Thursday, March 08, 2018

The End.

Our business has pretty much ended.  We have one order left to fulfill and then that is it.  I have so many feelings about it.  Starting the business was not my idea.  I was nervous about it for many reasons.  Our friends in Tennessee owned a few businesses and they were convinced that we could have success if we started a business so Mike decided it could be a good idea.  I didn't know what would happen or how much success we would have but I was excited to think about working with Mike and had hopes that we could make it something that would be successful enough to help us earn money on the side and allow us to give our boys some work in the future.  I felt pretty out of my league but Mike had confidence in us. 

There were some pretty rough patches along the way.  That first year there was a huge learning curve.  We had so much to learn.  When I think about the first products we turned out compared to the last I laugh and I'm even slightly embarrassed.  Our first things were kind of a mess but I'm proud of us for working hard to become better and more efficient.  There were nights that first year when things kept breaking or the machine kept malfunctioning and I'd be in tears and Mike would be so frustrated.  We asked ourselves a million times, "Why are we doing this?  We don't need the money.  We don't need the stress.  We should stop doing this."  I'd find Mike in the garage staring at the machine and then all the sudden he'd get this wave of inspiration and know exactly what to do to fix the problem.  It felt to us like the Lord was opening up ways for us to figure things out and make it work so we continued to try and learn and get better because it appeared that the Lord wanted us to do this business.  

We had some friends in Colorado who asked to join with us.  They agreed to take care of marketing for us, run the shop, and take care of the financial aspects of running the business.  It was a challenge.  I'm not going to lie.  We had been told that working with family and friends was hard and we knew that going into it but we thought we were better than that--I guess we were too prideful and thought we could do what others couldn't.  We knew the personalities of this couple well and I thought that our personalities would balance one another out and it seems like a relief to have someone else take care of the nitty gritty so we could focus on the production and designing.  I don't want to go into details but needless to say, our partnership didn't work.  Our visions were not the same.  Our personalities didn't balance one another out and there wasn't a degree of trust in one another that I think is necessary for a successful team.  Anyway, it didn't work and it was disappointing for so many reasons.  It really tested our friendship.  After our friends left the business, I was surprised at how much less stress I felt.  I knew things weren't going well but after, things just seemed easier and happier.  I'm sure they felt the same way as well.  I just don't think it worked for any of us.  

Mike and I worked well together for the most part.  The business was not a source of contention in our relationship.  It was stressful at times but we somehow figured out how to make it fit into our busy lives.  I admit that Mike did the majority of the work.  I'll talk about that more in a minute.  I took over the social media accounts after our friends left.  I didn't like it at all. I didn't like the pressure of doing loop giveaways, interacting with strangers on Instagram, and following other business accounts.  I found that participating on the business instagram account affected my self-esteem in a way that my normal account did not.  I realized after some time that it was really contributing to me having "not good enough-itis."  So, I really backed off from posting and interacting on that account.  

I was also in charge of the photography.  I'm not a professional photographer.  I found this task to be but rewarding and difficult.  When we were working with our friends, I'd often get a phone call saying, "You need to take that picture over.  It's not up to standards."  She would try to soften her words but in essence, I just didn't know how to do product photography.  It as a lot of work and I wasn't that good to begin with.  I often felt like we should hire a professional.  That said, it was a challenge both good and bad and I appreciated learning more and I think I got better as I practiced and learned.  

My other job was finishing the products.  It's pretty funny that that was my job because I pretty much knew nothing about wood working and there was a learning curve there as well.  By the end, I figured out the tricks to making our products look finished and clean.  

My final job was designing.  This was kind of a joint job.  Some of the things I designed were products that I loved and we had good feedback on but they weren't high sellers.  Some of them didn't sell at all.  My nature letters for instance were all my design but people didn't really want to buy those.  I loved those nature letters.  Most of the time we would talk about what we wanted to make and we would both sketch rough ideas in our business notebook and then I'd take that sketch and try to make it into a real picture or design.  Then, I'd turn it over to Mike and he would make it on the computer and turn it into a file the machine could cut out.  I leaned some of the computer programs and began to do some of that work myself but he did the majority of the computer work because he was good at it and understood it better.  

Mike did all the machine work.  He was starting to teach me at the end before we moved but I never got familiar with it enough to do it on my own without him being near to help me.  All production was pretty much his job.  Mike did all of the temple design work.  It was all done on the computer and he got really good and fast at the design work for the temples.  He got more detailed with each temple.  I think those are my favorite products we made.  

He also did the majority of the shipping.  We both did this job but he did it more than I did.  The final job he did was to take over the taxes and financial records.  Being Mike, he made a billion spreadsheets and tracked everything.  We both shared the job of running the Etsy shop and we discovered that we both dislike working with people.  I hated the back and forth.  We would do hours of work, send it on for approval, they would want a hundred changes, we would do those changes, they would want more.  Eventually, the amount of time we had spent wasn't worth the price we were charging and it just got frustrating.  We never did get very good at saying, "We will give you one opportunity to ask for changes and then you get what you get."  

