My name is Monika Razkova and I am the owner of Rocky Road Minerals- the biggest Irish crystal shop.
Rocky Road Minerals currently has two walk in shops in Ireland, a warehouse/office space and large online presence. We have a website ( www.rockyroadminerals.com) with over 2k products listed for sale, as well as an Instagram account (@rockyroadminerals) with over 35k followers.
And here is how it all started…
My journey towards having my own crystal shop began 33 years ago in Poland, when I was just 7 years old. I used to spend weekends at my grandparents` and often helped them with gardening: planting veggies, weeding flower beds and then harvesting. While doing this I noticed there were dozens of beautiful, smooth stones buried in the soil and I collected them passionately. I would later learn they were called Flint.
In my early teens I visited my first mineral show and I got totally hooked on collecting colourful, shiny rocks! While other kids would spend their pocket money on cola and crisps, I would buy more and more crystals! As my collection was growing, my knowledge was growing too.
Fast forward to 2016, I was living in Ireland with my husband-to-be and a 3 year old son. I was pregnant with our second boy and very unwell, so I spent most of the time on the sofa just taking it easy. It was then when I decided to go through my old collection of crystals to sort it out. I realized that there were many crystals in my collection that were either multiples or they were simply not speaking to me anymore- so I put them for sale on some random Facebook groups. And they sold! I had always wanted to have my own business and this was the moment when I thought “Yeah, let`s give it a try! Let`s have a crystal shop!”
At first I was still working at my regular retail job, being a full time mom of two little boys. Every spare minute I had I was putting into that start up. Every cent I made I reinvested. The ball was rolling, social media following was growing and I was able to gain loyal customers. I was still making no money for myself as everything I made went back into the business. I was the first person in Ireland to do Instagram live sales, I opened an Etsy shop and started working on my own website. I was doing markets, holistic fairs and car boot sales- every opportunity that I had to reach out to potential customers I did utilize.
In the summer of 2019 I was trying to convince my husband that I should give up my job and go all in into selling crystals full time. The hardest part was to convince him that I could actually make enough money to support family needs since up till that moment he really saw no financial gain for us from this side venture of mine. He agreed for me to go to the Denver gem show to buy crystals and told me that if I could sell them all in a month, he would support me in my decision.
Going to Denver, Colorado was like a dream. Equipped with 5k in cash (which I borrowed from family) I felt like the queen of the world! I was mesmerized by the number of crystals around me, by their colours, sizes and energies. And equally was I shocked by their prices. I quickly realized that the 5k that I had, which initially felt like a lot, was in fact not even much. I did my very best to find quality crystals on which my markup would be higher so I could make the most of the little I had. A month later my crystals arrived into Ireland and I put them on sale…
I knew I had incredible, hand-picked crystals but never would I imagine I`d sell them in less than two weeks! Days later I quit my job and pledged to myself and to my customers to personally pick all the crystals I sell. This became one of the main principles of the company, along with top customer service and a wide range of crystals at all prices for every pocket.
I quickly realized I was not able to fulfil all orders myself anymore so my mom started helping me pack. Soon after I employed a full time customer assistant and a part time website administrator as well as an ad hoc photographer. The company was growing and Rocky Road Minerals started to be a recognizable brand.
In February 2020 I went to Tucson, Arizona to the biggest mineral show in the world. This time I had more to spend and less to fear. I came back home and received my pallet days before the lockdown! Talk about luck!
The next months were constant challenges: with securing stock to sell (mines and workshops were closed so there was little material available), with supply chains (when we secured stock to sell, we could have it stuck in ports for weeks), with health and safety at work (at hard lockdown I was working alone, then we had to figure out health and safety protocols etc), even with dispatching orders (travel bans). There was not one thing that was easy to do apart from… selling…
With lockdowns came a sudden wave of orders. People were killing time at home and were buying online. I can really say that it was a golden time and the company bloomed!
