By Michelle George, Guest Contributor.
I must be crazy to be in this business!
Why am I going through this ridiculous rigmarole every day?
Your dream business trajectory of launch to stellar success is never that perfect moon shot arc. The journey is never smooth.
“Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.” Elon Musk
No one can explain or prepare you for how lonely and isolating the voyage can be.
From pre-launch startup to operations, your business will stretch your mental capacity, and your emotions to unimagined outer limits on a daily basis.
Mantras like, “Trust your struggle” are supposed to make you feel better as you swallow bitter pills otherwise known as business challenges.
But do they work? I will leave that for you to decide.
Persistence is praised; but knowing when to quit is a precious gift. Live to fight another day. Battle-worn but wiser, some create another (ad)venture.
Others find levity in dark moments. They unearth humour from unexpected places; adding a unique twist to their startup story that doesn’t fail to extract light and laughter from gloomy situations.
Despite the drama, there is magic in the path less travelled.
Don’t take my word for it. I will let this boutique owner and self-confessed “pop up mama” share her tale from her own entrepreneur’s journey.
Get yourself a drink and a snack.
Settle down. You are in for a treat!
Why My Business is Like an Ungrateful Child (and yours might be too) by guest contributor Michelle George, founder and owner of The Tailor’s Daughter.
On Monday July 31st 2017, I hosted a tea party, marking the end of a chapter; or the closing of the curtains shall I say. Each invited guest brought their own favourite fine-boned china.
I served tea at 3 pm in the retail space that was once my pride and joy, now naked as a newborn baby. Speaking of newborn babies…
I birthed my ungrateful child in 2013 and named it The Tailor’s Daughter Inc. – a specialty retail shop selling authentic Caribbean gourmet condiments, exotic candies, coffees, chocolates, kitchen linens, and other cool handcrafted goods made by super creative island folks.
At my closing tea party one of my guests, cup of Earl Grey in hand, asked me how I was feeling about it all. I had been asked this question many times leading up to today. I was ﬁrm in my conviction when I gave her my answer because I had plenty of time to think about how I truly felt about closing my shop.
Well, I’m not sad, but I am disappointed, I told her. This business has turned out to be like an ungrateful child.
Let me be clear. The birth of my business was not an accident. It was a carefully planned, much wanted pregnancy. I went about setting up my new business as I would preparing for the arrival of a special new born.
Imagine it would be something like this.
I hired a doula and listened to the classical music to keep me and my baby calm throughout the long pregnancy. When it was born I fed it homemade organic baby food.
Nothing but the very best for my baby.
I watched all the videos from the gurus. Read and followed their advice about keeping my baby safe and cared for. I didn’t let any strangers interfere with how I raised my child. Only those I knew and trusted were allowed to touch my baby. I made sure raised it in what I believed to be the right neighborhood.
I was patient through the terrible twos. I did all that a loving parent would and could do. I sacriﬁced myself, went without, loved unconditionally. And you know what all my efforts and sacrifice produced?
This ungrateful child!
I’m not sad. I am disappointed that this is how all my hard work paid me back. So now this ungrateful child is going for a serious timeout, and this mama is taking a break!
Despite all this, I am thankful for the many business lessons this experience taught me. Here are 5 big startup business lessons I want to share with you.
1.FIND THE PERFECT SPACE AND LOCATION. The perfect home for your business should be eye-catching with generous curb appeal.
You need a location where you cannot be missed and blessed with a steady stream of the right kind of traffic.
The space I chose was known as a hub for tourism shopping activity. A historic building that was attractive and had other cool, locally owned boutiques. Sounds perfect, right?
As the end of business day on Friday, the level of loitering increased. The garbage that would collect in front of my boutique between Saturday, evening and Monday morning gave evidence to the weekend escapades that took place in our absence!
Lesson: Make sure the home you choose for your business is the perfect location during the day and the night; whilst you are present and in your absence too.
2. THE TRICKY THING ABOUT CUSTOMERS. This premium location did have great tourist traffic – potential customers for my shop; or so I thought.
