Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Co-operatively dreaming...

Hi Everyone!

My goodness, how is this sunshine???  It has been almost a month since the last time I posted and lots has happened in our life...  I have really had to reevaluate what my dream is and the best way to make it happen.  Sky Valley Natural Market needs to become a reality in Monroe - it is way past time!  There are TOO MANY of us out here who want and need this alternative.  As I have stated before, the dream for me is more that just a market, it is also a place for community, for gathering, for sharing and learning information to make our world a better place.  We need a space for our deep vein of progressive-minded people to be...

Up until this point I have really felt that I want to pursue this on my own, as my own private business.  I am now realizing that this is not the best way to make this happen.  Many of you have approached me asking if this was a "co-op" idea and I said no, I'm going at it as a sole-proprietor.  Now I am beginning to realize that the true spirit of this adventure is co-operative!  The creation of this market should be FOR our community, BY our community...  Yes, I absolutely want to remain in the thick of it, using the skills I have to press on and make it happen, but we all need to take a bit of the dream and lift it up into reality.  What do you think?

So, I know that some of you have been involved in the discussion about getting a natural food store here, what did you find out?  Where did your work lead you?  I am thinking I need to get in touch with Sno-Isle in Everett and see how we can work with them.  There has got to be grants out there for this kind of "green community building" project, and I happen to have a grant writer in my family (yes you, Jaime).  Please if you are reading this and you know ANYTHING about forming a coop, get in touch with me.  There are so many people reading this blog that I just KNOW collectively we have the skills to see this through!

So that is the latest from my head.  Sky Valley Food Co-op?  Monroe Food Co-op?  Sno-Isle East?


So let's do it!

Looking forward to hearing from you all :)


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reality Check

Hello friends and supporters...  It is with a slightly sad heart that I write this post...  I am going to need to postpone the opening date of Sky Valley Market until sometime in 2010.  Gosh, that seems like forever from now...  The reality of the situation is that my enthusiasm, my vision, my goals - these are not enough.  I also need some money.  Not only that, my family needs to be in better financial standing to take the risk of starting this venture.

I am 100% convinced this business will be a success and I can't WAIT to bring it to our community.  This is something I am WHOLEHEARTEDLY committed to doing.  I believe that giving it more time will increase that success...  For those of you who have been waiting FOREVER for a natural food store to come to Monroe, I am one of you, and I am sorry if this news is disappointing.  Please don't give up on me and my passion!!!

So there are plans in the works and goals set to carry on the progress and work I have done toward the creation of the market...  I am still meeting with the the Small Business Development Center, two weeks from today,  to learn about opportunities for finding funding.  I am planning on doing some really fun fundraising events over the next year to grow the "market nest egg" (anyone know the rules about fundraising?).  I will continue to post to this blog, and ask for feedback.

This is my dream.  This will happen.
Thanks for listening :)


Friday, April 17, 2009

Saving Money

Is this on everyone's mind?  I had a wonderful friend come through town last weekend - she is one of my "thrifty idols."  She is just amazing, so frugal, a thrify store goddess...  We had lots of conversations about how to save money.  One thing she spoke about was how much they save by shopping at Costco.  Costco has begun to zero in on the demand from the people and is stocking lots of organic and natural foods.  Great right?  So why can't I shake off my resistance and join the crowd?

Does Costco Corporate care about the communities they serve?  Maybe they do.  Does Costco support other local businesses?  Maybe they do.  Does Costco care about their affect on the earth and take that into consideration when shipping/buying their goods?  Maybe they do.  Does Costco put the people they serve and employ ahead of the almighty dollar?  Maybe they do.  But I am thinking they probably don't do these things...

When do you get to the point that the money saving is more important that the community, the people, the earth?  Believe me, we do not have a lot of money.  And I REALLY need to figure out how to spend it better.  But I just don't know if Costco is the answer.  Plus, I have faith that the people in our community will walk into the doors of my market and spend their money because they believe in me and our community.  How can I shop at Costco and still expect people to shop at Sky Valley Natural Market?

So my plan is this - I will do everything in  my power to make SVNM affordable.  I will work with my customers (YOU) in finding ways to give the best deals possible.  I do have to pay bills and a few employees to stay open, so keep that in mind, but I am open, really open, to ideas on how to keep prices down and how to keep my people coming in the door.

