Just Me Sharing

angel 1….as we acknowledge International Women’s Day I thought I’d like to do so by way of sharing a rendition of a letter I originally sent to a long list of my “angels”, back in 2008.

HERE I serve to acknowledge, that which has grown exponentially for me, since that first writing in 08, the great value that I’ve been Gifted by MY Beautiful Women, and for which I am truly grateful. You all ROCK!

Some of you I call my family….my mother and mother in law, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts and cousins.

ruth and girls


Some of you are old friends from lives gone by… school chums from Kitchener and Winnipeg and from my years living overseas in Haiti, Thailand and Taiwan…and also from the 4 years in Ontario with my young and growing family.
Some of you are my “Maine” friends, where you’ve contributed to making it my home for 13 years….before my move to Maryland just over 3 years ago.

ruth and the gals 2


Some of you are my new “Eastern Shore” friends that I’ve met through church choir, the gym, or the Chesapeake Women’s Network.
Some of you are customers that have become more than that as we both took the chance and got personal.

Some of you are business owners, like myself, that I have met as a result of being out there doing my business.

Some of you I came to know through the business of raising and selling our golden retrievers.

ruth and gal pals good karma

asid hpdc
Some of you I’ve met through my membership with WITHIT and High Point Design Center.

Some of you I have been blessed to have as partners/support in my business at ZAAR.


Some of you are people that have simply come across my path and we have “connected”….be it by way of a blog, twitter, instagram and/or facebook.

ALL of you are women of substance.
ALL of you have touched my life in a way that you cannot know.
ALL of you have shared with me a part of you that I now call my own.

All of you have a Story.

All of you are Beautiful.
And ALL of you have given of yourself to me, and I now would like to give back, by, letting you know….

My life has been enriched by the force that comes from sharing with other women…..  And,what I know for sure is that the presence of each and every woman that has come into  my life has contributed towards my life moving forward.

And so, just this moment to say thank you…light poster

Thank you for being there.
Thank you for being who you are.
Thank you for the ear.
Thank you for your caring.
Thank you for your understanding.

Thank you for your encouragement and support..
Thank you for your gift of friendship.

Thank you for your sharing.

Thank you for your example.

Thank you for adding to my “light”.

Thank you for opening my world to this wonderful “sisterhood” and becoming part of my Circle of Angels. I am so blessed.

ruth fb profileRuth


….and MY SCORE Mentor. How lucky am I eh? 

I KNEW, from our very first meeting, summer 2010, that I had been simply Gifted by way of Nancy coming into my world, blogged about it/SCORE here….How wonderful that she has joined such an auspicious group of similarly committed mentors in being acknowledged, as they all were, what is  now 3 years ago, at the White House.


Although I moved from Maine over 2 years ago Nancy and I have stayed connected by way of phone conferences….and as I had the pleasure of such just yesterday, and it so happens to be the anniversary of when Nancy was so acknowledged at the White House, I felt inclined to once again share with my world how this woman has, and continues to be there for me and my business….so bear with me as I give a little gush over Nancy Strojny my Maine based SCORE mentor.

With a 20 plus year career at Proctor and Gamble, and now running her own consulting firm, she no doubt has experience, which brings with it wisdom which she so readily shares.

But even more so she brings a warm directness, yes Nancy is gifted at giving one the most polite “kick in the pants” than anyone I’ve ever known…. a willingness to take YOU on as the whole package, offering a perspective that is impossible from the vantage point of working in the trenches, giving guidance and advice, but with the knowledge that ultimately the decision to act upon any of it is up to you. She gives permission, something we need to be doing for ourselves btw, to make a decision, and then to do the unthinkable, change your mind as things unfold and change for you/your business.  She isn’t afraid to be straight and because you know she cares you are grateful for the honesty…and the push.

She shows pride in your accomplishments and understanding when you need to take time to “clear the path”…but always always always bringing you ever so gently back to you and your dream and making you believe in your possibilities and doing whatever she can to help you reach the goals you set.

There is no doubt of her committment to the process and to you as the person and the business you represent and as such she is right there with you…as your mentor, as your cheerleader, as your guide, as your champion, as you butt kicker, and as your friend.

In her intro at the Champion of Change ceremony she said she wanted to give back what she was given by the “extraordinary group of men” that mentored her at Proctor and Gamble, and thus her deep involvement in SCORE, which is such a good place from which she can do just that. I am but one voice saying that she has so done that. Yesterday was the 3 year anniversary where she was nationally acknowledged that she, in a very big way, is doing  just that for many others ….

