New Kids On The Block
It’s a sunny morning in historic Corolla Village, and at least a half-dozen local artists are already setting up tables in the grassy courtyard adjacent to Lovie’s Salon & Spa. There’s an eclectic mix of everything from home furnishings to beauty products, jewelry to dream catchers. And for most of these vendors, this is an invaluable opportunity to network with each other and their customers in person – perhaps even for the very first time.
“Not everyone has a storefront, and this allows them to reach a whole other type of clientele they might not see otherwise,’” Alicia Arranz says about the twice monthly Corolla Village Artisan Markets she started this past summer with her business partner, Kelly Ives. “We love connecting with people and encouraging them to do what they love – it’s really empowering and inspiring. How can we not keep rolling with that?”
Alicia, who owns Lovie’s Salon and co-owns Lovie’s Wellness, knows this from years of experience. When she first moved here from New York, she traveled up and down the Outer Banks as a freelance hair stylist for years before she had the chance to open up her own brick and mortar salon.
“I actually met a lot of these artists because I’ve been doing their hair for a while now,” Alicia says with a laugh. “It feels really full circle, and I’m so thankful for that.”
One such client is Katelin Kight, a Currituck native who started a line of small-batch skincare products called Moon Tide Botanicals this past winter. “I had all these ideas,” Katelin says. “But at first I was just playing with formulas for myself.”
Besides sharing some of those ideas with Alicia, Katelin hadn’t necessarily put much thought into starting her own business until last Christmas when some family members suggested making the holidays a DIY-only gift exchange.
Working with her longtime friend Ariana Barnes (who was also experimenting with handmade laundry products strictly for her own personal use until she began to do business as Wild Sage), the two made a pact to continue making their products together this year.
With the help of some friends, the duo embarked on the time-consuming process of creating logos and labels…and bottling enough of their products to set up a shared booth at the annual Currituck Flower and Garden Show this past spring.
While they both freely admit that taking their product lines public was a scary step (“It’s so much easier to sell Katelin’s things than it is to sell my own,” Ariana says half-jokingly), they were overwhelmed with positive support from the very beginning. Surprisingly enough, that support came not only from family and friends, but also from a thriving community of like-minded local entrepreneurs.
In fact, making those types of personal connections was how they met Sarah Fredricks of Goldielockes jewelry. After Sarah contacted Ariana to see if she wanted to barter some laundry detergent for earrings, the three women got together in person for a trade – which prompted Sarah to ask them if they wanted to be part of a promotional group giveaway.
That giveaway, which ran on Instagram in time for Mother’s Day, included items not only from Goldielockes, Moon Tide and Wild Sage, but also goods from Lindsay Dilworth and Andrew Carnill of Altwood, Shannon Parra of The Shabby Dream Shop, Jennifer Yell of Love Beauty Balm and April Forbes of The Blue Moth Studio.
Prior to that giveaway, most of the artists involved only knew each other’s names in passing – but that began to change pretty quickly afterwards when they all began meeting each other face-to-face at local markets and other pop up events at places such as Outer Banks Brewing Station, Secret Spot Surf Shop and Modern Beach House.
“It all kind of happened at once,” says Sarah, who started Goldielockes six years ago when she was living in San Francisco, but has seen her business grow exponentially in the past five months – which she chalks up largely to having so many opportunities to cross-collaborate with other independent artists and shop owners on the Outer Banks. “That giveaway was a nice array of things that complemented each other. It caught people’s attention.”
It also led to a flurry of direct messages, in-person meet ups and new cross-promotional ideas that only widened the circle. Shabby Dream Shop featured Moon Tide’s serums on one of her Instagram stories, while Jennifer Yell began to encourage her loyal customers to check out Blue Moth Studio after she commissioned April to design new labels for Love Beauty Balm.
“At first I was just doing it for fun,” says April, who has a background in graphic design and has always enjoyed a number of artistic pursuits, but only recently founded her line of marbled stationery and other goods. “I didn’t realize that there was such an extensive creative community here until a friend encouraged me to start doing art shows at Sweet T’s in Duck a few years ago. From there I began meeting all these amazing local artists that inspired me. A lot of us have other full-time jobs in addition to this, but so far it feels as though things are falling into place at the right time.”
Businesses with physical locations also started contacting some of the smaller start-up vendors with new wholesale opportunities. To date, some Moon Tide and Blue Moth Studio products can be found at Altwood, while Modern Beach House carries nearly a full line of Wild Sage products, and Sarah now keeps a number of local shops from Corolla to Kill Devil Hills (such as Zen & Zip, Barr-ee 2, Foxy Flamingo and Mom’s Sweet Shop) stocked with her distinctive hoop earrings.
This energy has also led many of them to think even more creatively about how they can all work together going forward – whether that means coming up with new products based on the feedback they’re receiving or if it means embarking on entirely new ventures. (An example of the latter involves a planned collaboration between Lauren Evans of Wana World Market – a small, internationally inspired home décor business – and Ariana, who will use her sewing skills to make pouches out of fabric Lauren collects from her travels abroad.)
“It feels more encouraging than competitive overall,” April says thoughtfully. “I can hardly keep up with all the opportunities and unique spaces people are creating here anymore. I love that. The main thing is that we’re all supporting one another – and who knows what that will lead to in the future.”