Wise Grasshopper

  • 3 Things I've Learned Since Starting Grasshopper Goods

    3 Things I've Learned Since Starting Grasshopper Goods

    I didn’t know that I would start a small business. My entire career was built around education, as a teacher first, then a tenured professor who teaches teachers. I saw academia as my career path, and my more creative side as just that - a side of my skill set, not the focus.

    It’s funny how life works out. When the opportunity to branch out and pursue my creative passions as a profession, I took that leap. Since 2016, I’ve been working on this business, known as Grasshopper Goods, and it seems like I learn something new about entrepreneurship every day. 

    It can be a daunting life path, but it helps to gather wisdom from those who have already “been there, done that”. Maybe it’s that educator side coming out in me, or maybe it’s just a desire to talk about what I know (so far), but I’ve been reminiscing on the past four years, thinking of how far I’ve come, and how my challenges and triumphs can help you get to where you want to go too.

    Here are the three biggest lessons I’ve learned since starting Grasshopper Goods.

    Embrace what calls you

    You might know the story behind why we’re called Grasshopper Goods, and, if you do, this lesson won’t surprise you. Throughout my journey as a small business owner, I’ve learned to listen to my gut, pick up on signs that are calling to me, and follow the road that seems lit with possibility. If I continue to think about a new marketing initiative, product line, or business model for Grasshopper Goods (waking up in the middle of the night to write down the idea, or researching over and over) I know that it is something that I should pursue, if only to see if it could be successful.

    Pivot to serve your people

    Hasn’t COVID-19 taught us all something about adaptability? The world is moving faster than ever, adding more obstacles into the mix than we could possibly be prepared for, so it’s imperative to remain flexible and open to switching up a plan when it makes sense. The pandemic has forced many small business owners, including Grasshopper Goods, to pivot in order to continue to serve their customers. I’ve found that the businesses who have been able to do this quickly, with intention, have survived and even thrived throughout the chaos. This lesson can also be applied to your business model and inventory. If something isn’t working for your customers (maybe it’s your product, or maybe it’s the way you’re delivering it), be open to moving into a new phase in your business. And remember, you can always ask for support and expertise from others. It helps you thrive and grow.

    Personal connection is the greatest reward

    I couldn’t have predicted the number of people I would meet, the stories I would hear, and the relationships I would form through starting my small business. I went into Grasshopper Goods hoping that it would be a good outlet for me, something that I could channel my creativity into while providing others with a service and a product that they loved. I hoped that it would be a financial success as well, of course. But more than that, my business has allowed me to get to know my community on a deeper level, to meet other entrepreneurs like me, to form bonds with neighbors down the street and strangers who quickly become friends at events around the state. 

    This has been the best learning of all - that when you go after a dream that you’ve held onto for years, you will be rewarded with something that you could have never imagined.

    Four years in, I’m still learning. The small things (pro tip: you will always need hope and a sense of humor) and the big things. I’m so grateful for this journey, and I know that there is so much road ahead of me (and Vinny, Grasshopper Goods’ mobile boutique, for that matter). I can’t wait to see what lessons I’ll come across next. You can be sure that I’ll share them.

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  • How We Got Here - The Grasshopper Goods Story

    How We Got Here - The Grasshopper Goods Story

    How does a professor and world traveler end up with a mobile boutique and brick and mortar location in Stoughton, Wisconsin? 

    It’s a long story, but one worth hearing if you’ll stick around for it.

    I have been in education for my entire career, first working with special education students in underserved communities, and later, earning my Educational Doctorate in Instructional and Educational Leadership. Today, I’m a tenured associate professor at National-Louis University, and I serve as past president and board member of the International Visual Literacy Association and Director of Learning Sciences, where we are urgently supporting teachers during this time. 

    So, what does this have to do with Grasshopper Goods?

    Like so many individuals, I had another dream, one that had been lingering in my mind for years. Though education was, and remains, my passion, I had always thought about what it would be like to start my own boutique, a place that reflected my worldview and supported creatives in my community. 

    My family encouraged me to take the leap, but the idea lived as a “someday” vision in my head. That is, until I traveled to the Caribbean for a celebratory vacation.

    I’m a big believer in signs from the universe. When a grasshopper landed on the windshield of our taxi from the airport and held on throughout the ride, and the driver told us it meant good luck, great beginnings, and great fortune, it piqued my interest. Then, when we saw another grasshopper as we prepared to head home, I saw the meaning. The universe was telling me to finally make that jump and pursue the dream that I’d been holding onto for so long.

    The plans for opening a boutique percolated in my mind for a few more years, as I continued to teach and work with other educators. In conversations with my brother, we came up with the idea to create a mobile boutique, essentially an elevated version of the laidback concept of selling beautiful goods out of a vehicle. My brother purchased a ‘57 Chevy school bus from Wyoming, and, when it arrived, we were greeted by a little grasshopper inside. We haven’t looked back.

    Since then, Grasshopper Goods has grown from a mobile boutique housed in Vinny, our truck, to include a brick and mortar location on Main Street in Stoughton and an online shop.

    The best part -  this side hustle turned full-fledged business seamlessly overlaps with my “other” professional life and passions. We offer a discount for educators and continuously find opportunities to collaborate with our community members to support the dreams of others. 

    Through it all, Grasshopper Goods has become more than just a boutique, more than I could have ever imagined when I followed the guidance of that little grasshopper in the Caribbean and decided to go after my goals. We’ve connected with countless individuals, listened to their stories, made an impact on others in ways that I couldn’t have thought possible. 

    What’s next for us? Who’s to say? What we do know is that we’ll always stay true to our purpose. To encourage others. To seek adventure. To support the community that we are proud to be  a part of. To push the envelope. To be more than a boutique. I hope that you’ll join us on that journey.

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