And so now EVERYBODY knows what a great mentor I have!

…yeah me. Yes, we shall “rock on!”


previous posting, I Scored with SCORE,

…OR, validating yourself in this upside down world. 

Once upon a time you needed a brick and mortar to validate your online presence. Now brick and mortars need an online presence to be validated. Go figure.

It was 1999, just after our move to the states, after an 8 year stint in Asia, when my husband and I determined to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAestablish our online business, selling, of all things, Chinese Antiques. Business model was to NOT have a brick and mortar, but to set up shop on the world wide web and take it from there.

What did we know going into this? Won’t go into what we didn’t know, which was plenty 

We  knew that…

zaarlogo small we had a source for a product that we had an affinity to…. building on relationships made during our 8 years living/working in Asia

zaarlogo smallwe were breaking new ground….being the first online only sellers of Chinese Antiques.

we felt we could offer competitive pricing/create a niche….because of our business model and running it very lean/doing ALL the work in house…yes, learning ALOT along the way.

zaarlogo smallcombined we had the skills required to make this come to fruition….not to mention the determination.

The website went live August 2000 and it wouldn’t be until Thanksgiving weekend, yes, of that year,but it felt like FOREVER,  that I would make my first online sale.  Will never forget the euphoric feeling of being “found” online AND then to have someone take the plunge and make that online purchase from ME!? With that I was officially in business, and away we went.

As husband continued to work the Search Engine Optimization side of the biz more people found us and had an interest in shopping with us and would call. As such the question would inevitably come up as to how we ever got into this business, and so I would ramble on with “my story“….

zaar_family_sm….and  this had me rethink the advise given to us by our web designer that the “about us” section on our website was insignificant and that although it needed to be there, that people didn’t tend to read it, therefore just give it lip service.  Didn’t take long for me to determine that it would indeed be  a relevant part of my site and that people would read it, per the conversations I’d been having…and so I edited what I had thrown up there to give the whole enchilada.  You can read that full version here/ shorter version here, as is on the website.  In fact it was where they first started to get to know WHO Antiques by Zaar was….WHO was the driving force, the heart and soul of this particular business….where they first started to gain confidence in us as sellers.

Yes, people want to do business with people, and telling them who we were straight out did us well as a foundation to move on.  We furthered this by starting an online newsletter in 2004. And, as was my way, I would tend to include constant contact logopersonal  tidbits in the preamble, click here to visit past newsletters,….  I had plenty of fodder with having lived in several countries,  the start of this of my 2nd biz,  3 kids underfoot/raising golden retrievers, on a farm in Maine…you get the drift/ways to connect with people/letting them into my world...leading to the “meat” of the missive which would be announcing a new container, show dates and the such.

My newsletter remains to be a vital connecting point to my past customers as well as prospective s,  that have given me permission to put their name on my newsletter list…. a list which has grown to be  a  qualified list of over 5,000 strong…. proudly sharing that my “open” and “click through” rates consistently remain above the industry standard.

twitter fb and linkWith the onset of Social Media the venues to connect in the virtual world, in addition to my audience of 5,000,  have grown at such a rate that it is sometimes hard to keep up with. The good news is that there is this plethora of opportunities for businesses of any size to put their word out there and let their customers get to know them prior to making any kind of purchase.  That is “the way” now isn’t it????  What is expected of businesses…to become transparent. The bad news is that you are competing with such a massive body of businesses doing the same.  The good news is, there is only one YOU and it is up to you to make your Unique Voice heard.

Considering my tendency to be upfront and personal in a simple newsletter, it should be no surprise that I felt I’d been granted a true Gift with the introduction of the blog. THE perfect platform to do more of the same, reaching more people.blog image with peeps However, I have found the blogging road a bumpy one, as is evidenced by the frequency of my posts. Love hate relationship really.  But as I continue to figure out a blogging rhythm that works for me, I can’t afford not be seen/heard, and over the course of time I  have come to a place where I feel I can stay present in the virtual world in a relevant way, that is indeed manageable.

I am validating my, now 2 businesses,  daily where it counts….  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz, and via my blogs.

Welcome to the long winding road of learning and growing, giving and sharing.

