About a month ago, Russ and I realized one of our most powerful and longest-term dreams of our lives: moving to a little old West mountain town. This photo is of us on the day we signed the leases on both our new home and our new business.
Both Russ and I wanted to do that for pretty much our entire lives. I lived in cities but have always felt like I really belonged in the country. Russ lived all over the place -- basically a military brat -- but settled for the past 15 or so years in the Bay Area.
We were both aching to get out.
I was working in Los Angeles as a digital product manager, and Russ was a handyman. Both of these jobs are very city-dependent, so the idea of moving to the woods was really a pipe dream.
When we started Outlaw Soaps, the specific aim was to move out of the city. We weren't sure how we would do it or what that would look like, but it felt like a step in the right direction.
We started the business in our warehouse in LA >while we were both working full time. But through a really lucky series of events (some of which did not seem so lucky at the time, like Russ's subletter moving out and leaving us in a lurch), I quit my full time job and we moved to a warehouse in the worst part of Oakland.
Yeah, that definitely did not feel like a step in the right direction. It was a big step, but living in a warehouse that regularly experienced drive-by shootings was not at all what we wanted.
But rent was free (Russ was the resident manager of the complex) and despite it being a terribly stressful place to live, it enabled us to start this business with minimum overhead. Sometimes you have to take two steps back and just hope that the time to step forward will eventually present itself.(trust me, I did not feel that way at the time. It was killing me)
All the while, we drove out to our dream locations whenever we had the chance: San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Nevada City, Lake Tahoe, Genoa... And we'd look at real estate listings. We even spent an entire three days looking at 42 potential homes -- FORTY TWO. That has to be some kind of record, right?
Outlaw Soaps was doing pretty well, but Russ needed to keep his handyman job to keep food on the table. Starting a business is just really damn expensive. I'm not the most mathematically inclined person and - no kidding - I didn't know one of the most core fundamental principles of business: The Break Even Point. (it's ok: I found out it kind of doesn't matter anymore) We just couldn't afford to move out of the city.
It was intensely heartbreaking. We even found our dream house. But it just wasn't going to work.
But we also didn't want to spend any more time in the ghetto.
So we decided that our most basic need was to move out of where there was active gunfire, even if it was a financial stress. My friend loaned us some money and we found a place in the suburbs - Antioch: bordertown to the end of the world.
Antioch was great for what we needed: a stable place to do business and live. It was close enough to the city that Russ could keep some of his handyman clients, and it was far enough out of town that the rent wasn't bonkers. The neighborhood was so safe that I could walk around at any time of night without any fear at all.
We continued to grow our business there. And in May of last year, we hired our second canine employee: Sadie Vincent, Sr. Manager of Cuteness.
I took a contract job with Mozilla Developer Network managing their Twitter account, and then also took on the Twitter account of the View Source Conference. These jobs finally gave us the flexibility of location to move away from the Bay Area...
And just like that... our dream was within reach.
There's an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. What we found is that when we were ready, the place appeared.
With the encouragement of a couple strangers (no, really), we found a workshop and store to rent. It turns out, the owner of that place also had a cottage on her property for rent.
We signed the leases a month and a half ago.
It has been a very long road, but I feel like our story is a testament to the power of visualizing your dream and never letting go of those visions. If we can do it, so can you.
We hope you'll come visit us in our lovely little town of Colfax, California.