If business owners could go back in time

What would you change if you could do it all over again?

 

Carolyn Watson, owner of Core Kinetics Pilates, said if she could go back in time she would rethink her choice of locations. She has finally found the perfect place, however, in her Railroad Avenue studio.

 

Like Marty McFly and Doc Brown in the classic ’80s film, “Back to the Future,” who hasn’t dreamed of going back in time?

Of course, the reality of disrupting the space-time continuum could be disastrous, as Marty found out after interrupting the natural course of his parents’ courtship, thereby potentially jeopardizing his future existence.

But everyone, at some point, has an experience that leaves them with that “if only I could just go back to that one moment” feeling.

The BBJ asked four local business owners what they would change if they could hop in a time-traveling Delorean and go back to their past.

 

Carolyn Watson, owner of Core Kinetics Pilates

“The biggest thing I realize now is that location really does matter,” Watson said.

If she could go back in time and change one thing, it would be her choice of locations where she operated the first several incarnations of her Pilates studio.

The first location she opened shared space with a tanning room in a health club, which wasn’t exactly the most conducive environment for Pilates training.

“We’d go in there when they didn’t have a tanning appointment and it was really hot and smelled like coconut oil,” she laughed.

Her next location was above a cookie jar store that sold freshly baked cookies and was also near several bars on State Street. The place either smelled like stale beer or chocolate chip cookies, she said. Again, not the most conducive environment for a workout. Clients would often be unable to resist the doughy, chocolaty smell and begin their workout with several hundred calories of cookie.

To get to this particular studio, she and her customers had to crawl through a small opening from the outside, which they dubbed the “hobbit door,” or walk through the cookie store, which led to the extra munching, she said. And once inside, no one could quite stand up fully because of the low ceiling height.

Her third studio, located behind Belle Flora on State Street, was also hard to enter. While the studio itself was nice, she and her clients had to climb a fire escape to get there, she said.

“It was great until the weather turned and then there was snow and ice to deal with,” she said. “It was just a constant evolution of upgrading our space.”

Her fourth and final location was just right. Watson’s studio, Core Kinetics Pilates, is now located in an easy-to-enter facility, with no distracting sweets located nearby, on Railroad Avenue, next to Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro.

“These little blips taught me a lot, and we learned from the locations,” she said. “But if I had to do it all over again, I would’ve rethought the location.”

 

Curt Bagley, owner of Bellharbor Yacht Sales

Bagley has owned his yacht sales company for six years after working for similar companies before that.

Because his business is unique in terms of its proximity to the bay, he said if he could change one thing, he would have been more diligent in accumulating moorage spaces near his Squalicum Harbor location when they were available four years ago.

“That would have been key to the growth of the business,” he said.

Currently, Bellharbor Yacht Sales, which offers a full line of power yachts from 25 to 80 feet long, has access to seven or eight moorage slips, and also uses clients’ moorage slips from La Conner to Blaine to show to potential buyers, he said.

Having more slips would have enabled Bagley to bring in more boats directly to his office. Sometimes he devotes an entire day to showing yachts in the San Juan Islands or other locations around the region, he said.

When the Port of Bellingham builds its new waterfront marina, however, Bagley may get the opportunity to have slips allocated to him, and he looks forward to having more.

Bagley also said if he could go back in time, he would probably have gotten into business as a broker/dealer sooner than he did.

“It’s a business that I enjoy, and it allows me to meet quality people, make a lot of contacts and be in an industry where I can be both inside and outside during the day,” he said.

 

Chris Foss, co-owner of the Greenhouse

If Chris Foss could co back in time and change one thing about her business, she would have avoided hiring a certain accountant during the 1970s.

“There was a time when our business had reached a size that we needed to hire an accountant, and in the end they turned out to be inadequate,” she said.

She and her partner had an uneasy feeling about the accountant from the beginning. He was difficult to communicate with, but being in her 20s, Foss said she and her partner just assumed that was how professional relationships were.

“It felt like being called in to see the principal all the time,” she said.

After a year, Foss and her partner parted ways with the accountant and said the experience offered her a valuable lesson.

“The lesson learned was to focus on hiring and working with the very best advisors we can, who understand our business and who we are comfortable with, and who are comfortable with us.”

Foss said she since has worked with many long-term advisors who communicate well and understand her.

“My advice is to follow your gut on that, don’t try to skimp and save, and hire the best person you can find,” she said.

Foss also said she’d like to go back in time and start the business with more money. She and her husband and partner, Foster Rose, started the furniture store, now located on the corner of Holly Street and Cornwall Avenue, in 1972 on State Street where the 3B Tavern was recently located. The business began as a plant store with an initial investment of $1,500 from a small inheritance.

Foss remembers the space as being part of a “hippie mall with a record store and leather shop,” where they spent $35 a month on rent.

“It would’ve been nice to start out with a little more money,” she chuckled.

 

Cami Grichel, owner of Whimsey

Grichel said she would have started a website sooner for better exposure.

When she opened her hand-made jewelry store in Fairhaven in May 2003, Grichel started a mailing list for her customers right away. It was a huge success because she could keep in touch with her customers and keep them coming back, she said. Her direct mailings have brought in many customers, she said.

However, having had a web presence would have just strengthened that effort.

“A website would have strengthened that bond,” she said.

Four years later, Grichel is putting the finishing touches on her first website. The site offers online sales and a newsletter announcing new artists showing their jewelry and art in the store.

“Websites have incredible exposure power,” she said. “This will take it to the next level.”

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