I am working on making an appointment with the Small Business Development Center in Edmonds.  We continue to move forward!

Thanks for reading my ramble :)
Smiles ~ Casey

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It feels like it may be spring...

Hi everyone!

Doesn't it feel good today???  I realize my thermometer only reads 53 outside, but we did wake up to clear skies and a beautiful sunrise...  maybe spring is ready to make an appearance?  I sure hope so - tomorrow IS the beginning of "spring break" and all...

So what is going on with the market?  I have been getting this question a lot lately.  I did finish my business class and now have a business plan.  What I plan on doing in the next month or so is to go to the Small Business Development Center to try and work with them in securing a loan.  We all know how crazy the economy is right now, so getting a loan is going to take some time.  And obviously, having money is crucial to starting the business.

While we are on the economy, I want to be clear to you all, I am going to open the doors to this business at a time when I think it will succeed.  I mean, I'm not doing anyone any favors if I open too soon and have to go out of business because my timing is off.  I would love to open in mid to late September.  This is a change from the early August projection...  September would work better for me because that gives me a chance to get my kids settled into their school routine before the craziness of juggling my family needs with the market.

I have also sent a note to the owners of the old Papa Mia's building on Main Street to find out some more information about the space and costs.  This was very exciting because when I peeked in the window there, I saw how  I visualize the market to be!  Space for people to gather, kids to play, space for the market goods.  There is also a commercial kitchen there so I have asked a good friend if she would be into doing some prepared food (salads, sandwiches). This is all so so exciting...  Hopefully the people who own the building will understand the goodness I am trying to bring to our community and support me with a reasonable lease!

Please continue to keep up with the blog, and pass the blog address around!  We are also on Facebook @ The Friends of Sky Valley Natural Market.  I noticed as well, for those of you interested in making comments to my post, you can comment as "anonymous" and it's real easy - please, your comments are ENCOURAGED and WELCOME!

Happy sunny day to you all!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The 2009 Natural Product Expo was AMAZING!

Hello Friends!

Oh my goodness...  I am writing fresh from the greatest experience thus far in the Sky Valley Natural Market journey!  I spent all day Saturday in Anaheim, Ca at the 2009 Natural Product Expo West.  Thanks to my sweet friend Jazz (www.wet-noses.com ~ check it out if you have a dog) I was able to attend the trade show at no cost to me.  I flew down Friday evening and walked the show with my dear friend Susie and her posse of amazing women (www.bigbearhealthfood.com - my mentor in creating "market magic" :) ).  I learned so much and had a GREAT TIME!'

So the really good news is that there are so many small companies out there with such amazing products, really trying to make a difference in the world.  What was really exciting was that this industry is really big - I mean, the show itself took over the entire Anaheim Convention Center which is no small feat!  I had so many tasty samples and spoke with so many wonderful people, it was really inspirational...  Allergy free foods were very well represented, as well as product made especially for kids.  There is really a wealth of companies out there who are not represented in the larger chain stores here in town - yipee!

One of the insights I had while at the show was that there are some really great products coming out of California, as well as other places across the country.  When I think about keeping things local, I also want to balance that with supporting small companies with yummy food to share.  As I think about my inventory, my goal is to keep produce from Snohomish county, meat from Washington state, bulk/baking goods from the PNW and prepackaged goods from the west coast as much as possible, but stay open to small, American companies that need our support...  Does this sound good to you all?  Its all a learning process for me, but I am LOVING the ride!!!

Another thing that I have been playing around with lately is having a place in the market where I highlight one of the companies whose products I carry.  I want to share with YOU the reasons I do what I do...  Also, in that same area, highlighting a local farm as well.  This is really exciting to me, as part of my vision for the market is to create a place for networking and education.

Okay, time to pick up my boy from school,
Until next post,


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What do I know?

Hi Everyone!

I have begun a list of inventory I plan on purchasing to fill our store...  It is a daunting task...  It assumes that I know what you all want.  I feel as though I have a good idea - you have been great about sending in postcards and filling out the surveys on the blog...  However, it still remains a bit of a guessing game.

