VIRGINIA BEACH — Amy Cotter felt devastated when she learned that she would be retired from the U.S. Navy for medical reasons.
So Cotter found a way to fill a void in her life by establishing The IMperfect Mermaid, a home-based business that features whimsical crafts made from broken or discarded items, particularly items such as broken sea shells that she finds on the beach.
Like Cotter, photographer Erik Moore sought a market for work that reflects the area’s natural beauty, photographs of local wildlife and landscapes, so he sells his work through his business, Moore and More Photography. Additionally, he is working toward another venture that will marry his skills as a photographer, local expertise on the water and the natural beauty of southern Virginia Beach with tourism.
Both Moore and Cotter feature the relics and landscapes of southern Virginia Beach in their products, and both sell through other local businesses.
Cotter and Moore represent what may be a trend toward small, startup businesses in Virginia Beach and across Hampton Roads, according to Scott Hall, business development coordinator for the Virginia Beach Economic Development Department.
“Since the 2008 recession, people want more control of their own destiny,” said Hall.
The rise of the internet and the increased use of social media have also encouraged the trend, Hall added, because small business owners can market their products conveniently and cheaply through these applications.
Virginia Beach accounts for 33 percent of all of the startup businesses in Hampton Roads, Hall said. It is home to 1,657 of the 5,007 new businesses that opened from 2012-2015, the most recent statistics available.
Hall isn’t sure how many new businesses are home based because no statistics are kept on that, but he suspects that the number is increasing because the internet provides a way to connect with consumers.
The stories behind small businesses seem to be as unique as the products. Cotter began experimenting with making decorative items in her home as a way of dealing with her own forced retirement and her mother’s cancer diagnosis.
“My mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer last June,” Cotter said. “I didn’t know how to deal with that, so this is my way of dealing. I go out into the woods or on the beach and find things that are broken or discarded.”
On one recent day, Cotter was featuring candle holders and bud vases made from driftwood at The Tar Roof, a shop and gallery in Pungo.
“I really love wood,” Cotter said, “and you can’t mimic all of the things that the ocean does to wood. Driftwood is just amazing. It’s the power of the sea.”
Moore is attracted to the Back Bay waters and marshes, where he photographs landscapes, sunsets, boats, watermen and birds.
“Mainly what I do is concentrate on the wildlife and landscapes, on anything south of Indian River Road,” he said.
Moore became interested in photography as a youth and has taken thousands of pictures over the years. He never marketed them until the last few years, when he began selling them through his website, at local festivals — including the Pungo Strawberry Festival — and at some local businesses.
Moore also works as an instructional technology specialist at Landstown High School, but he hopes to expand his photography business and to pursue it fulltime when he retires from the school system in a few years.
And he wants others to experience the Back Bay watershed. He’s planning to expand his business to include guided boat tours of Back Bay or the North Landing River. Passengers will have the chance to observe and photograph wildlife, including wild horses, and take pictures of the landscape and of sunsets on the bay.
Moore, who is calling his new venture Moore to See, is also studying the local history and culture so that he can share narratives with his passengers.
The tours will be aboard power boats and will leave from Nanney’s Creek and travel southward toward Knotts Island Bay and Monkey Island in the Currituck Sound, when the weather permits. On very windy days, when the bay waters are rough or when north winds make the water level too low for boat travel, Moore will take passengers out onto the North Landing River and its tributaries.
Moore also has plans for expanded tours, taking advantage of resources such as False Cape State Park, where facilities might be used for photography workshops. There is more to come for those plans as a local small business begins to grow.
Visit mooreandmorephotos.com for information about Moore and More Photography, and connect with The IMperfect Mermaid by calling (757) 472-2779.
© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC