Earthsense Herbals and Gift Gallery

There is a saying that “if you can dream it, then you can achieve it,” -Zig Ziglar. Lake McCullough is an example of this by turning a hobby into a growing business. Earthsense Herbals and Gift Gallery is a quaint and sunny store located in the heart of downtown Pagosa Springs. Creatively decorated, the store is full of handcrafted items from perfumed soaps, herbal teas and remedies, to silk paintings, porcelain sculptures, greeting cards and plants. All of the items, down to the shelving, wall displays, and labels are all made either by Lake McCullough or her mother, Carolyn McCullough.

“I like making things and always had an interest in plants,” said Lake who began working at an herb store at age 14. But it was after she got a warm reception for her teas and salves sold at the local Farmer’s Market, that Lake began exploring the idea of opening a store front.

“I didn’t know where to start, and that turned out to be a strength,” said Lake. “Because I think if I knew too much, I might not have actually done it.” Lake, who owns the business with her parents, Tom and Carolyn, worked with the Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center to research and formalize her plan. Earthsense Herbals opened in May of 2010.

The McCullough’s received start-up funding from the Region 9 Economic Development District and used some technical assistance grant funding for Lake to attend a conference that furthered her knowledge about medicinal plants and herbal medicine. Lake has a Diploma in Herbal Studies and says she continually researches the biochemical properties of plants. She gets annual permits from the Forest Service to harvest certain plants, her favorite being Osha, which helps boost the immune system and fight colds. Many of the plants are ordered because of the quantities needed but all of the store’s herbal products are mixed or made by Lake.

The most popular products vary per time of year. The porcelain and artwork sells in the summer and the gift items offer consistent cash flow. Lake fondly credits her mother with creating all the store displays and the art.

“I always know it will be beautiful, and I don’t have to worry about it,” said Lake. “She may stay more behind the scenes, but she is no less important.”

The biggest surprise for the McCullough’s in running a business has been the lessons learned working with the public.

“We are both introverts and there is a lot of energy needed to constantly interact with people. It is important to be here and explain some of our products and do research for customers with questions,” said Lake. “We want to make sure customers get the best product for their needs.”

Mail orders are a growing part of the business which the McCullough’s estimate as half local residents and half visiting tourists. Though she has had requests to sell her products to other natural food stores, Lake said, “I can barely keep up with my own inventory. I also don’t think I would have as good of results without providing the one-on-one customer service.”

The business has not only weathered the recession but has seen annual growth. As for future plans, offering herb walks, herbal tea blending and silk painting lessons may continue, but the mother/daughter team isn’t sure. “We’ll take each day as it comes and see what happens,” said Carolyn.

Create Art & Tea

What happens when an entrepreneur envisions a grass roots movement centered around tea and art?  Create Tea & Art (CT&A) of course!  Caprice Fox is building community by combining the comfort and health aspects of tea with a gathering space for local artists and their hand-crafted works.  Caprice said, “People enjoy having tea to come to with the art.  There is an enjoyment of the social aspect.  I’m still learning how to combine them.”  To

Read More »
Soundscapes International

By Malia Durbano Ross Barrable an acoustic sculptor attended the Leading Edge for Entrepreneur’s Class offered by the SBDC in the winter of 2010 because, “I wanted to learn about business and branding and how to market my wind harps.” Barrable doesn’t have a store front and recognizes that most of the sales for his high ticket items come by building relationships with potential clients. Barrable creates, “Contemporary sound sculptures, or wind harps, fabricated out

Read More »
Rock Lounge

Marcus Garcia has been the owner of the Rock Lounge (RL), an indoor climbing gym in Durango, since 2014. Marcus had transitioned from being a RL employee, a rock climbing guide, and owner of a small construction company before then. The RL was profitable in his first year, yet he thought there was more potential to be realized. Marcus had sent his business manager to a locally sponsored event which introduced them to the Small

Read More »
Mountain View TLC

By Malia Durbano Family Physician, Kirsten “Kicki” Searfus originally approached the SBDC to learn how to structure the partnership she was entering with Megan Lewis Grotefund. Instead, Megan moved away and on June 1, 2013, Kicki officially was in private practice. Having always been an employee at clinics or hospitals, she was wondering where to start in figuring out how to be an entrepreneur. Advisor Joe Bishop “was super helpful” in assisting her regarding the

Read More »
Southwest Discovered

Southwest Discovered (SWD) is a weekly blog/mini e-magazine founded by Amy and Jim Dodson. Their passion for the Southwest, along with a ‘forever tourist’ mindset was inspiration for the website. What began as a personal blog about the region’s cuisine evolved into a business. SWD would detail their road trips and experiences, highlighting their discovery of Southwest culture, people and landscapes through art and story. When they were transitioning away from the blog in 2015,

Read More »
Aspen Wall Wood

David Sitton and Sean Stafford are the owners of Aspen Wall Wood. I interviewed David for this article, who shared his story of purchasing a timber mill in 2016 and later purchased two other companies. The major factor in the acquisition process was the ability to obtain a loan. That was done with the assistance of Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Durango. David was well established as a Vice President for Skanska, a large

Read More »