Picture a roving Volkswagen Vanagon Truck, filled with a curated collection of vintage and modern treasures made by artisans from all-over. This is the concept behind Half Hitch Goods, Carrie Caillouette’s “Rolling Shoppe” which journeys around Northern California as a mobile pop-up store. I was overawed when I first listened to Carrie speak about her business and unique approach to her creative endeavor. In this interview, we speak about life on the road, starting a brand and a business and the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur.
You travel around in your “Rolling Shoppe” and sell a collection of products that have meaningful stories. How was the idea conceived?
The idea for the Rolling Shoppe was born out of the urge to have my own store, with the flexibility of hours and location, while also controlling overhead. Also, I love the idea of treasures and treasure hunting. It seemed that there’d be no better way to honor the hunt than hosting pop-ups out of my own little treasure-hunting-mobile. I wanted to do something out of the ordinary that might make folks look twice, smile and maybe even have some fun.
The concept of your roving store on wheels is based on being mobile – do you like being on the road?
Yes! I’m a huge fan of taking the truck to places where I’ve seen a lot of online sales. There are a lot of trips I’d like to do in the next few years. Generally, I stick pretty close to home in the Bay Area of California though because its tough to take the old truck on long distance drives.
Many of the products you curate are one-of-a-kind pieces made by artisans whose stories you share on your website – how does telling these stories build connections between people?
When you’re looking to give a gift, typically you’re really looking to connect with the person you want to give to. It’s my belief that the secret to finding that perfect gift is to discover meaningful treasures that will not only be beautiful, useful and exciting, but also have stories. I think it’s the product story itself that makes that gift more than just a thing, it’s something that resonates with you when you think of this recipient and at that point, you’re able to share a little piece of yourself in the giving process. Gift giving is one of the oldest rituals that we continue to honor today. When done with intention, gift giving can be very powerful.
Before starting your own boutique, you worked as a merchant for several years at a premium home furnishings brand – did this role help the transition to starting your own brand?
You can definitely start a business without any formal training at all. However, in my case, I’m sure most of my success with Half Hitch Goods can be attributed to my corporate merchandising background, my post grad education, and general tenacity. But my work experience is where I honed my business skills and learned the ins and outs of retail industry best practices both organizationally, as well as from a supply chain and financial standpoint.
Your husband (and high school sweetheart) is responsible for all of the lifestyle photography for Half Hitch Goods – how do you find working on your business with your partner?
Britton is my partner of 16 years – he’s the one who knows me best and understands my vision for Half Hitch Goods. That said, it still can be challenging to work together. He is very generous with is time helping with marketing campaigns and lifestyle photography for the blog. Britton is also a very talented film director with a full time job of his own. I try to respect his time but when he’s able to give it, I take as much as I can get! I’d say if you’re looking to go into business with a family member, as much as it helps to lay out roles in the beginning, you have to remember that this whole thing is going to be a LOT more work than you ever anticipated. So allow the business relationship to grow and change and remember not to lock each other into initial promises that later you find aren’t realistic or working. Set up formal time to review business objectives, set goals, and be up front about how the partnership is going. Remember that the most important thing is the relationship in this case. Always protect that first over the business. Non-family member business partners might come and go, but your family, they are sticking around no matter what, so it’s not your basic business partner relationship.
What are some of the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur and starting your own creative concept?
One big challenge is being at peace with what you’ve done so far and where you are in your journey. I think with any creative endeavor, the creator has a long-term vision. While getting that all executed might take years, it’s very challenging to appreciate what has been done so far and congratulate yourself every day on what’s been accomplished.
Also, every day brings new tasks, hoops to jump through and ways you must creatively think. Having the energy to stand up to all of that no matter what the day brings and push through it … that’s always an enormous challenge.
Can you share any exciting collaborations or projects you have coming up this year?
I will have some amazing new artist collaborations to be released in the fall and also a new product line for the brand. Very exciting stuff!
How do you relate to the word ‘adrift’?
Truly, adrift is an interesting word for me to think about. While the branding of my business does have a lot to do with not being tied down and being able to go here and there, I am a very deeply rooted person. I take comfort in things that make me feel at home like a cozy bed, my dog, and my collections of things. I also love to have a sense of control of my surroundings. These things do prove challenging when my business is inherently adrift. While on a physical level, my roving business can be a bit “here and there”, I’m personally and emotionally more concrete than I’d probably like to admit. Luckily I have my online shop open 24/7 always in the same place to make me feel like something is always constant and some sense of control of what I’m working on.