Ready, set, go!



zaarlogo215 years ago, when setting up the template for the Antiques by Zaar website, it was a no brainer that red, such an important color in the Chinese culture, would be integral in the presentation of my company.

ruth-new-wheels1And as I am integral to this company, it became natural for me to bring red into my wardrobe/accessories more than I might have otherwise….and even going to the point of  buying a red car! It just seemed to make sense.


As years have gone by red has definitely evolved to be not only a color I identified with because of my business, but has become one of my favorite colors, as I feel it quite simply, as I’ve stated in the subject line….that it is a Happy Color.


I feel good wearing red.  I love red accents in my home…be it on my Libby Langdon sectional sofa, shown here with my family over Christmas Holiday, or the red painted on my bedroom walls.

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2014-12-23 22.07.04And now I’ve determined it to be the signature color for all my mailings. Whether it is a catalogue, leather samples, or thank you card, it will come to you in a red envelope. I know a red envelope would stand out in my mailbox from all other 2014-12-30 15.45.06incoming mail and I like the idea of the attention I anticipate it drawing when the recipient of my mailings opens their box.  No, never any bad news in a red envelope from yours truly.


I am not alone in my love of the color red, as is evident by the customers that have purchased  red pieces and used in a myriad of decorating schemes….

….as Anthony Michael Interior Design did with a Chinese Antique daybed…

AMichael-LP2550_GuestBedroom resized


….or Designer Cynthia Mason accented an entryway in a clients home…

sideboard red cynthia mason


…or how my customers, who worked independent of a designer, found a home for a spot of red themselves….

rai peterson

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…and even used a red velvet chesterfield sofa stage center.

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No, I am far from alone in my love of the color red and enjoy seeing the bold, and even the subtle, ways red is being incorporated into the homes of my customers, infuses me and just makes me feel…well, happy.


ruth heart 1 And on that note, I sign off…until next time/hoping you had a good Valentine’s Day weekend.


P.S. Should you want to share how you use red in your decorating, I would love to see and share.


Oh yes it’s that time of year again, yes indeed it is.2014

Really can’t allow too much more time to pass before it will be “too late” to put out what has become my annual New Year’s missive, recapping 2014 and putting out there my aspirations for 2015…and so here it goes.

ari and nicks weddingWedding bells rang in the air at the Olbrych family this 2014, which in essence was the main theme for the year….and might I say, one I wasn’t aware would be when I wrote my blog this time last year…which you can revisit here….so yes, things got reprioritized as the year panned out.

I really can’t take any credit for the beautiful weddings each of my  girls orchestrated, less the fact that they inherited my love and skill of throwing a good party, as each  did a fabulous job doing just that/throwing  a lovely party for their family and friends….Arianna in Toronto in September, and Avery at Disney in November….yes, my Fall High Point Market was flanked by a wedding on either side.


ave wedding collage

Our family is blessed with the addition on Nick and Jesse, and I, as their mother, am happy that Ari and Ave have each found someone that loves and supports them as these young men do. God Speed to you all.

olbrych fam 3


And so on to 2015 . Can you believe it? This will be my 15th year in business…nothing to sneeze at eh?

I think this landmark anniversary is the perfect impetus to making this A Year of being Thoughtfully Grateful. So, to that end I have launched a Gratitude Campaign….wanting to reach out to ALL that have contributed to getting me from what was an idea of a business, to being a business. There are so many of you!…this is a HUGE job…good thing I have help!

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2015-01-06 16.53.29

Yes,this is my year to say thank you to YOU, and YOU and YOU. To not only the hundreds of customers I have had that have trusted me with providing them with the purchase of a very personal product/giving me opportunity to give the exceptional customer service I like to give…but also tothank you the people that have partnered with me to help get me from there to here, and to those that are quite simply  in my corner. I have so many cheer leaders, supporters, friends and helpers . I am truly humbled.

And so it is with ALL of  YOU in my head that I work.

I look forward to  continue on offering a very interesting product line…whether it be for my own business, distinctive logo smallAntiques by Zaar, or the company I rep, Distinctive Chesterfields.

I look forward to seeing both businesses continue to grow and flourish, one customer at a time.

I look forward to promoting the businesses of others and organizations of which I am a member, namely  WITHIT and High Point Design Center.

I quite simply look forward to sharing my gratitude with my world this year.

….and on that note, a final, only for this missive, Thank You.

May your 2015 be one full of Gratitude, Joy and Thoughtfulness…whether you are the recipient or the giver…it ALL counts.





