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Hi…. I’m “Contessa.” I’ve been blogging as Contessa since 2010. I opened a garden and gift shop in 2008 and began blogging two years later in 2010. This was my choice to communicate using a social social media platform, so as to communicate, with the locals in my community. I was new to social media, but I had heard about WordPress from an intern I had hired to come to work with me during my first six months in business. I began by purchasing a WordPress account, with a yearly subscription. Prior to that, I had been operating a home-based gardening business for three years. It was actually my first attempt at owning something that was my own. It sustained me for three years, but I had always wanted and dreamed of owning a small retail shop. So after almost ten years of searching for a spot to begin my dream, I found a vacant location, signed a five-year lease, and began moving a few pieces of garden furniture and antique furniture, along with “antique smalls” of my own, into my new building suite. Once in…and open for business, I began contacting vendors from previous relationships at a business where I had worked part time, prior to owning my own shop. That previous part time job, gave me enough knowledge and confidence to venture out on my own. In fact, that was the very reason I had taken that position. I searched for so long to find a place to launch my own business, and the day I finally found it, was very exciting. My own brick and mortar store had become a reality. My official name was Contessa’s Garden and Gift, and I was now a retail business owner. The storefront I chose was in a trendy growing community called Delray. I opened my doors on March 1st, 2008. Little did I know…..that combining a gardening business and a retail shop was going to mean that I had bitten off slightly more than I could chew. I thought I could continue serving my gardening clients in my neighborhood, about one mile away from my new store. Within two weeks time I realized it was going to be either the gardening business or the retail store. But in my mind and heart….I did not put the idea away of gardening again. My home was in Parkfairfax about one mile from my new shop. It’s a known fact that starting a business from the ground up requires hours of one’s own “good will” and very hard work. I literally worked every day for six months from 7 am to 7 pm, and then at 7 pm, after closing my store, I would work until the midnight hours to unpack, price, display, clean, balance my books and go about setting up new accounts with over thirty nationwide vendors, so that a flow of new merchandise could be timed appropriately to arrive each season for my new customers. All of this was part of my huge dream of shop ownership. I’d achieved my wishes. Tears of joy and gratitude came.

Social media was the best way to reach my audience so I chose WordPress as my communication vehicle and began photographing with a digital camera and posting new arrivals of merchandise every day. I was so pressed for time as a sole proprietor, that I posted mostly pictures in the beginning. I was trying to win my audience by “wowing” them with daily photography posts. Within a year I purchased an Apple iPhone and my digital camera became history. Technology was moving fast and I had to learn very quickly to keep up. I was writing by now and content was very important. During this time each store visitor signed a contact roster when they came to visit. My contact list grew so rapidly I hired a Russian student part time to come three days a week and enter my new contacts into my customer contact database. It worked and became successful enough to put me “on the map” so to speak. I taught myself how to navigate WordPress and the rest is history. I was on social media and it really helped me grow my business.

It’s now Jan 2023  I’ve closed my store and once again I am back to my first love…. Gardening. My posting on WordPress has taken on many new posts related to my gardening projects, my Yoga practice, my Etsy selling activity, spiritual reflection, cooking and recipes and my faith based beliefs and highlighting the profound relationship I have with my creator, nature and my gardening endeavors. I believe God is calling me to write and to share through and with my faith. And…..the “love of my life” is encouraging me and politely “pushing” and attempting to stretch me, in his own loving way, to become the author and the person he knows…..and I know….has the skills and gifts to achieve all these dreams.  Amen!

So….where do I go from here. I believe I am being called to become a writer. I’m at the stage of contemplation. Do I write my “story,” do I write about gardening and nature, do I write about my faith journey… and how it has led me to this important calling in my life?  I’m praying about this and I know the Lord will bring me to his plan and path for his greater glory. I wait…and I pray….I am still… and I trust.

May I put my heart out there to those of you who might shepherd and encourage me. I’ve led a long life with so many blessed experiences and plenty of real life barriers, and a few mountains to climb. But I am confidant that I have an amazing opportunity to share how I have come this far, and how my creator has led me and changed my heart and my life. I feel chosen to share with others….so that I might make a real difference in others lives, as it relates to their future spiritual paths and calling from their God.

Thank you for hearing my story. I am happy to hear your comments on where and how I move forward from here. I have great hope and am anxious to proceed. Your comments and encouragement are most…. Welcome!