My mistake was thinking that all tourists are created equal. They are not! Cruisers are not known to be shoppers among those in the retail industry. A cruiser has a little time to take in an entire destination. It’s like speed dating.
The majority of cruise ship passengers spend their money on tours and not shopping (do you have any idea how much those tours cost?!).
I heard the cry of business people in the neighbourhood about these “cheap cruise ship tourists”. That isn’t the problem. They are not cheap. They are spending the precious money and time on experiences, not stuff.
Lesson: Discover what your customers want and value; then give it to them.
3. STRESS KILLS – BUT YOU KNEW THAT ANYWAY. If it doesn’t kill you, it will still torment you with sleepless nights, anxiety, and a plethora of unexplained ailments.
I maintained my sanity by absorbing these quotes and applying them daily.
• Staying in the moment, accepting the things that I can’t control, dealing with those that I can.
• Following my heart but taking my brain with me.
• Treating others the way I would want them to treat me.
Despite these well-intended mantras, I learned you cannot escape the facts of what you are experiencing. My ungrateful child was acting out despite constantly feeding it money and energy.
This is the time you need to evaluate what you are doing and why you are still doing it.
Be honest with yourself. Explore what you could be doing instead.
Is there some other place you would rather be?
If you could hit pause would you do something else?
Lesson: Make time to reflect and ask yourself the hard questions. Don’t stop there. Seek the answers to those questions and take action.
4. PIVOT AND KEEP MOVING. Lack of cash flow is a major factor that can kill a business swiftly. When sales are slow, expenses such as rent, salaries and utilities are fixed and ongoing. It doesn’t take long to start sliding down a very slippery slope.
The idea of a “pop-up” became my solution to cash-flow woes. The first store within a store “pop up shop” was born. After a year of incubation in my shop, that business owner found a space of her own and expanded.
Another pop up candidate came along. A small little known online based duo, Akeem and Abbie with Donut Ace.
Their success was unprecedented. Crowds grew with their increasing popularity, often standing in line out the door.
The action was fun and exciting; all while sharing in the overhead. It was the perfect time and location for them; but it was the writing on the wall for my business in this space.
Lesson: There are circumstances that call for retreat. Knowing when to quit is smart. Your goal is to learn all you can and live to fight another day.
Free yourself to invest time, money, energy and creativity into something new or different. The next time you will be wiser, smarter with an even better chance for success.
Don’t give up. Keep dreaming up fresh ideas and solutions to challenges. Doors will close. But when you do this you create the opportunity for new doors to open for you.
5. DO IT ANYWAY. Plans to open a branch of my shop at the new airport location had been in motion for quite some time. As we grew closer and closer to our new opening, doubt started to take over my mind.
• Was I adding another headache to my load?
• What if we really don’t have what people want?
We opened the airport store. The doubts did not disappear straightaway. The answers to my doubts came at the end of the first operating season.
Increased sales in the new location spoke volumes and confirmed the truth of my business’ brand.
These visitors are our customers, and we do have what they want and value!
Lesson: Doubts will be the uninvited companions on your entrepreneur journey. Please don’t let them stop you. Challenges and disappointments are tough to deal with; but each are opportunities to learn and do better next time. Learn and do it anyway! Build a brand around your customers’ desires and values.
I’m happy to report that my second “born” child is thriving at the VC Bird International airport in Antigua, under the careful guidance of a very attentive team of surrogate parents (my rather fabulous team).
My name is Michelle Claudia George. I live on the sunny island of Antigua in the Caribbean. My dad named me after a beautiful, Italian actress from the 1960s. I think he was hoping it would help me have an easier journey in life. When I’m not grinding, I do rather enjoy drinking tea and Prosecco solo or in fine company. I love to sing. And no I’m not good at it; but I don’t let that stop me. Laughter and the sea seem to ﬁx all my problems. Surrounding myself with positive energy is my daily mantra. I ﬁrmly believe that becoming an entrepreneur is one of the bravest career moves a person can make.
The Tailor’s Daughter is on Instagram and here too.