This past year has been one of the most challenging years I have ever had, if not the most challenging, and I’ve been through a lot. When I started this journey to own my own business I had made the choice if not now, then when? At the time I wasn’t in a relationship, didn’t have any children, and seemingly didn’t have anything holding me back, so I decided to go for it. From the time I chose the name of my store to the time I opened, took just under 6 months.
I worked out my lease agreement with the help of a close friend, I found my own contractor for my tenant improvements, got all my permits and city licenses, and started gathering everything I needed to set up shop. In hindsight my absolute favorite part of owning a business was seeing the vision in my head materializing before my very eyes. After all, I did have something to be proud of, because I was doing it all by myself. Once I got through my lease negotiations (which were a nightmare) and started breaking down walls, we quickly realized there were structural issues that had been falsely disclosed in the lease agreement. I also started to have reservations about my location because it was in a development that was still under construction and my location was located down the “Secret Alley.” What ultimately sold me on the location though was the potential and some of the big-name restaurants like Nobu, that would anchor the center. I decided this was where I was meant to be and fear was not going to hold me back!
Life Lesson #1 – Nothing about your business should be “secret” no matter how cool and trendy it is to be exclusive. Unless this is not your first go-around or you have unlimited capital, beware.
The first few months that I was open were surreal, it was almost like I had been an overnight success. I had friends coming in almost every day, made friends with all the other tenants in the village, and I finally felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief. This was going to work out for me! Right after the New Year hit, four businesses around me closed their doors and I experienced what seemed like an endless season of little to no foot traffic. It was almost like a little ghost town where I would see maybe two customers a day. All of the store owners in the village were very supportive of each other and would always encourage one another so I knew things were going to turn around soon. What I thought of as a slow season, was followed by another slow season, and things were not picking up down the Secret Alley like we had all hoped. I was trying every marketing idea I could think of to bring in more foot traffic with social media, e commerce, paid advertising, pop up shops and in-store events, but nothing seemed to make up for the slow weeks and months in between. Every penny I made went straight back into the store but I was quickly running out of working capital with my rather large overhead. I remember someone telling me that more is lost in indecision than decision, and after a year I felt like the writing was on the wall. I can remember getting on my hands and knees every night praying with tears streaming down my face for things to turn around. I didn’t want to fail. I was terrified to fail.
By some miracle, I was able to completely walk away from my lease unscathed, but as I sat on the floor of my empty store I couldn’t help but feel like I had lost my purpose. I had lost my mom and best friend, been through a few failed relationships, and now I had lost my livelihood & passion to wake up for every day. There are so many times in life where we are told to hold onto our highest expectations and everything will work out. When it doesn’t work out though, there is no way not to take it personal. It’s hard to believe that a situation you’ve worked so hard for could ultimately be out of your control.
Life lesson #2 – Failure is our greatest teacher and without it we wouldn’t grow. If everything went right in life and everything you did turned out perfect, think of how different you would be. Unfortunately, it’s the really hard, gut wrenching times that build character. It also taught me that sometimes everything falls together so it can fall apart. As odd as that statement may sound, sometimes we are meant to fail, and fail fast. Sometimes we are meant to learn brutal lessons in a short period of time… almost like an expressway to enlightenment. The sooner you fail and learn the lesson, the sooner you are able to advance and move forward in a new direction. When you look back in hindsight though, nothing can be considered a failure where there was a valuable lesson learned.
Question: Which areas of your life have you had to fail in to learn a (in)valuable lesson?