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.