Friday, June 22, 2012

Small steps in the right direction

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” ~Old Chinese Proverb

Sometimes I think it's possible to take many small steps before you even realize you're going in a particular direction. That's what happened to me recently.

A year ago I started a research project for no reason other than that it was a subject in which I'd always had an interest. Well, not always but at least for the last 15 years. I wanted to learn everything I could about a local architect, Hugh Comstock, who achieved minor fame by building cute little cottages that look like they stepped off the pages of a book of fairytales. The fairytale cottages were built in the 1920s. He went on to build other styles of houses and commercial buildings throughout the '30s and '40s but it's his storybook cottages that bring the tourists in these days and it could be argued that they've set the tone for the whole village.

Shortly after I started the research two big things happened - the local history library closed and Jasper died. It was hard to do specific research without the resources of the history library but I desperately needed the research to distract me so I turned to the only resource open to me in the main library - I started reading microfilm copies of the local newspaper. Comstock came to town in 1924 so I started reading the 1923 paper and just kept going. Pretty soon I found myself obsessed with the 1920s in Carmel. It was a period of much building and expansion of the business district, some amazing examples of Spanish-California Revival architecture

 and even a Comstock fairytale cottage that's been a restaurant since it opened in 1926 even though it was built to be an art shop.

The Tuck Box, the building that made me fall in love with Carmel 20 years ago
 After spending so much time in the 1920s the next small step just seemed obvious - start my own historic walking tour. Ok, maybe it wasn't an obvious step but the opportunity presented itself and I went for it. I came up with a business name, started a website, joined the chamber of commerce and put together a 90 minute, 1-mile tour of the business district with a slight detour up a really steep hill to see the fairytale cottages. The tour was easy to put together, my months of newspaper research had provided me with all the information that I needed including specific details that had previously been lost to time and legend. Now to be perfectly honest, while the tour came together easily, refining it took a bit of work. The first version of the tour lasted well over 2 hours and even I was cranky and bored by the end of it. Luckily the only other participant was T and with his suggestions I reworked the tour just in time to take my first customers around the town. They asked great questions and didn't run away screaming at the end so I think it was a success.

Like the beginnings of any business there are ups and downs. Competition that I didn't think would be an issue when I came up with the idea, has indeed become an issue. My ability to do adequate marketing is currently more restricted than I would like which limits my reach into the customer base. But inside every obstacle is an opportunity and recently I've reworked my business model and my historic focus so that I'm really meeting the interests of the typical visitor...which leads me right back to my favorite architect. That new focus is starting to lead me down an interesting new path that could change my business once again and spawn side projects.

Small steps in the right direction...

1 comment:

  1. How awesome is this?! You should be very proud of your "small" steps, which, BTW, I consider BIG! Keep at it ~ more great things will come:)



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