Sarah Keast, Co-founder “Crying Out Loud” spoke with Onside Media, about their business and how the pandemic impacted their business.
Crying Out Loud is a wellness boutique with a focus on mental health. They aim to promote mental wellbeing through a thoughtful collection of self and community care products and curated care packages for life’s more challenging moments. They opened in October 2019, and their business idea started in a Facebook messenger group chat!
I am intrigued to know your background story.
My business partners are 3 of my best friends, all of whom I met after our husbands/partners died. We became friends first and have supported each other through the years as we learned to navigate life without our late partners. Our grief journeys have resulted in tremendous personal growth for all 4 of us, which led to this business idea.
As one of the co-founders, I take care of most of the buying and the financial side of things. In the ‘before time’, I was in the store most days and loved connecting with customers. Now that we are in lockdown and doing curbside pick-up, I am in the store whenever possible. Still, as a single mom without childcare (my kids’ school and daycare have been closed since December 2020), I cannot work in the store consistently. I miss it!
Tell me about your customers?
Our customer range is broad, but our target customers are mostly women, aged 30-45, with children and some discretionary income to spend. This target customer is so busy taking care of her family, aging parents, friends, and work that she is overworked, stressed, and exhausted. We also have customers who would like to send some love and care to someone struggling but does not know what to do or say. In such situations, our care packages provide the perfect options for gifting. (We offer care packages for things like grief, stress/burnout, pregnancy loss/infertility, etc.) We continue to grow in our corporate gifting program, which was a huge success in December 2020.
How helpful has your community been in these challenging times of pandemic?
The community support has been tremendous! The groundswell movement of supporting locals has been fantastic. Initiatives such as Nishe and Not Amazon have been excellent vehicles for new customers finding us. Also, organic word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals have been so lucrative for us. Our business gets a booster dose when our loyal customers tag us, tell their friends, or recommend us in social media posts.
This transformation of the larger community wanting to support their local main streets is one of the unintended yet fantastic side effects of this pandemic. I love being a business owner in the community I live in, especially now that the community is rallying behind us.
With the pandemic, how has your business changed?
The business has changed dramatically for us. At the onset of the pandemic, we were doing probably 5-10% of our overall sales via our online channels. When lockdown hit in March 2020, we had to learn and learn fast how to be an e-commerce business only. Since then, we have had to cope with many different iterations of our business. We had a strong Christmas season, but we are now in a quiet time for retail. Typically, we would make most sales from walk-in customers doing spontaneous shopping. This lockdown winter ahead will be hard.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing as an entrepreneur?
So many! My current challenge is to run our business from home while my kids are home and in virtual school. I am a single mom, and my kids are 9 and 6, so it is challenging to do everything. But the more considerable challenge I face, pandemic or not, is finding the balance between ‘work’ and ‘personal’ time. I could work all the time, but I am learning to draw strict limits to be present for my children and devote time to my self-care and rest.
What is your everyday routine like now (in terms of work)?
My everyday routine right now is anything but routine! Pandemic parenting is exhausting. With the kids at home, a lot of my time is spent ‘momming’, making meals, breaking up fights, solving tech issues for virtual school, and tending to their mental health.
After I drag everyone out of bed in the morning and get them on virtual school, I work on my laptop doing product purchasing, website updates, communication with vendors and customer service problem solving. After lunch, I usually take the family outside for a sanity walk and then back to work for a few hours before dinner.
After the kids are in bed, I usually spend a few more hours on the laptop, answering emails, searching for new trends/brands online, etc. If the kids were in school, I would work in the shop during the day, but I cannot at this point without childcare. What I am craving right now is some quiet, uninterrupted work time. There is a lot of strategic planning that should be finished. Still, that type of thinking and work is next to impossible right now with two young kids around me who continuously need a snack!
For more information kindly visit:
Location: 2005 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C 1J7
Instagram – cryingoutloudto
Author: Ravleen Bali for The Onside Media, Canada. If you have any stories or comments, kindly email: –[email protected]