In February 2021 we were finally able to move the business out of my own home to its own location in Mallow town! We found a lovely, spacious place which we turned into our base. After moving everything out from my house into this new space and seeing it filled up, I could not believe how much stuff we had! It made such a difference to us! With this new added storage room we could finally carry more stock, and with more stock came even more sales. Meanwhile we broadened our product range by so many lovely holistic items, such as incense, burners, dreamcatchers, tarot cards etc.
In April 2021 my husband gave up his job as a truck mechanic and joined the team. We opened the door to the public as well and ended up with our first walk in shop (completely unplanned!) It was also then when we felt the impact of Brexit… we lost 90% of our UK customers as a result. We spent the next weeks thinking how to strengthen out position on the local market instead.
In the summer of 2021 restrictions eased and we thought we were ready to take the next big step- we wanted to open a large shop in Dublin. The stars aligned for us and in October 2021 the doors opened! Our Dublin location made us the biggest crystal shop in Ireland! We employed 7 extra staff members who are experts in the niche. Opening that shop was a great risk since we could not be sure whether another lockdown would happen. We understood, however, that there was a niche in Dublin and it was a matter of time someone came to fill it out, and we really wanted to be ahead of them!
The year 2022 brought slower sales online: people were able to go out freely and chose to do just that. With slower sales online we had to find ways of adjusting to the changing market. We decided to close our Etsy shop and invest time and energy into expanding locally. An opportunity came in Galway where we found a lovely unit which seemed tailor made for us! We decided to move the Mallow stock to Galway where we would be able to multiply sales without investing into brand new stock for the entire shop. Our investment was minimal and we took this opportunity and opened the shop in July increasing the number of employees by three more people! With this move we were able to compensate for the lost sales online and establish ourselves on the Irish market fully. Our Mallow team became fully dedicated to online sales, sourcing product, pricing it and distributing within the company.
Right now online sales still pose a challenge as people really enjoy going out. We understand that we also lost a lot of business due to many small online shops opening recently in Ireland. A lot of people began doing live sales on Instagram since we first started them. All of the above made us really look into numbers, strategies, marketing and education. The management works close together to come up with new ideas and implement strategies aimed at reaching the highest number of potential customers. We educate ourselves on algorithms, SEO, advertising etc.
At the same time the business is facing the highest cost of overheads ever seen. Everything from electricity, through services, packaging materials to shipping has gone up in price significantly. It is a struggle to deliver quality product, still unique, ethical and hand-picked, at old prices. All of this is shrinking our profit but we hope this is only temporary and hopefully will establish at more acceptable levels soon.
The war in Ukraine contributed to delivery chains being often broken. We constantly have shipments delayed or sometimes even stuck for months in ports! This causes major disruptions in money flow and costs us- again- lost sales. There are companies going out of business after decades due to this factor, one of them being Revlon. This is a serious problem that requires precise planning, like shipping smaller batches of products instead of pallets etc.
To sum up, there is nothing better than having my own business. This has always been my dream and I am grateful for this opportunity I have been given. Although it is a great career that gives a lot of freedom of choice, fulfilment and joy, it is also very challenging and due to high levels of stress and the high pace involved, it is definitely not for everyone.
The market is ever changing and nothing ever stays the same. I think the most important skill that a business owner should have is their ability to spot the changes and rapidly adapt to them. It is important to see potential in actions that at first glance might seem insignificant.
It is also important to listen to the team, after all it is them who are the closest to customers on a daily basis and know their needs. I aim at making myself as accessible to my employees as possible so they can always talk to me regardless the topic. A happy team equals a happy shop, and customers can feel it!
So here is my bit of advice to those reading it who consider becoming entrepreneurs one day: don`t go for it if you want to work 9-5 because with your own business you will never switch off, don`t go for it if you are looking for a work-home balance because with your own business you will always have something to do, and don`t go for it if you have doubts whether you will be successful because your doubts will grow with every single challenge you face and eventually they will break you. Face difficulties like a lion, be consistent, unbroken and have patience because success feeds on confidence and time.