For example, many of you have shared that you would like grass-fed, organic beef - there are a million cuts of beef for me to choose from!  Seriously - not a million but MANY!  And what about flour?  Again, there is so much to choose from!  Its all good, I don't mind guessing :)  I just know you will all be patient with me as I navigate my way into this business.  Remember that you all dictate what is offered at the market...  It won't take long before what I offer matches what you need.  Continue the feedback and we will make it work :)

We are blessed with sunshine this afternoon, so I am going out to play...  Thank you all for your continued support!

All love ~ Casey

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Hey everyone, sorry it has been so long...  As I write my two children are creating havoc around me...  ahhhh, kids...  They make life so much more interesting!  

Speaking of kids, I received some surprising information about my son recently.  He is an energetic three year old who always seems to be wiping his nose on his sleeve - seriously, the snot never seems to go away.  Recently he has also been suffering from some rashes.  WE went to our naturopath and did a blood test to look for food allergies.  Guess what the results were? He has an intolerance to fish, FRUIT, and the combination of dairy and grains.  

Yes, you read that right, FRUIT.  All fruit.  Well, all fruit with the exception of melons.  So just in case anyone was wondering about my commitment to seeing this market project through, that commitment level just went through the roof.  I mean, it is nearly impossible to find foods with no fruit in it - citric acid?  Fruit. Ascorbic acid?  Fruit.  Olive oil?  Olives are fruit. Fructose and date sugar?  Fruit.  Can I have all the Moms out there with kids who have food allergies give me a woo-woo?  I have joined the club...

So what does this mean for the market?  Well, it might mean that I am going to have to find a source for melons in January...  Ultimately what it means is that I will be even more diligent with my product purchasing.  Obviously, some of the products wont be purchased with my families needs in mind, but those of you suffering from food intolerances and allergies should know that your needs will be met.

That being said, if anyone would like to share some brands you have found that meet the needs of the food allergy group, please let me know.  This market is for us all, the more I know about what you want, the better a place it will be.

Until next time,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Darn Groundhog!

Why is it that our calendars have a whole day labeled "Groundhog Day"???  I mean, seriously, Groundhog Day?  Yet, we all want to know - did he see his shadow???  Last week, here in the Northwest, we had some of those classic early February days - warm, sunny, oh-my-gosh-spring- is-right-around-the-corner type days...  We are so funny up here!  So quick to forget that it is FEBRUARY!!!!!  I fall into the trap too - the darn groundhog saw his shadow which, I think, means 6 more weeks of winter - and yet, we are convinced that warm days are on their way...  Hahahaha, we woke up to snow at my house this morning!!!  Ooh, and they just said more snow on the way this afternoon...  How does the groundhog know???

Alright, enough of that...  I am working on the marketing portion of my business plan.  Words like industry, competitive analysis, and market penetration are now in my vocabulary.  I am so thankful to have this class as a guide to figuring all of this stuff out.  The assignment that I worked on last week was an interview with an entrepreneur.  I chose my friend down in California who runs a small natural market, similar to what I want to create, check it out at www.bigbearhealthfood.com.  It was such an insightful conversation.  Her biggest challenge has been with keeping her books up to date.  With that in mind, I am hoping someone out there has a good referral to an accountant.  I am looking for someone who can appreciate the vision of the market, and also have experience with bookkeeping for small businesses.  Please, please, please help me out with this!

Another insight I had during my interview is how crucial it s to keep up my communication with the people who will be keeping the market alive - YOU!  My goal is that when my regulars walk into the market, they find exactly what they are looking for.  My goal is not to be Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, my goal is to be Sky Valley Natural Market.  What does this mean?  I want to embrace my people, and honor that you all know what you want.  I want to have a relationship with all of you so that you know you will find what you need at the market...  And if I don't have what you want, I am happy to order it for you.  I think that sounds pretty good, what do you think?

Until next time,
Smile a lot,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fear Not

"If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear, if it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness and creativity."  - From Eckhart Tolle's,  A New Earth

I love this quote!!!  These words run so true to me.  Right now our economy is purging itself of unhealthy practices.   Unfortunately for some of us, we are being effected by it.  I refuse to be afraid.  Instead I live on, with excitement at the prospect of a system that will lift us all and provide opportunity to live a better life.

