CARLSBAD — Like millions of others, she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
But Xenia Mateiu, 33, was able to quickly pivot, adjusting her business model to save her quaint space in Carlsbad Village as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the economy.
Once the shutdown happened in March, Mateiu instantly knew she had to go digital to strengthen her e-commerce platform. Additionally, completing piecemeal side projects also became a focal point to help the business survive.
A photographer by trade, Mateiu opened Village Rock Shop in November 2018 selling crystals, gemstones, dreamcatchers, candles, jewelry and more. But the pandemic has changed the game, and luckily for Mateiu, for the better.
“It was a shock when they said you have to be closed,” she recalled. “They said I had to be closed, but they didn’t say I couldn’t work.”
Once the shutdown came, Mateiu and her husband, Carey Hopkins, instantly went into survival mode. They upgraded their website, e-commerce platform and invested in search engine optimization (SEO) to help bridge the gap.
Admittedly, she said upgrading and maintaining her website was like a second full-time job, but the work was necessary to survive.
Using her photography skills, Mateiu also started shooting pictures of her products and uploading them to Instagram. From there, she bolstered her presence on the social media platform to drive sales and traffic to her website.
She also started receiving an increase in phone calls asking if her store was open and if she had gift cards or certificates. But as the calls rolled in, along with an increase in online traffic, so too did requests for tours.
Mateiu said she worked quickly with her webmaster to offer digital gift cards, noting it was another aspect of the business she hadn’t given much thought but has become an important revenue stream.
Also, Mateiu would take to FaceTime and browse her store with her customer in hand, showing them her gemstones, crystals and other items for their choosing. She also offered shipping services, allowing her to service more customers outside North County.
“It was 90% shipping and 10% delivery,” she said of adjusting her model. “I did exactly what I wanted.”
And without any employees, she does have one advantage most other businesses don’t — a lower overhead cost. While she is the only person on the payroll, Mateiu said it was still a struggle to meet her rent obligations, even for a small store.
Mateiu said not having events such as the Carlsbad Village Faire and art shows has been a serious blow, but her new online model has brought her business greater visibility.
Today, the store is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and customers are required to follow county and state health mandates.