Soul Sisters Depot
For Haley Gaylord and Chelsea Ramsey, opening their own small business was not an early career choice. But opening the successful eclectic and unique Soul Sisters Depot just felt right. Surrounded by family members running their own businesses, the pair started selling their items while holding full-time jobs and raising the five kids between them. Going to craft shows, local markets, and hosting trunk shows kept snowballing until it only made sense to consider a brick-and-mortar storefront.
“We were always creating, making jewelry, candles, and other items,” explains Ramsey. “We continuously have projects going on. And people were always asking for more. When we started considering opening our own business, we thought, what is the worst that can happen? It was crazy if we didn’t do it.”
Ramsey says they realized opening their own business would allow them to make more money and make them happier. “Why keep yourself in a box?” she asks.
The pair already had proved their resilience.
“We took a leap of faith,” says Gaylord. “Our roots are here. We want to raise our kids here, so we are invested and dedicated to this community.”
Originally opening Soul Sisters Depot in Clyde in September 2020, that leap of faith was a big test of whether their venture could succeed. It was the most challenging time, even for well-established businesses. But the new business owners embraced it, bringing their five children with their laptops for remote learning to work every day during the height of the pandemic.
For almost two years, Soul Sisters Depot had a following at their Clyde location but realized early this year the business had to move. In April, the pair had a chance to use all their scavenged, found objects, such as old doors and car parts, in cool vintage displays to create their Soul Sisters Depot vibe at their new Frog Level location.
At the new location, foot traffic picked up a lot. Gaylord and Ramsey often notice multigenerational shoppers, seeing grandmas, moms, and daughters come together to shop. Popular items at the shop include funny, funky graphic tees, bell bottoms, and lots of items made by local artisans, such as candles, jewelry, and pocketbooks.
While Gaylord and Ramsey knew it was the right time to start their own business and had all the items lined up they wanted to sell, they didn’t really know all the ins and outs of how to run a business. Hearing about Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center (SBC) in the community, they knew they could find help and resources to answer all their questions. Through the Small Business Center, Gaylord and Ramsey learned about receiving funding for small businesses due to the pandemic and benefited from these funds.
As small business owners, another daunting task is where to begin to build a website. HCC SBC Director Ashley Swanger connected Gaylord and Ramsey to a project working with Western Carolina University students to design a website for the business. Creating a website will add a whole new dimension to Soul Sisters Depot.
Visiting Soul Sisters Depot is an experience to delight shoppers. There is so much to browse, and the vibe is very welcoming. It is a shopping experience with a real personal connection.
“It is obvious that the shop is a part of both Haley and Chelsea,” explains Swanger. “They create a space that is part retail, part therapy. They lift people up and hold space for those who come in, whatever their needs may be on that day. Their space renews the soul from sharing celebrations to listening to challenges to helping you find that outfit that makes you shine.”
That lift does not stop at customers; Soul Sisters Depot also supports local artists and makers. They work to deepen community connections by creating opportunities to showcase locally made wares throughout the store.
According to Ramsey, the Appalachian area is rich in community-oriented people. “The mountains inspire creativity. There are awesome makers here. And new creators since COVID. Also, Frog Level is on the rise. There’s a shift happening. People are excited.”
See what Soul Sisters Depot is all about by visiting their 240 Depot Street location.
Visit SBC.Haywood.edu or call 828.627.4512 for additional information or to register today. Thinking about starting a business or growing an existing business in Haywood County? Take advantage of the programs, services, and resources the Small Business Center provides. The NC Community College’s Small Business Center Network assists in starting an average of over 600 businesses each year. Small Business Centers have an economic impact in 90 percent of all NC Counties each year, helping to create and retain nearly 3,000 jobs annually.