We recently connected with Tara Tarrant and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Tara thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Are you happier as a business owner? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job?
I had a 9 to 5 while I was engraving for friends and family as a hobby. I had no idea I’d still be doing this work 20 years later. It took many years for this to become a full time career. I initially starting making products for friends and then their friends would order for their friends and so on. It just kept building until today it keeps a consistent base of steady work while continuing to keep building the customer base.
I would definitely say I love being a business owner over working a 9 to 5 but there are plusses and minuses for sure. Ultimately, I feel like when you are doing something you love or get gratification from, it doesn’t feel like work. Some days are physically taxing when we are engraving hundreds of names and there is a lot of prep work and some days are actually pretty relaxing during the design process.
When I worked the 9 to 5 job, there really wasn’t any creativity involved at all. I realized that I need to be expressing creativity and craftsmanship in order to be fulfilled.
Tara, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I learned how to engrave/sandblast from a friends mom right out of high school. I worked a part time summer job and learned how to make smaller stones with sentiments on them. Later on, I got a sandblaster and started making engraved rocks for friends and family. Over the years, the demand grew so I decided to name the company La Jolla Stone Etching as I was living in La Jolla at the time. Over the years, I moved around a little bit, but kept the name as it was established after so many years. The shop is currently located in Chula Vista.
I mostly create address markers, memorial stones, new home/real estate closing gifts, wedding stones and veteran, school and church donor stones, plaques, bricks and tiles. We also make logo signage, HOA and community entrance signs.
We have the ability to travel on site to engrave boulder for addresses or larger stones, walls, or bricks that are already installed. Many churches, schools and foundations have benefited from fundraising by selling engraved bricks and tiles for their organizations.
I’m very proud of the fact that no matter what, I just kept going. I saw how the demand grew and watched how the business has sustained over all these years. It took many years for it to become sustainable. I always remember the quote from the movie Field of dreams, “if you build it, they will come”. It blows my mind the amount of work that I have gathered over the years and the amazing projects that I have been so fortunate to be a part of.
Can you talk to us about how your funded your business?
I think one thing that I’ve learned is that starting a small business does take some investment. I would definitely recommend starting small and allowing the business to grow. See where it goes, see if you are fulfilled and enjoy it before putting to much money or debt into it. I never received any type of loan to start the business. I had some initial costs with equipment and then made some money, and went from there. I personally think that it’s important to be fulfilled and like what you do. Fortunately, I found that I really enjoyed this type of work and benefitted from the initial costs to get going.
Some days can be frustrating and over the years I have felt a burned out at times but overall, I love this work. I love seeing the reactions from my amazing customers. It’s gratifying and I’m so thankful; that I can call this my job. I have a wonderful customer base, some who have been customers since the beginning and it’s growing every single day.
Some startups require more initial costs than others. I would just say that you don’t need to have it all figured out from the beginning and you don’t need every bell and whistle to make money. Make some money and then put it back in the company and grow it in segments. Ultimately, love what you do and it really doesn’t seem like work. Just keep going and have fun!
What’s been the best source of new clients for you?
It takes a little time but word of mouth, referrals have been a huge source of my business. I make sure I have happy customers and they will keep coming back and send you referrals. I love social media as well as it is free! It also has the ability to reach many with unlimited potential. I remember before social media, doing some marketing in the beginning where I would visit real estate offices to get closing gift orders but it’s so time consuming and expensive and you really can’t reach many people in a day. Then when social media became a thing, I started utilizing that a bit more to gain exposure.
- Website: www.lajollastoneetching.com
- Instagram: @lajollastoneetching
- Linkedin: Tara Tarrant