When sharing my plans for the market, I have said to some, "you know, with this economy, it's a great time to open a new business!"  I usually laugh after I say this.  But really, it is a great time for a new business, especially this business.  I see the market at a small scale example of the kind of business that our new economy needs to thrive.  We will be bringing a high quality product from local vendors to the community.  Could you imagine how healthy our country would be if everyone was involved in providing goods and services to their own community?  Not only that, but if we allowed other countries to do the same???  Check out www.postcarbon.org for some great info on this...

My business class is really clarifying how I can be a success and validating my belief that the market is a business that can succeed.  My strength lies in networking and enthusiasm...  I am thinking I will put together an advisory board to keep me in check and to share knowledge on how to keep the market heading in the direction of my vision.  I am also heading to the Natural Product Expo West in Anaheim, Ca to further explore what is out there for us. Please, please give me feedback.  I am depending on my communication with all of you to make this market a place that you want to shop!

And for those of you who are allowing the state of the economy give you fear, FEAR NOT, our best days are still ahead!

In Peace - Casey

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New World

Hello friends...  As I write this morning I am humbled by the words I just listened to coming from our new president.  I am so proud to be a part of the movement, the cause, the power of the people!  It's amazing that in this time of conflict and financial insecurity, I can still feel so glad, so lucky to be alive...

I am really enjoying my business class, learning so much about how to make the market a success. Right now we are focusing on market and customer research.  Researching is not my favorite thing to do, but what I am learning is that the more I do the better the market will do. As I have said before, my goal is to set up the market in a way that your needs are met.  I don't see this market as a huge store, but rather a place that is thoughtfully stocked with what you want, with a focus on local farmers and distributors.   Please check back frequently to participate in the surveys I will be posting on the blog to gather more information.

I may have found a location for the market, which is very exciting!  It is a home that is owned by a local family.  They are gutting and remodeling the whole inside and are willing to listen to my ideas on the end design.  Things are moving along...  I am so proud to be working toward bringing this to my community, my friends!

Until next time - Casey

Monday, January 12, 2009

Business Concept...

Hey All :)

So I had to write a "Business Concept Statement" for my online small business class and I wanted to share what I wrote...  I wrote it all in the present tense because it feels to real and possible that way - let me know what you think!

Business Concept Statement

Sky Valley Natural Market is located in Monroe, Washington.  WE are a healthy, all natural alternative for members of the community who want to support local farmers and the local economy.  The market also provides teaching and learning opportunities for those inetested in a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, and is seen as a place for progressive action and conversation.
The Sky Valley Market is not a corporation; it is a locally owned business.  Products sold at the market are of high quality, organic and all natural, provided by local farms and companies.  Our customers are families and single people coming from the local communities, who want healthy, organic food choices.  Supporting local businesses is also important to our customers.  Some of our customers suffer from food allergies and want a place to find products that fir their dietary needs.
Sky Valley Natural Market offers competitive prices and is conveniently located in downtown Monroe.  Customers are confident in the safety of our products and see the quality of our food as being superior to that of the big chain grocery stores.  People enjoy the family friendly environment of the market and find it an easy place to spend time.
The grand opening of the Sky Valley Natural Market is Saturday, August 1, 2009.  Customers and supporters of the market have been keeping track of the progress by following the blog, www.skyvalleynaturalmarket.blogspot.com.  Here the owner of the business reports on what is happening and asks the community for feedback so as to provide the best possible service to her customers.  Promotion is also happening at other local businesses in town, where patrons tend to make alternative choices for health.  Finally, ads are taken out in local newspapers, the Monroe Monitor and the Snohomish County Herald.

There it is...  What do you think?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Well, it is flooding up here in the Pacific Northwest...  We were dumped on with snow last month and now the rain is relentlessly melting the snow into our swollen rivers.  Mother Nature sure knows how to let us all know that she is in charge!  

After dropping the kids off at school I was listening to the radio announcer talk about how a section of I5 would  be closed for the next few days due flooding.  10,000 semi trucks travel that section of I5 each day.  EACH DAY!!!  10,000 semis!!!  My mind when to the market.  If I can fill the market with local goods, we would be immune to these sorts of things.  We wouldn't be waiting around for the truck from California or New Hampshire.

