From the first impression on their Facebook page or a visit to their website, you know that The Creative Wedge experience is going to be fun! I first met Barbara Densley, one of the owners of The Creative Wedge, in our Greenbrier office when she came by for some QuickBooks training. Ashlei had Barbara in her office next door to mine and I could hear the low buzz of talk and the occasional laugh. I was a little nervous to meet her as I had only interacted with Barbara over email, working with her accounts. I wasn't sure what to expect.
My worries were banished the moment she sat down in my office! With an easy smile and no-rush manner she engaged in our conversation as if we had already been friends. During our chat Barbara shared how she and Sloane Solanto started The Creative Wedge, lessons learned and how sharing your passion with your customers and getting involved with your community changes everything. Her experiences as an entrepreneur are lessons in how to be a better business owner!
Tell us about your business and what makes it unique.
BARBARA: Sloane and I specialize in trying to find unique gifts. We include cheese and wine because food is a gift, but we want to offer gifts that are unique, handcrafted or made by small companies focusing on American-made goods, some fair trade, but really trying to steer clear of things that you might get in any other store, combining art, food, color and personality to everything in the shop.
You can’t just walk into any other gift shop in the area and find most of the things that we carry or the combination of the things that we carry. Most people walk in and they’re like “I’ve never seen this before!” “I’ve never heard of this artist!”
We don’t buy our things through the major wholesaling companies. We go to one show a year. In the past we have attended The American Made show, but they have since changed their show format to online only. This year we are attending ACRE – American Craft Retailers Expo in Philadelphia. We find a lot of our artists at shows. These artists are usually small companies that may have started off with just the artist, and then maybe they have people helping them create things now, but they are a family or friend-owned business.
Have you made any mistakes in your business where you thought, "I should have done that differently!"?
Oh, everyday! Advertising is a big thing that you tend to get wrapped up in. “We need to do all that newspaper advertising!” “We should try to fit into this magazine.” The next thing you know we have reaped nothing from it. Advertising is something that we had to learn as we went. We have spent a lot of money on advertising that didn’t work for us. We should have talked to other people about what their experiences were before we had jumped into that.
What do you consider your biggest win so far this year?
Other than actually making it? Recently, this year, especially, we have really felt like people have found us. We hear from so many different people “I went to bookclub the other night and I was telling them about this really great shop and they were like - Oh! The Creative Wedge?" We are hearing so much of that this year that it feels like we’ve arrived. I think, overall, we feel like this is our biggest win.
We’re go-getters. We’re hustlers. We’re going to keep our name out there no matter what we have to do, but we feel like people are finally finding us. It’s not from an ad; people are actually talking about us. That feels really good!
As a business owner, taking care of all of the aspects of your business, when and why did you decide it was time to outsource your bookkeeping?
So glad I did! I know just enough accounting to be dangerous, so I tried to do what I could on my own, but I started to feel like I was drowning about a year or two into it. It was taking me away from the customers. I was on the computer trying to figure things out, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. There was so much to take care of. I was constantly on the computer. Sloane would be helping customers, placing orders and I would be on the computer. Finally, I was like, "Wait a minute!"
I didn’t want to do the banking and accounting stuff, especially with the business growing. The more it grew, the more I needed help. I’m glad I was able to recognize that and I’m glad I met Erin. All of you have been so great! It was a load off my mind and a weight off of my back to know that Bottom Line was taking care of things.
Wedgie's Wish #community has helped your customers get involved in their community. What are some of the organizations Creative Wedge has been supporting?
Wedgie’s Wish is our umbrella for our charitable works. We are Partners in Education with Virginia Beach Middle School. We organize a school supply drive for them every year. We support the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. Every year from November through December we plan a food drive. We also have 2-3 events that benefit pets and animals. One of the events we participate in is the Furry Elf Project. It’s basically an angel tree for dogs that helps support foster-based rescues.
We also support I Need a Lighthouse for depression and suicide awareness and prevention. This is something that is near and dear to me. We organize a big fundraiser for Wedgie’s birthday in April, when we opened. (Wedgie the Mouse is our mascot.) We have cake, food, and wine tastings and a huge raffle donation table. We receive donations from artists, crafters, and companies, (Everyone wants to donate!). All of the money goes to I Need A Lighthouse so they can continue their education program in local schools. We also run the Beacon of Hope 5K to bring awareness to this cause. Our customers join us as part of Team Wedgie. Every year our Team Wedgie gets bigger and bigger!
That’s Wedgie’s Wish - for everyone to be happy and not hungry.
Do you want to know more about The Creative Wedge? Visit their store:
Bottom Line’s Bottom Line
Especially during the holiday season, we are busy rushing in and out of stores to “get things done.” We rarely stop long enough to get to know anything about the people who created the business or the people that are serving us while we shop. Where did their vision come from? What are their passions? What are their struggles? When it comes to Barbara and Sloane and Team Wedgie, we can’t help but feel like this world just got a little better with their existence.
So, Barbara and Sloane, from us to you, we are honored to be a part of your team. A heartfelt thank you - you are warrior entrepreneurs! Here’s to decades of business success and continued momentum with Wedgie’s wish!