Be Inspired is a column where inspiring women are interviewed and showcased for their ability to go after what they want. The realities of their journey towards success is what is fascinating and inspiring.
Ornate décor. Homemade food. Kids painting birdhouses in the craft area. Ladies chatting away while their babies crawl under the tables. Does this sound like any old café? No. It is Smock Café, a creative arts café for kids and parents, and it is the first of its kind to pop up in this trendy neighborhood that is infused with strollers and artsy parents.
34 year old Sara Wood, owner of Smock Café, is a doer. All business owners are, but when you look at the detail and overall enormity of this project, you can’t help but feel inspired by her. The space boasts 1500 square feet of unique, authentic design style, an area where your kids can sit with a staff member and do crafts and oh, there’s a children’s art school in the basement too.
Wood, once an actress with a long history of artistic flare, is not a first time business owner. After leaving her catering business and having her baby girl, she dreamed of opening a place that served all homemade food and where children and parents had a place to be creative. She wanted a space that was part café, part art school, part drop-in play for kids. Her extraordinary vision came to fruition this past spring when the café opened to eager folks gagging to get a peak at what was inside this beautiful two-story building. Although, the space wasn’t always so grand.
“I saw it on MLS and it didn’t look like much but I went in and put a bid on it,” Wood says, as she smiles at a baby behind me. We are distracted by the cooing for a moment, before carrying on with how she got here.
Here, is sitting at an artisan wood table surrounded by whimsical creations hanging on the wall; women rushing around behind the counter serving up quinoa salads; the sounds of children laughing, and the sweet satisfaction that, after all the effort, she did get here. It was not, however, without a whole lot of sweat and tears.
After losing the first bid, Sara waited and stuck to her guns. When the space was still up for lease a few months later, she went back and made the same offer. After almost a year of working on her business plan and securing a loan with the bank, her offer was accepted, and she signed on the dotted line. It was all on.
But as doers inevitably find out, there are always blockades in the way. Sara’s first speed bump came in the form of a contractor. “He was totally chauvinistic, he could not deal with taking direction from a woman. He was over charging and under delivering.”
So, with her very strong vision and determination, she sent him packing and grabbed the nearest tool belt. Wood, who was joined by her father-in-law, entered what would be a two-month, round the clock, seven days a week project. They laid tiles, hammered nails, built a bar. Her hands literally built this place.
The incredible result is a rustic modern interior with an almost meditative airiness. At least the space was meditative. Wood was a nervous wreck.
“I lost ten pounds, I didn’t eat. I did sleep only because I was exhausted from all the work. I went through two or three weeks where we were leading up to opening, and I was in a constant state of anxiety,” she says.
So then what gives someone the energy and enough gumption just to keep going?
When we talk about fears, Sara expresses that there were very real moments when she thought, “What have I done? What if I fail? What if I ruin us financially and we go bankrupt and lose our house? What if people don’t like it?” She pauses, as if she’s taking a moment to relive these palpable emotions. “But it’s almost like you don’t have a concrete thing to pin any of the fear on. You’re just in this state of anxiety, putting one foot in front of the other getting further and further in. By putting one foot in front of the other, you have nowhere else to go but forward.”
Forward is where she went, coming out on the other side of the fear, and within a few days of opening, she recalls being shocked at this. “I couldn’t believe I had done it. I have an amazing staff; the place is full; the craft table is packed.”
As it turns out, those anxious pounds lost, and hours designing and building were all worth it in the end. As I sit with Sara, I can’t help but feel her infectious appetite for doing. Her perspective is contagious. A self-described restless spirit, it’s almost as if being in the trenches, the unknown, working towards a massive idea that previously resided only in her head, excites her. It wouldn’t be normal for someone in this position not to have fear about the possibility of failure. But for her, it seems to be what fueled her.
Even now, Sara expresses very calmly that, in fact, things could go terribly wrong over the next few years. “It could fail; something else better opens up; and maybe the babies all grow up, I don’t know,” she says in a realistic tone but with underlined confidence.
“I feel like I’ve gone through an experience of having a dream come true. And not everyone gets that. I get to come here every day and see it and touch it. I’m actually here. There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”
So, in Sara Wood’s case, by putting one foot in front of the other, and seeing no choice in that, she has created something remarkable. By virtue of having the vag (as opposed to having the ‘balls’ as we say here at TPF) to put herself and her ideas out there, she has garnered the biggest possible return. For that, we are inspired.