On the flip side of this, we would be totally connected with our local farms, who, I'm sure are emmersed in water right now.  I see the market bringing the community together to do whatever needed to be done to help those local farms and businesses in a time like this.  There is an awareness piece to all of this that can't be ignored.  We would no longer be separate.  Residents, businesses, farmers - we would all be connected by the desire to help each other for the good of us all.  This is really exciting to me!

So instead of cursing the big chain grocery store because the semis can't make it to bring what we want, we see the empty shelf as a someone in our valley, our community that needs help and we find out what we can do.  The shift in consciousness is incredible to me!

So if you are reading this and you live in the Skykomish Valley, I challenge you to find out what YOU can do for the people who are being displaced by the flood.  You can call the Snohomish County Red Cross (425.252.4103)to find out if they still need volunteers to sandbag, although most of the rivers are cresting right now, I think.  Or, here in Monroe, the Red Cross has set up a shelter at the Rock Church.  Their number is 360.805.0699.  You can even call your local town hall and see if they know if there is anything you can do to help.

We are all in this together and we CAN make a difference  :)

In Peace - Casey

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The response so far...

What a gift this whole experience is!  I mean really, the market isn't even open yet and the love and support I am getting is unbelievable...  I am humbled by how many of you are reading this blog.  Feel free to become "followers"!

Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to answer the survey - I am trying really hard not to become obsessed with watching to see how many votes have been cast :).

So just so you all know, my goal for opening the doors of the Sky Valley Natural Market is August 1, 2009.  Hold this in your own minds and it is sure to happen!!!

Peace - Casey

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hey there!

As many of you know I have left stacks of postcards around the valley to gather information about what people want to see in a natural market. The survey is pretty identical to the one on this blog. The response I am getting is amazing! Thank you to all of you that are reading my words because you sent a card back! My heart is bursting with the knowledge that even though our economic times are bleak a market like this would thrive in our community.

I want to take this chance to let you all know what me intentions are with this business and give you a little bit more background on me.

As I have mentioned before, community is so important to me. The people ("my people" as I like to refer to them) that I surround myself with are people who validate me and give me energy. In response, I try and actively send energy back to them through love and support for the choices they make in their lives. It is a beautiful thing to meet a new person and to feel that underlying sensation of having already known them... So often this happens in my life and I believe it is because I expect it and accept it happening.

As I imagine this market taking shape, I imagine myself looking toward the door as people walk in, people I have never met before, but at a gut level, know that I have known. This is so completely exciting to me! To think that I can and will create a space for our community to come together in encouragement and gratitude is humbling.

Lately I have found myself in conversations about the downtown businesses here in Monroe and the term "bedroom community" has come up. This term means that people live here but shop and work somewhere else. Thinking of "where I live" is the same as thinking of "what I do." "Where" and "what" in these phrases can be interchanged with the word "how". How I live... I live in a way that is gentle and supportive of the earth and all the people on it, more specifically, my community. How I do (whatever I do)... I try and do things thoughtfully, mindfully. It isn't the "what " and "where" that defines us, it's the "how", right? So to me the "bedroom community" label is just sad and something I would like to actively change...

So what is it going to take? What is it going to take to help a mom on a budget to change her thinking and convince her that it is better to stay in town to get her needs met than it is to make runs to Costco and Walmart? What is it going to take to get people who buy "new" clothes to make monthly rounds to the thrift stores on Main Street and find some deals? How can we convince the parent who buys tons of toys for her kids at the dollar store (they break in a minute but hey, they're cheap, right?) to step in to my friend Stashka's store, The Sassy Sprout, and buy one beautiful toy made from natural materials by a small, local company for more money? What kind of campaign do we need to launch to change the thinking of our "bedroom community?"

I have no answers to these questions, but I am more than willing to be a part of a campaign to not only find the answers, but to also help people live them. Who is with me?

Whoa. I am a bit on the rampage tonight. You all see how this relates to the market though, right? This will be so much more than a market, Sky Valley Natural Market will be my vehicle, OUR vehicle for changing our community.

I think I will stop while I am still making sense. Looking forward to getting some responses on this soon...

In Peace, Casey