Our 1st Year as Starving Entrepreneurs
This first blog post of ours is going to be a tad long, and very candid. I don't know any other way to put into words what this past year was like for us, except to simply tell it like it is, like it was. You know the phrase "that was a wild ride," well it applies. Except this ride made us cry and vomit, more than once.
People ask us all the time what its like having our own store, owning a business, working for ourselves. I feel like the perception is that its somewhat glamorous, that it allows for some sort of freedom the regular 9-5 doesn't. Im here to change that perception.
Carrie and I had been working together for a few years as management at the Gymboree Corp, and we ran a little side hustle, called... La Petite Boutique. We worked with a few other local maker business to make baby gift boxes. We worked the whole market circuit, always talked about owning our own store - like every other small business owner - it was the DREAM! I've grown to hate those words. I hate saying them. Everyone says them. We get it. We all have dreams. Making them a reality, ya, that part isn't in your dreams. Like the real nitty gritty of turning that dream into the reality, no one imagines that part. No one imagines some virus is going to disrupt the entire world and threaten to close the lid on your little dream. But it happens. It HAPPENED. But honestly, for our biz, by the time the world shut down, our skin was so thick from all the other insane things that happened that we almost didn't feel it. Almost.
Anyway, I digress. Like I said we'd worked together for a few years in children's retail - as senior management, and we had skills. We were good at our job. Very good. Going places good. Then, a bunch of unforeseen things happened all at once and it was truly bizarre. I got pregnant, Carrie got diagnosed with MS, Gymboree announced it was going bankrupt, we bought a giant printer that wouldn't fit in either of our basements and the storefront at Pearson Lanes became available (Pearson Lanes has meaning to us, a story for another day). Its like there was a giant bubble over our heads screaming DO IT, JUMP. So we did. We had a now or never mentality. We literally had nothing to lose. We opened that store on a dime - we enslaved our husbands and our friends. We got a lot of the things we needed from Gymboree (which honestly is kinda nice, the company that we loved so much is still with us!).
What a lot of people don't know, is that the original plan wasn't to open a baby boutique. But if you're in business, you know how flexible you have to be on your plans, because they change. Pretty much overnight. One moment can change everything. Its super cliche, but its true. The original plan was to operate our other business Durham Crafters. But we ended up using the store front section of the space for a (super) small baby boutique as a way to help carry the overhead, and work La Petite Boutique into the plan. Well eventually La Petite Boutique took over - because who in their right mind would try to open two businesses at once, for the first time ever, in a 600 square foot space?! It did not work. We cut our losses with Durham Crafters and we were able to expand to a larger store front in the same building. Now for anyone who was watching that go down on social media - let me tell you, we sugarcoated a nightmare. We had to jump through a lot of hoops to get that bigger store, at the slowest point of the retail season - which was both a blessing and a curse. And about three weeks after re-opening, we were forced to close our doors due to the Covid pandemic.
Carrie and I have been looking back a lot on this past year lately. We made so many mistakes. We probably jumped in too quickly, too eagerly. We weren't cautious enough. We got hurt. We felt defeated quite a bit. We even contemplated throwing in the towel. But then something happens, a customer tells you a story, a vendor sends you a card, another business owner gives you some advice, and you're reminded - your fire is re-lit. There is a reason we took this leap. We aren't giving up. We will continue to overcome obstacles, to fail, to learn, to grow.
In short, it was a really hard year. We had more losses than wins. Looking back, would we change anything or do anything differently?