The last year we ran the business we had a lot of success.  I felt like we were both becoming better at what we do and we had great feedback and found a lot of joy in working together and creating things.  I was really pleased with the progress we were making and where we were headed.  I felt like people were finally discovering us and we were growing at a manageable pace.  Our friends who owned businesses (and our friends who worked with us) were always trying to pressure us to do more and put more time into the business and go through Groupon or Desert Book to grow the business but we never felt comfortable with that kind of fast growth.  Mike had a job.  I was not interested in being a working mother and neither of us had the time to fully make our business a big business but we were happy with the slow growth and happy to see our business starting to make money for us.  

Then things went South.  We closed the shop in the Spring so we could get our garage in order to sell our house.  In July, a day before the packers came to pack our things for the move, Mike got a phone call saying that it was uncertain if they would be able to move our machines.  We were both stressed and we deal with stress differently.  He had been gone all week at scout camp and I was home with a new baby and trying to get the last of our house ready for the packers when he gave me the news.  The discussions following were unpleasant and tense.  Mike wanted to give the business away.  I wanted to wait and see if the packers couldn't take it and then make a decision.  I couldn't imagine just walking away like that.  We hadn't gone into debt for the business but we had put a lot of our money into it and the idea that we would just give it away was sickening to me.  Again, I don't want to go into all the details.  I don't need to highlight the ugly arguments that followed in a moment of intense stress for us, but we did not agree.  I was confused, honestly by his sudden desire to just walk away and by the relief he felt at the thought of not doing the business anymore and I think I realized that he wasn't invested in it anymore.  At that point, I got on the phone to find someone we could sell it to.  Mike decided to wait and see what would happen the next day and then we would move forward from there.  

The movers decided they would take the machinery and Mike decided that he didn't want to give the business away after all but I think by that point, I had already realized that the business wasn't probably going to continue the way it had.  We got to Florida and Mike researched the laws for running a business in Florida and discovered that in Melbourne, it is illegal to run a business from your garage.  The man on the phone admitted it was a stupid law and that no one would probably know but we both felt uneasy about running a business from our garage that was illegal.  Mostly, I felt like we teach our boys to be honest in all their dealings and didn't feel like we could say that and then turn around and run our business knowing that we weren't supposed to.  We had talked about trying to go to the City Council and get an exception but ultimately, we've decided that right now isn't the time for us to start the business up again.  To add to this, our lives are so busy and full right now I don't even know how we would add work for the business into our lives.  We are tired and busy and have no time for extra stress.  

All of this has been hard for me, honestly.  There have been a lot of tears on my part.  Maybe that sounds dumb.  Mike has pointed out that he feels it is partly because some of my self esteem is tied up in the business and I think he is probably right even though I hate admitting it.  That is not all the reasons for my sadness but I think it's not too far off.  I felt pressured into starting this business.  It really pushed my beyond my comfort zone to do something I had never in my life considered.  I didn't feel capable of running a business but with encouragement from others I began to think I could.  I've never felt artistic and I started to feel like I had potential.  A friendship with one of my best friends was threatened.  I often fought feelings of insecurity and doubt and comparison.  I had hoped for a future that was successful enough to give the boys some work in their teenage years.  I liked having a common hobby with Mike.  While my primary goal is to be a mother and I don't want to have things in my life that threaten my ability to focus on that, I liked being able to show the girls that I can be a mother and have hobbies on the side.  I admit, I did like producing something that others wanted.  It made me feel good about myself and about what I was learning.  It also affected my self-esteem when I realized how limited I am in my ability to learn things.  I had a friend ask me once if I noticed my learning disability affecting me on a day to day basis and I told her I didn't think so but I realized that even if it isn't obvious all the time, it does affect me.  I don't learn like others do.  What comes easy for Mike, takes me years to learn.  I felt self-conscience at times trying to learn the programs or figure things out that shouldn't be that difficult to learn.  I also feel like there was no closure.  We started a business and then just stopped.   

None of these things had any effect on Mike.  For him, it was an expensive hobby.  He enjoyed it, except for when he didn't.  He used to dream of owning a cheese business but learned from this experience that he doesn't want to be a business owner.  If people didn't buy our products, it didn't bother him, he just enjoyed the process of creating.  The fact that there is thousands of dollars worth of equipment just sitting in my garage, makes me so frustrated.  I think about how that money will never be made back and it doesn't bother Mike. 

This is a long post but I've been keeping these feelings in for a long time and thought I should finally write about them. 

What I need to do is focus more on the positive.  We took a risk and tried something new.  We developed our skills.  We found joy in working together.  We had the opportunity to help others (we hired a friend to work for us who lost her job and made enough to pay her for at least six months), we gained insight into our personalities.  We found joy in creating.  We didn't go into debt. 

So, all in all, I should not look at this as a failure.  I should see it as a success.  

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