We watched the wedding invites pile up with a total of eight upcoming special days in one season! Born out of love for the happy couples, Compass Rose was the solution to finding the perfect gifts for those special events in our lives. We wanted to provide gifts that were from the heart, including a full line of personalized gifts, that made you think of someone the minute you saw them, even if that someone is YOU!
I shared the idea of an online retail store with Jordan (my now husband), he agreed to the need, and two weeks later we had inventory at our doorstep. We turned our guest bedroom into a 10' x 10' warehouse and launched a website. Everything from the logo to the website and inventory selection was created from scratch by me.
We opened our first brick-and-mortar store in Feb. 2017, with only four weeks to prep the space. It was a small 500 sq. ft. location on the south end of Bemidji, but it worked perfectly as our first shop. The small space taught us a lot about what shoppers were looking for and about our business. As 2017 moved forward, we were receiving positive feedback and knew we needed to grow.
An opportunity presented itself in downtown Bemidji. The location was great, the space had so much potential to house all of our biggest dreams so we decided to go for it! In March of 2018, we opened up our shop downtown. Our shop has always been more than a gift shop, we've created an experience for all shoppers that visit.
The TreeHouse opened upstairs at Compass Rose providing a creative space for the community to gather, and create. We hosted kids' birthday parties, private events, and creative classes.
Again, listening to what our community was asking for, we pivoted our business again at the beginning of 2019. We started to provide a community in which women can learn, grow, create, and support one another called, herNorth.
In the fall, we hired our first Chaos Coordinator (store manager)!
With our coordinator on board, we started planning for the year with systems, procedures, and processes in place. We were ready for 2020!
By March, it all crumbled away as we struggled to cope with the unknown future of COVID-19. The State of Minnesota updated protocols weekly for how businesses could and could not operate. Instead of getting discouraged, we got creative! We created crafting kits for kids when there was a need for at-home activities. We offered curbside pick-up and local home delivery.
Because of the mandates, we were forced to close the TreeHouse. During September 2020, we also made the difficult decision to stop herNorth, and focus on the best way to support our customers.
Thinking that COVID-19 was going to end at any moment, which we now know wasn't true, we adjusted the store to be in a new state of "normal". As government assistance began to roll out, we quickly realized that pivoting our business to be as profitable as possible during 2020 was actually a downfall. Because we honored our customers' needs with facemasks and other products, we did not qualify for many of the grants and loans provided to small businesses. Though this was frustrating we would rather be there for our customers during the hard times than shut our doors.
During the summer months, people were happy to be traveling again, and Bemidji was booming! I gave birth to our first baby in September. Running a business and being pregnant that year, was not for the faint of heart!
Retail customers were hesitant to buy because of inflation and the price of gas for travel. We noticed a shift in buying habits from 2021, and even pre-pandemic. Supply chain issues were still a challenge for receiving products on time for all industries. We saw this need with many resort owner friends and started offering a wholesale option to businesses. Through a process called sublimation, we were able to purchase blanks in bulk, then use my graphic design experience to customize designs and produce unique products for fellow small businesses. We put together a Summer 2022 catalog and partnered with a popular illustrator, Cindy Lindgren, and a sales rep to help us sell our products.
With more knowledge of COVID and customers being more comfortable with in-person events, we re-opened the TreeHouse. It was an exciting time to watch our friends celebrate their life events in person again!
In January our wholesale brand, Creative Compass, was born. We offer drinkware, stickers, and more to businesses, helping them promote themselves and increase retail sales. The products we design and produce are sold in over 70 retail shops from Oregon to New Hampshire, and Minnesota to Georgia. With the increase in business levels in our wholesale division, it became evident that we needed a fulfillment center to process orders. In the Spring of 2023, we made the difficult decision to close the TreeHouse and convert that space into what was needed to accommodate the growth of Creative Compass. This growth has also allowed us to hire a Wholesale Coordinator.
Travel has reached record numbers across the nation, and we have noticed an increase in foot traffic at our Bemidji location. We have also noticed that visitors are going to our website when they get home and they are making returning purchases from our online store.
Ever since I was a little kid, my Grandpa Hank had taught me how to navigate. That's where my fascination with compasses started. When I was about 14 years only he let me solely navigate our way down to Orlando, Florida. Back then, I thought he had all the trust in the world in my navigational skills, now...I know better.
Compass Rose String Art
When designing the logo and style, my mind wandered back to my roots of reading maps and how a compass has always been a staple in my life. Not too long ago, I created a string art sculpture on my wall (included 300+ nail holes). It would not fit straight up-and-down, so I tilted the compass rose to point true north. It was a conversation piece, everyone would say "that's not straight". I'd explain that it was true north and they'd want me to prove it with a compass.
When adding the compass element to the logo design I didn't want it to be straight, the true north pointing compass gives it more character and "direction". The name compass rose, felt very masculine and feminine at the same time. That's where the font choices and colors came from as well.