Our member, Cynthia Johnston of Moonmaid Botanicals in Cosby, Tennessee, traveled hundreds of miles across the country to visit several of her wholesale stockists, and the results were fabulous. Read on to enjoy the story behind this epic trip, and get some tips to plan one of your own.
As Cynthia neared her 20th year in business, she felt the need toget out of her typical “environment” and freshen things up a bit. She'd been planning to travel to Los Angeles to attend her niece's wedding. One thought led to another, and she got the idea to drive to LA and stop to visit several of her wholesale stockists along the way. So, she packed up her dog and combined business with pleasure to create a wonderfully life-changing adventure. She called it MoonMaid’s 60/20 Trek Across America, in honor of her 20th year in business and the celebration of her 60th birthday.
Cynthia Johnston, Moonmaid Botanicals: Cosby, Tennessee
Cynthia Johnston's Cross Country Wholesale Stockist Tour
Q. HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHAT CITIES TO VISIT?
CYNTHIA: I first plotted out the most direct route from Cosby to LA. After deciding that Interstate 40 was the way to go, I reached out to my wholesale stockists and clients along that path. Not only did I reach out to wholesale buyers, but I also reached out to loyal consumer buyers and business associates along the way.
Cynthia visiting a wholesale stockist on her trip.
Q. HOW WERE YOU RECEIVED?
CYNTHIA: Everywhere I went, people were in awe of my journey. Surprisingly, in my travels, I met quite a few other women who were traveling solo for one reason or another. Like me, they had a canine travel companion and a reliable car. I found it interesting that people kept telling me how brave I was.
Q. WHAT PARTS OF YOUR JOURNEY WERE THE MOST FUN?
CYNTHIA: I had the most fun simply seeing America. We live in an incredible country, full of diversity. It's visually stunning in so many ways. The entire trip left me inspired. I was excited to experience the beauty of our country more up close and personally than I would had I traveled by plane or train.
Q. HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE FINANCIAL INVESTMENT FOR YOUR TRIP?
CYNTHIA: When I had the idea for this trip, I didn't have a budget for it, but I knew I didn't want to rely heavily on credit cards, so I saved for it. After reading about a “fiver plan” on Pinterest, I began to place all of my loose change and every five dollar bill into an account attached to a debit card, which I used to track all of my expenses on the road.
I allocated $75.00 per day for food, shelter, and gas. Sometimes, I spent more. Sometimes I spent a lot less, for example, when I stayed with friends or someone purchased my meal. It all balanced out pretty well in the end.
Q. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF YOUR TRIP?
CYNTHIA: The best benefits were the great connections and conversations I had with dozens of people. Relationships and business connections — old and new — were created and nurtured, and they have since paved the way for new business relationships and increased sales from some of the retailers I finally met in person.
I enjoyed seeing family and friends.
The best part of my journey was meeting for the first time customers who have enjoyed Moonmaid products for years. Everyone was amazed that I was traveling across the country to meet them personally.
They all said there was something special about meeting the actual person who designed and makes the products they find so helpful. I cannot describe the feeling of personal satisfaction this brought me.
Q. HOW DID YOUR BUSINESS RUN WHILE YOU WERE AWAY?
CYNTHIA: My dedicated employee kept Moonmaid humming in my absence. She made and shipped everything, and I am so blessed to have her. I enjoyed Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere I went, so I was able to lead my business on the road. I benefited from GPS and a paper map, both of which were indispensable. (Yes, you need a paper map too!)
It was a challenge to run things from the road, especially when I encountered unexpected communications glitches. But for the most part, I had no problem dealing with customer service issues, order processing, and phone calls as I traveled.
I set aside an hour a day to make calls, even if I was on the road. Sometimes, I needed less time than that. My order processing time slowed a bit, but that's because as I traveled, the people I was meeting were placing more orders than usual — while I was away. (I told you they were happy to see me.) I also took a day each week to maintain my marketing systems, including blogging, newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter, etc.
Q. WERE THERE ANY HICCUPS? SAFETY ISSUES? SCARY TIMES?
CYNTHIA: There were hiccups. Arriving to visit an old friend for a week, and knowing I had to leave “tomorrow,” was a big hiccup. I didn't want to leave.
The “check engine” light came on more times than I want to remember. And the car air conditioning stopped working in the middle of Sedona, Arizona. Oh, and for some reason, ants suddenly started crawling out of the vents for some reason.
In all cases, I took a deep breath, realized the car was running fine, and that I and my dog were OK and safe, and that “things were going to be alright.” This was my motto for the entire journey. And things were OK.
The air conditioning magically came back on after a while, and I got some spray to blow the ants out. I dealt with it and continued on to more excellent times.
It was daunting and scary at time though — to be out on the open road with a dog and a car and nothing else. Alone. Because I am afraid of heights, I find driving over bridges challenging, and terrifying. But I did it anyway … many many times.
It was a great adventure.
Q. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THAT OTHER ENTREPRENEURS TAKE A SIMILAR TRIP?
CYNTHIA: Yes. I would definitely do it again myself, and in fact, I'm looking for a excuse to plan another trip. It would be fun to do it with other entrepreneurs too! (Who is interested?)
Q. WHAT UNFORESEEN OPPORTUNITIES CAME ABOUT AS A RESULT OF YOUR TRIP?
CYNTHIA: I discovered that I love Air BNB. I enjoyed becoming involved in this “sharing community.” For example, I stayed in a converted garage one night. Another night, I stayed in a master bedroom suite that had been converted into someone's business studio. In each case, my hosts were wonderful!
I live on the edge of the most visited national park in the country, Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I am surrounded year round by teepees and makeshift camp sites. Inspired by positive travel experience, and what people are already doing, I decided to take the tent idea a little further and create a high end camping, or a “glamping” experience. I am passionate about recycling, composting, bio-degradable products, trash and litter. I live on a botanical sanctuary and I have a completely compostable toilet system.
The biggest surprise from all of this is that I have decided to use my experiences to demonstrate how effortlessly one can incorporate some of these practices into daily life, as I do. I set up a crowdfunding page to help me get this going sooner then later.