Walking through the streets of Sarasota on a weekend getaway, my wife pointed out with some excitement “Cami’s store is down this way”. It was the first time she would be able to go into the new retail space that showed off her friend’s work. Cami is the owner and designer of Camilyn Beth, a company that designs and sells special occasion dresses, and the like. An untrained eye, such as mine, can see that her work has a modern feel based on very classic themes.
As we approached the store I felt like this may be one of those times that I’ll get caught up with the internet while my wife looks around. All the husbands and boyfriends can relate, I’m sure.
But instead, something completely different happened, an engaging conversation about the growing pains of a company through the COVID-19 Shut Down. I truly enjoy stories of business changes, adaption, and development. To say that COVID has offered a few of them would be an understatement. Cami showed me yet another angle from her point of view, one where she depended on special events and retail opportunities to take place for her business to work. Camilyn Beth had a record-setting year in 2019 and by early 2020 things were falling into place on track to exceed the year previous. The business was fast-paced and very exciting. But in the spring of 2020 the world stopped. What was usually their busiest part of the year turned out to be a complete standstill. Before the pandemic, Camilyn Beth’s revenue was largely generated through trade shows that would require travel to New York, Dallas, and Atlanta. As well as smaller boutiques that featured their dresses and online wholesalers. But in a world where events were canceling, boutiques were going out of business, and there was no reason to get dressed up (or shower for some) the company’s revenue plunged by half or more. The avenues to create sustaining income were quickly closing.
In this stress-filled time, Cami continued to depend on her foundational beliefs, scripture and a focus on what people needed. In her quiet times, Cami would pray that God would open and close doors as needed. She did feel some guilt praying for her business while so many others were hurting too. That’s when her team saw an opportunity where they could help. They had plenty of fabric and masks were desperately needed, so they got to work. But selling the masks didn’t seem right, so they decided to give them away to anyone who needed them. The stories they received back from healthcare workers and families saying that the masks helped in various and specific ways warmed the team’s hearts and fed back into the company’s soul. It was clear the work being done to create the masks was not going to save the business. But that’s a wonderful unintended consequence of work, especially doing something you love, it can offer peace and a place for reflection. Which it did during a very confusing time.
Even though the masks were a wonderful distraction the pressure of the pandemic continued to mount. Because of the lack of traffic around her studio, other unwelcome residents started to fill vacancies in the form of termites. A swarm had descended upon her business which lead to a tear-filled breakdown in front of her landlord. Probably not her proudest moment, but I would assume it was honest. Later that week the landlord called Cami up and offered her another option to move her studio to a street-level retail space. Even though she didn’t think that Camilyn Beth was ready for a retail presence yet because of the added commitment and expense she toured the site. Something about it felt right. That this could be a door that God was opening. The next steps were taken to relocate to the new retail space and the business has not been the same since.
Changes that the pandemic brought her in the form of confusion and stress seemed to end up offering her simplicity and control
The funny thing to me about Cami’s story is that the changes that the pandemic brought her in the form of confusion and stress seemed to end up offering her simplicity and control. Camilyn Beth is now largely focused on a direct-to-consumer market which gives her the ability to cultivate her customers’ experience. Her new retail space gave her a place to further develop her brand and display it the way that her eyes see it. Camilyn Beth has continued to develop their social media and online presence and found new forms of revenue in the Omni-shopper (customers that visit in person and buy online). The new retail space was built out with the help of her family, friends, and community that saw and valued her vision. During the silence of a shutdown, they found an opportunity to offer their gifts in the way of service to Cami.
An undying belief in what you do.
In our short conversation I know we didn’t even scratch the surface of every obstacle that time offered her business. But she made it clear to me that through all of what happened she never thought that it would be the end of her business or that she would stop doing what she loved. I believe her because that is the core of the entrepreneurial spirit. An undying belief in what you do. It is difficult to move along with the flow of change especially when it’s not on your terms. But that’s why I think Cami’s company and others like it are so special. Resilience and hope becomes the foundation that ends up guiding the business. So much so that it takes on the personality of its creator and speaks of them in its service, design, and product.
Camilyn Beth is not affiliated with LPL Financial or Allen & Co