I didn’t grow up with a dream to have my own business or even more specifically that I would end up in the home furnishings biz.

I grew up knowing that I wanted to make a difference….plain and simple.

For many many years I quite assumed that this would play out  by becoming a social worker and that I would open my home to troubled children as my parents had during my lifetime. And then I went to Haiti , first time as an impressionable 12 year old/ending up as a volunteer fresh out of college, and I thought it made sense to segue from being a cultural liaison, which I did for 3 years,  to pursue a degree in development education and further evolve that which had started with my time in Haiti.

I desperately wanted to help the people of Haiti, of this country where I spent more than 5 years of my life, which I had kado banana cardGOTTEN so much from, including a husband, and to which I wanted to offer something in return.  It was important to me. I was open to ideas.  Giving back to Haiti was how I wanted to make a difference.

Think outside of the box. Remember your goal, help the people of Haiti, and not necessarily by educating Americans, as I was pursuing….how can this be done?

kado cardAs a tour guide I had made many friends in the crafts people of Haiti, with whom I would encourage my visitors to shop. Limited market. Great product.  Help these people by bringing their product to America and selling for them. Over a sandwich at Chez Tony’s, with Mark Olbrych/then fiance/now husband of 28 years,  on Delmas 31 in Port au Prince Haiti, my first business, Kado D’Haiti, was born. Translated “Gifts from Haiti” this name spoke to me at many levels. Not just that the business was selling Gifts From Haiti, but that I had received so many Gifts , I said that already didn’t I?, from Haiti, that I wanted to Gift Back.

Through Kado D’Haiti I felt satisfied that I was making a difference/supporting Haitian families as I bought and sold their crafts. And with moving from Haiti to Boston and then to Waterloo Ontario, I did this…oh yeah, and all the while birthing and raising 3 babies, for nigh on 5 years, at which time a move to Asia would merit me passing the reigns of my precious business to my sister. I was sad, to say good bye to this part of who I was.

For the next 8 years I would be making a difference by being full time mom and expat wife as we moved our family to mark kids 1Bangkok Thailand, and then Taichung Taiwan.  On the side I would contribute to women’s groups…at one point being the “expert” on Making a Life in a Country Not your Own, offering advice to those new to this realm. I was served happily as the consummate party thrower.  It was good.

1999 we would move our family to the States, to start the next chapter…the chapter which my current tribe knows me best for….as owner of Antiques by Zaar. Husband took leave of his corporate career and we started his and her businesses, from our farmhouse in Maine.  Big changes of all sorts for all of us.

zaarlogo2The next 10 years I would make my difference by learning and working a business from it being nothing but a dream and  having a “failure is not an option” attitude, with my husband, to support our family. Well, we did have connections, we did have a corporate guru and we did have a keen sales person, BUT we did NOT have it all figured out before plunging in...that I can assure you.  I guess you could say we had vision and my family counted on living off of the income from this biz, and thus I/we were driven. And we were successful.

But we were now entrenched in the home furnishings biz. Just say 2008 to anybody in this biz and see what kind of reaction/litany of stories you get, on what changes needed to be made to keep it all going.  For our family that meant that husband would leave the biz and return to the corporate world/moving to New York, so we could have a paycheck we could count on to support our 3 college students and, well, our home.

ruth showhouse for home page resized for hpThat was 5 years ago. I took on the whole Antiques by Zaar enchilada, doing whatever needed to be done, and more learning/boning up on the things that husband had done for the biz that I hadn’t touched. My goal was to survive….to not let the economy, or anything, get in the way of this business I was so entrenched/vested in, to  BE.

It was more about making it, than making a difference. Funny thing is though that by making it, by no means am I talking as if I have “arrived”/still very very much a work in progress, I have something to share with others that may be travelling a similar path, and by doing so I am indeed able to stay true to my calling of wanting to make a difference.

I have had numerous road blocks. Quite possibly my self being the biggest.  I have experienced more than my share of doubts. I have been distracted,  and I have  made mistakes. BUT I have not given up on myself, and just when my biggest doubts loom,” something” happens that encourages me forward, call it a God Wink if you will,  to keep on keeping on.

I’ve surrounded myself with people that support, encourage, listen, and offer guidance. I’ve reached out for help. I’ve wordslearned that even though the survival of my business is contingent on ME fueling it forward, that I don’t have to ...actually can’t, do it alone. AND that now that I have survived, it is time to do more than that and THRIVE.

