Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Oberholtzer.
Julie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Cosas was born out of my admiration for the beautiful country of Mexico. I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico for three and a half years with my husband, my twin teenage daughters and our dog. I fell in love with the beauty, rich culture, vibrant colors, arts and sense of community Mexico has to offer. I was fortunate to make life long friends from around the world while living in Mexico. We traveled to many Pueblo Magicos to explore the cobblestone streets, the cathedrals, the colorful tiendas, the art galleries and to feast on the fabulous food. I noticed that all of my girlfriends and I were attracted to the same gift items to send back to our friends back home wherever “home” may be whether Belgium, Thailand, South Africa, France, or the USA. Realizing that we all gravitated towards the same gifts gave me pause to think maybe just maybe I could curate lovely gift items from central Mexico that my friends in Phoenix may enjoy. I started brainstorming ideas on how to create a small business and realized I needed a name to capture my concept. COSAS seemed to be fitting to describe the curated collection of my favorite “things” from Mexico. And then the fun ensued. Meeting makers in Mexico, creating purchase orders and sending lovely cosas across the border. COSAS began to take form.
I started by doing local pop up shops in the downtown Phoenix area to test market the concept of COSAS. The pop-up shop and market venues are no joke. Much time and effort go into setting up, selling your goods and breaking down all in a few hours! After a few successful pop-ups, an opportunity fell into my lap to open a tiny brick and mortar shop at The Churchill, an uber-cool shipping container community located in the heart of downtown Phoenix. As a woman new to business ownership, the learning curve was big and a bit overwhelming. With the support of my husband, a life long entrepreneur, and family, friends and loyal customers, we are proudly celebrating our 1st anniversary! I am a counselor by profession and I have realized over the past year that my passion to connect with people and my genuine desire to listen to my customers has enabled me to establish a welcoming environment for all Cosas shoppers.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Opening a retail shop has been challenging. I have never worked in retail before opening COSAS nor have I ever owned small business. I have relied on the advice of seasoned entrepreneurs including my husband and other small business owners and my trustworthy accountant! My biggest challenge thus far is inventory control and logistics. Sourcing all my products out of the country, practicing fair trade principals with all my talented makers, and shipping all my cosas across the border, has proven to be a tricky process. Moving inventory off the shelves, keeping the inventory choices fresh, new and on-trend all while managing the cost of goods can be overwhelming. My goal has always been to find talented makers in Mexico, negotiate fair-trade purchases and showcase such beautiful products in Phoenix. In theory, this is an admirable business plan, yet executing this plan can be tricky. I am learning about the joys of import/export intricacies and the cost of international shipping. I am fortunate to have an assistant in Guadalajara, Mexico who manages operations south of the border. It takes a village this I know for sure!
Please tell us about your work.
Cosas offers colorful Mexican textiles, totes and trinkets handpicked and collected from various regions of Mexico. All items are designed by talented artisans and are responsibly sourced. We proudly practice fair trade principles, including equitable compensation. Cosas celebrates the beauty, customs and culture of Mexico! The vibrant colors and textures of our products inspire me to feel good, and I see real value in feeling good because it inspires me to do good. I value the artistry of our partners and am committed to promoting their creativity which in turn helps to sustain opportunity. Cosas has several passion projects that we support by donating a portion of all proceeds to the following: Citac Special Needs School in Tapalpa, MexiArte, a mission supporting women prisoners in Jalisco and a Soup Kitchen in San Juan de Ocotan that provides meals to 250 people twice a month.
I am proud of our commitment to practice fair trade principles with our talented Mexican makers. I am dedicated to giving back to our community in Guadalajara. Mexico welcomed our family with open arms and I will be forever grateful for my time in such a beautiful country. Cosas hopes to bring a little bit of the charm of Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I had to start over, I would have sought out a group of women entrepreneurs that have been in the biz for a while. I would have created a monthly meeting of the minds to share, support and commiserate! Throughout my first year, I have met some smart and savvy boutique owners that I seek out when I need a pick me up or piece of wisdom. Such relationships have been vital. I wish I would have had the wherewithal to establish such relationships before opening my store. Better late than never!!
- COSAS offers affordable unique gift items from central Mexico ranging from $6-$125
- Address: 901 North 1st Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
- Website: www.cosasphoenix.com
- Phone: 602-688-2717
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/cosasphoenix
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/cosasphoenix
- Other: googel business cosasphoenix