- Mason Sexton, Co-owner
Location Ojai, Ventura County
The success of Treasures of Ojai stems from the multi-generational family’s willingness to adapt their business plans and carve their own path forward. For the past 16 years, owner Katrina Sexton has put her soul into supporting the antique store in the charming, tourist village of Ojai. Her son, Mason Sexton, has been an integral part of the store since he was 15, helping his mother move boxes and pick-up products for the shop. After graduating from the Kansas City Art Institute, Mason and partner Amanda Castro became full-time managers and owners alongside Katrina.
The team has been incredibly conscious of vast changes in the antique industry, recognizing the need to redesign their own relevance through economic transitions and the boom of online shopping. Treasures of Ojai has been determined to “carve a path forward that shows this can be a viable business and trade.”
Ojai was dramatically impacted by the 2017 Thomas Fire, and while Treasures of Ojai stood tall, they witnessed first-hand the pain and impacts of the devastating fire. Surrounded by ash and filled with the desire to support their community, the partners met EDC SBDC advisors who were personally out visiting businesses to offer guidance and resources. The team has been connected to the EDC ever since.
Mason described that after the fire, they knew their business model needed to change. “What’s helped us all is the attitude that we are humble and grateful for all the opportunities that we’ve had. And with EDC, we just wanted to step up to the plate because we were in a position where we didn’t have an out, and just any amount of help was a lot of help for us.” The team worked tirelessly with advisor Bill Bartels to define a completely new model to support the success of their own business and their industry. As the tragedy identified gaps in their capital, they connected with advisor Tony Elliott and learned new ways to approach their finances.
Equipped with an EDC loan, Treasures of Ojai worked to implement a Point-of-Sale system that would crucially impact their ability to address the impacts of COVID-19. When the shop had to close for 6 months, they continued to embrace the changes they wanted to see for their business. As they worked with EDC SBDC retail and marketing experts, they invested in high-quality photographs of their products and remodeled over 80% of their store. The partners now work with advisor Erin Fredregill to expand their public outreach and further develop their online presence. “We are really grateful that the harder we pushed, the more help the EDC was willing to give.”
Learning as a team to communicate and work together through the complexity of consistent trauma has built the solid foundation for Treasures of Ojai’s business pivot, bringing them to this unprecedented moment. Amanda attributes the group’s resiliency to many lessons that Bill Bartels walked the team through, including learning how to manage your energy, looking at the larger picture and evaluating the team’s intertwined work and personal relationships.
Treasures of Ojai has had to change their business model, how they connect with one another and how they interact with their community in order to create the resiliency needed to address the challenges and opportunities of today. Mason proudly explains that their attitude “going into COVID-19 was—we have the language, we have the tools. Let’s do this.” He and Amanda continuously strive to build upon Katrina’s hard work, commitment and longstanding principled business practices. “Katrina built something that ended up being for me, and I feel like I was able to share that with Amanda. Now what I want is to be able to go forward and bring that attitude back out to the community—that we are growing something here that is worthwhile.”