a couple Hubba office favorites]. It’s a really easy way to communicate and keeps us in line.”