Joining the family business, opening a dream art gallery, the chance to own a retail shop close to home.. There’s always a lot of talk about HOW to run a small business with the WHY getting lost in the details. In an ongoing Bank of Hope series, we’re taking a closer look at why “Do what you love, love what you do” is true for these small business owners.
"I love the fact that every day is different.”
SAM GAULT - President, Gault Family Companies
In Westport, Connecticut, a Gault Energy truck traveling around town is a familiar sight. No surprise. For over 150 years, Gault has been the oldest family-owned and operated energy company in Fairfield County. When Sam Gault came onboard 35 years ago, with a fresh degree in Business Administration, he saw it as a good opportunity to see if he liked the industries that the company was involved in. “I can honestly say that I did not know what to expect the first day on the job.” Now, as President and 5th generation to lead the company, Sam’s primary job is to develop and communicate the overall business strategy and direction. That includes fostering a culture of “You First” - a company philosophy since 1863 - “where team members are highly engaged in caring for each other and our customers at a very high level of competence.”
Joining the family business was a natural fit for Sam Gault.
When it comes to daily challenges, he notes “What has surprised me the most is the unpredictability of the business.” There seems to always be some outside variable, like extreme weather or a world event, that has a dramatic impact. And, he adds, with around 200 team members [five he’s related to], and a people-oriented business, there are always internal issues to deal with. “I do my best to lead by example and also gain input and insight from my team in order to make the best decisions possible.”
As with many family businesses, time brings changes. In 2016, the company rebranded itself as Gault Family Companies, bringing its three core competencies – Energy & Home Solutions, Stone & Landscape Supplies, and Properties & Development – under a single corporate umbrella for the very first time. Sam will continue to look at opportunities that will help create long-term growth for the family. “I have prided myself on creating the time to work on the business instead of in the business.” Will his daughter and son follow in the family footsteps one day? “It would be fantastic for either of them to join, however there will never be any pressure.” As the 6th generation continues to develop the business, he adds, “It has been a very fulfilling, challenging, and interesting ride to where we are today.”
“I have a true love and passion for art, all forms,and how it brings people together.”
Marsha Carrington - Owner, Carrington Arts
After living in Los Angeles for 30 years, Marsha Carrington and her husband moved back to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. “I have been making things my whole life, ever since I can remember. Being an artist was never something I wanted to grow up to be. It just is who I am, and the path I have always followed.” When the space in front of her studio became available, in a section of town undergoing a rebirth, she decided to open an art gallery. Carrington Arts debuted in 2015 and lives up to its tagline: “a place for art • a place for artists • a place to experience unique creative vision.”
For Marsha Carrington, on the left, her gallery is an outlet to not only express herself, but to give other artists a space in which to share their work.
She loves how art makes people think and feel something, and inspires. “The gallery is an outlet for me not only to express myself, but to give other artists a space in which to share their work with others.” She’s impressed by how much talent and creativity is out there, and right in her own community. “My gallery is a labor of love for sure.” Each show is like a surprise gift where one gets to experience each artists’ interpretation of the given theme. She puts on about 5 shows each year, both solo and group, and has exhibited the work of over 110 artists, from high school students to well-shown artists, both locals and others coast to coast.
While an art gallery can be a challenge financially, she’s developed a following and finds being a part of what is bringing back her community very rewarding. Having worked her entire adult life working in one capacity or another in the creative field, Marsha’s grown accustomed to figuring out the ups and downs along the way and taking chances. “I think it is just natural for me to work for myself and I cannot see myself at a 9-5 desk job. So I am doing what I love.”
“It’s not a job. It’s my life.”
Donald Borho - Owner, Wondrous Things
A love of connecting people with nice things is part of what drove Donald Borho, at just age 25, to buy Wondrous Things located in Croton, New York, back in 1989. As owner of this family-owned gift shop, he says, “I didn't choose this line of work; it chose me. I realized that I was good at it and enjoyed it.” After briefly attending college, he gained retail experience at John Charles Ltd. In Tarrytown as a holiday salesperson.
In Donald Borho’s gift shop, Wondrous Things, customers can find many hidden treasures.
“What I love most about what I do is the people I have come to know and helped select things for themselves or others. It may seem frivolous, but gifting is very important in our society.” Birthdays, holidays, weddings, births, and deaths are all times that people want to express themselves as, “A gift is a token — a remembrance is the expression.” He once had three stores and 18 employees, with staff members considered a part of the team and encouraged to learn as much as they could. With the economic downturn of 2009, he sold off two stores and now focuses, with his sister Jane, on the main one in downtown Briarcliff in Westchester County, where they grew up.
Donald describes his store as a world of unique gems and hidden treasures. Every nook and cranny is filled to the brim with specialty clothes, handbags, toys, and quirky gifts. With products that are handpicked by him and his sister, shopping at Wondrous Things isn’t a “task” -- it’s an exploration. One designed to keep customers coming back to the boutique to search for the perfect gift and more.
He’s surprised at how much retail has changed since he opened his doors and acknowledges that he still hasn’t finished what he set out to do. “I'll let you know when I get there.” But for now, even with all the current challenges in the marketplace, he remains optimistic. And he’s not going anywhere. “I will be doing this forever.”
Meg Schutte is a Bank of Hope Blog contributor.
The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Bank of Hope.