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In 1985 with hopes, dreams and good intentions in our hearts and pockets, my friend Juliet Hubbs and I started a small retail store in our hometown of Morgan Hill, California. Looking back on it now we laugh about our early beginnings. We had no money, no experience, and from a business perspective, we had everything against us. Even our building was in shambles when we first moved in.
What we did have was a vision, combined with enthusiasm and a lot of determination. Our store flyers included the quote “Faith is believing in something even when common sense tells you not to.” This was perfect for us because had we listened to our common sense, we would have never experienced the incredible journey that eventually unfolded. Against all odds, our store prospered. We learned a lot of things the hard way at times, but somehow things kept moving forward for us. In 1991, life again gave us a surprising change with the start of our wholesale company called AngelStar. With time, AngelStar became so busy that we did not have time to run both the retail and wholesale end of things and still keep our sanity. It was crazy to say the least. We sold the store and put our full energies into nurturing and developing AngelStar. We had learned a great deal from our retail store experiences. It helped us to understand and relate to what every retail store owner and employee experiences. (The good and the bad.) This beginning still serves us to this day.
The AngelStar adventure began by accident in 1991. During the Gulf War, Juliet had wanted to focus positive energy on a very negative situation. She added a small $2 Cupid Angel pin to a yellow ribbon she was wearing. Her intention was to have a daily reminder to focus on Angelic assistance for the troops and families during these difficult times. It was more important to focus on positives and Angelic assistance during the war than to dwell on the negativity that surrounded it.
One day, for some reason, Juliet took the small Angel pin off her sweater and set it on the counter of our little gift store as she went to lunch. When she returned, she looked for the pin and it was nowhere to be found. She learned that our employee had mistakenly sold it to a customer for $10.00. At the time, we carried 14K gold pins and the employee had confused this inexpensive $2.00 pin with the $10.00 14K pins and charged the customer the top price for it. After learning what had happened, we called the customer to tell her that the pin was not a $10.00 pin and she could return it for a refund, or purchase the correct pin. We offered to give her a yellow ribbon to put on any pin she wanted, but the customer refused. She did not want to part with the pin because it was so very special to her. The customer only wanted the one she had and did not care what she paid for it. She was adamant that she did NOT want any other replacement. We all felt bad about the overcharge so we sent her a full refund in the mail and let her keep the pin too.
After seriously thinking over what had happened with the pin, I thought that perhaps we should offer Yellow Ribbon Angel Pins for sale at our store. Then I thought a bit larger. If we liked the idea, maybe other stores would like them too. We were not wholesalers and we had no idea how to go about selling what we had in mind. We did know how we purchased products so we called one of our best sales reps to ask questions. It just so happened that the San Francisco Gift show was being held the following week. Well, something that NEVER happens did happen. After talking with us, our rep agreed to take the pins to this major Gift Show for us. The sales rep followed her intuition and made a choice that was against her better business judgment. She knew that we had no experience in how to do this, yet she had faith in our being able to figure it out. Amazingly, within the next 2 months she had sold over 30,000 yellow ribbon Angel pins all over the USA. Not totally knowing what we were doing never stopped us. Orders were shipped & customers were taken care of. We knew what we would expect from a vendor we were buying from, so we used that as our guidepost. So many amazing stories and experiences came to us from these little pins. It was a very hectic, but an exciting experience to say the least…
Thank goodness the war soon ended. With the ending of the war, we found that we now had over 10,000 Angel pins that now needed a home. We had no idea what to do next… Then the thought came to us to transform these into PEACE Angel Pins, and thus our wholesale business expanded into another new direction. We really had not made much money with the yellow ribbon pins, but they had paid for the Peace pins, which gave us a start. For the next year or so, we reinvested everything that we made into new products and ideas that came to us. With basically no money and a lot of hard work, we grew into a business that focuses on producing inspiring products for sale on a national (and now an international) level. We started by creating Angelically inspired lapel pins, bookmarks, stickers, journals, cards and gifts that were sold to retail stores and businesses across the country. In 3 short years, by the end of 1994 we had sold over 1 million Angel products. This was remarkable considering we had begun with nothing except a chain of events brought about by an employee making a MISTAKE.
Our entire families all pitched in and worked together to grow our business. From the younger kids to our grandmother in her 90’s, they all pitched in to put pins together, count coins or packaged some of our items.
In 1997, life gave us another surprising nudge when Juliet decided that she needed to follow her heart and pursue other dreams beyond AngelStar. With her departure, AngelStar went through a time of change and more testing of the waters. From this unexpected change came previously unseen opportunities for AngelStar. From the creation of the original “AngelStar Worry Stone” in 2001, which have now touched over 11 million people and growing, along with the creation of unique figurines and other inspiring gifts each year, we now have created over 2,500 different Angel designs.
We did not do this alone… Our customers, families & friends, employees and the Angels have all helped us along the way… Store owners believed in the line enough to try it in their shops and also told other stores about AngelStar’s products. Some have shared ideas or made suggestions that have inspired new products. Other gifts were inspired by requests from people sharing what they were looking for, but could not find. Our worry stones were inspired by an aunt who was very stressed and needed something positive to focus on rather than her illness & worries. We just never know when or how inspiration and ideas might come to us. The Angels have kept us busy. Sometimes, as in our early beginnings, it has been the so called “mistakes” that we eventually learn the most from. I am sure the Angels must laugh sometimes as we were often pushed, kicking and screaming into new adventures.
Since AngelStar’s humble beginnings we have made many changes along the way. Even as we continue to expand and change AngelStar has never forgotten a simple goal which is: “To touch people’s lives in positive ways though our products.” In our opinion, our success has continued because we are doing what we love with integrity and we have WONDERFUL customers who offer what we create in their stores and businesses.
Like many businesses, we have had some big learning curves along the way, but we never gave up. We are very grateful that things worked out so well in the long run. The young children are now all grown and have joined the company along with our other dedicated employees. Our work has always been much more than just a business to us. It reflects a personal commitment that most of us have in common. That of living a life with integrity, doing work we love and serving in a positive way. The creation of AngelStar gave us and those who work with us this opportunity.
We could go on and on with incredible stories about the impact the Angels have had along the way… The bottom line is we do what we love and trust it will work out in the larger picture. We are constantly in a state of change. It has been an incredible journey that continues to unfold daily. We learn something from every experience… Each step we have taken has led us to another step in the journey.
We started with only HOPES & DREAMS and have gained more than we could ever express. The bottom line of our story is that we feel that – “If we can do it… So can you!”
We hope that you follow your dreams!
Thank you for sharing our dream and the unfolding AngelStar adventure!