About a year ago, Amy Giba was doing what everybody else was doing: watching “Tiger King,” drinking her White Claw Hard Seltzers, and playing Just Dance with her kids. After enjoying the extra time, though, it clicked. Giba asked herself how she could use this time to benefit her and her family. When the toilet paper shortage was going on at the time, she started doing little quarantine survival bags and promoting them on her Facebook page.
These survival bags consisted of toilet paper, a pair of earrings, wine, chocolate, and a custom wine glass. This fun little pick-me-up took off way better than she ever expected, and since then, it has blossomed into her opening an online boutique store that continues to grow.
The name of her online store, Cooper and Cay, is dedicated to Giba’s mother who has been experiencing cancer for years. Ever since Giba uploaded her creations to Etsy, her mother has been her biggest fan.
“Kay is my mom's middle name, and Cooper is her maiden name, so it completely made sense,” said Giba.
For a very brief time, Giba started doing candy creations – an assortment of candies in a basket. As a child, she loved being creative and doing art, but as she got older, that passion was forgotten as she went on to become a teacher.
Giba has been an entrepreneur since 2013 but recently transitioned into the boutique world about a year ago, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did she know at the time that her passion would come back during the year of 2020 and help her open up Cooper and Cay.
“I started doing ‘candy creations;’ I did like one or two events for that and I was like, ‘This is a tough, tough road to go down,’” said Giba. “After that, I transitioned into glitter wine glasses, coffee mugs, and custom gifts. I actually did pretty well with that. I had about 3000 sales on Etsy, and I loved it. I still do love being creative, but now I just have so much fun with the boutique, and it's really freed up a lot of time for me because I have complete control over it.”
In November 2020, Cooper and Cay joined Ava Michael Beautique in the Crown Point Square. Giba messaged one of the owners of Ava Micheal Beautique through Facebook, and she was so warm and welcoming to Giba. It felt like she was moving in the next day. For Giba, this was a perfect space for her and her growing business.
“As a small business owner who's only been in the boutique business about a year, there's really no way financially that I would be able to have a place on the Crown Point Square. When you're a new business owner, you don't get that opportunity very often,” said Giba.
This week, Giba just expanded her boutique to Alley Kat’s Curiosity Shoppe in Valparaiso. It is still a work in progress that will take some time to transition, but Alley Kat’s has a similar concept to Ava Michael Beautique. Giba had applied to them six or seven months ago and they did not have an opening, but her persistence paid off as she is now able to expand her business to Valparaiso.
Giba will not be returning to the classroom to teach in August as she will focusing her attention full-time on her growing business. She has been thinking about leaving her day job as a teacher and being an entrepreneur for about six to seven years now, and now was the right time to do so.
“It would have been so much easier for me to just stay with teaching because it's a good schedule, plus I would have benefits, so there's a lot of great things about teaching. But if you're not passionate in what you do you've got to step outside that box. Otherwise, you're just never going to grow and complacency is a horrible place to be,” said Giba. “It's a little scary to not be returning back to the classroom, but I think if you don't feel scared in life, that's a problem; you should feel challenged, and you should never feel complacent, ever, no matter what aspect of your life you're talking about.”
Giba has big plans ahead of her. While building up her online presence, she is planning on having a busy summer doing about four to five markets a week. Along with the markets, there is a third location for her boutique to sell at coming this summer in Highland.
“I feel like the sky's the limit. That's cheesy, but it's true. When you're an entrepreneur, it's what you make of it and what you put into it."