I am further spurred forward to successfully forge my way on, to show other women, that quite frankly, if I can do it, YOU can do it too. Working to be successful in my business is what I need to do to be true to my mission of “making a difference”….and part of that is sharing this with my world,….crawling out from under the rock I’ve been hiding under.

Because I’m so stubborn, and it takes me a LONG time to learn some lessons, this process has taken longer than it “should”, but then again, because it is so very personal might be the very reason it is such a winding road.

I am so thankful for the many female role models I have in my life that SHOW me what ONE WOMAN can do/be, and I raise my glass to them and I aspire to join WITH them in Being a Woman that is Making a Difference.

ruth fb profileOnward and upward.










..because there is no better Gift I could give myself AND my business. End of Story. How’s that for a testimonial eh?

withit ruthThis is not the first time I have written about the value of attending a WITHIT event…  and in fact over the past 4 years I have in one form or another included a reflection, where I have been effusive about what I have garnered from attending a WITHIT sponsored event. Why? Because I get so juiced up about it and can’t stand other people not knowing about it/missing the opportunity.  

Seriously, aside from having High Point Market dates set in stone I also have the annual WITHIT leadership withit bannerconference, which takes place each August, and the WITHIT sponsored New York City inside design tour, which takes place each May, as solid don’t mess with my schedule dates, as they are booked!

Why? Well, I already stated that succinctly above, but more so, as my years in WITHIT grow in number so do the benefits that I reap as I embrace all that membership in this vital networking group has to offer, and there is no better way to get sold on the benefits of being a WITHIT member then by attending their leadership conferences. Talk about bang for your buck!

withit gals 2As with every WITHIT sponsored event it is done first class. Great venues. Inspiring speakers. Breakout sessions, round tables (of which I had the honor of moderating one a couple of years back), and loads of opportunities to start and foster friendships that simply grow organically as you take this time to be with what feels like a curated group of women that are your peers and subsequently your friend once you say hello.

Jena Hall, one of the founding members of WITHIT, implanted an image in my mind, during her presentation a couple of years back, that epitomizes my association with what  I’ve coined as my #withitgalpals….and that is of a string of women, on a stairwell if you will, each with her arms outstretched. Each is reaching up with her right arm as someone is there grasping it/ elevating her and with her other arm each is reaching down as she is elevating another. THAT in a nutshell is  what I feel about my experience at each and every gathering. We each have something to get and we each have something to give. Perfection! Need to create that actual image at next conference, don’t you think?

I write this on the cusp of the Spring 2014 High Point Furniture Market . I’ve been participating in the furniture market since 2004. My, how my Market experience has changed since those early days of coming here alone and working alone….

Here in 2014  am looking forward to sharing a house with 5 other women, all of whom I am honored to call my friends…or my withitgalpals, as we all indeed share membership in this group and how I met them all.  🙂

I look forward to attending the WITHIT sponsored events, including pre market kick off, Sunday breakfast and Competitive Intelligence,  where I can foster those budding relationships and spark new ones….and also be educated/inspired!


I look forward to hosting my own Lunch n Learn on Sunday, where John Lusher will be speaking on Social Media for Interior Designers….John, who I initially “met” on twitter back in 2009 via fellow WITHIT members. I look forward to having, as I have had the pleasure of experiencing in Market’s past,  a bevy of WITHIT supporters attend said event. And I look forward to using this event as a platform to promote WITHIT to my guests. 

I similarly  look forward to supporting the many WITHIT members that have showrooms, are hosting events, seminars/lunches/parties and/or are launching product lines in various showrooms.  The list here is impressive and way too long to include here.

CRLaine_Logo_2012xxxI look forward to spending a fair bit of time in the CR Laine Showroom, where my Chinese antiques are working hand in hand to showcase the wonderful products put out by this NC based company. Their VP of merchandising, a WITHIT connection initially sparked on facebook and then fostered at Market breakfasts, has grown into a mutually satisfying trade partnership and friendship…simultaneously.

We are an impressive lot, if I do say so myself, and we are entrenched in the High Point Market at so many levels….to the point where High Point Market practically serves as another WITHIT sponsored event.

So, yes, quite abit to look forward to. What a great back drop with which to do business all the while, wouldn’t you say?

And you know where I will be May 16-19 and Aug 11-13.  Hope to  have the pleasure of seeing you in New York and Atlanta GA respectively as well.

In the meanwhile, a successful High Point Market to all.





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