Smoke and Mirrors (and some self-love)
Posted on 14 February 2018
I've always kept a small circle, but throwing myself into the world of small business has really forced me to interact with more people than I thought my anxiety could handle at times. Figuring out who is a friend or who is shady as all get out has been quite an undertaking. In the beginning I was somewhat obsessed with promoting others, being the nice girl, and convincing myself and others that things were much better than they appeared. Flash forward a year and a half, and I feel like all I've been doing is pretending, saving face, and hiding out. And I'm over the act.
Apparently there's an unwritten rule that we all need to act like business is booming when in fact it's not. It's an intimidation strategy, and it needs to stop. Think about how you feel when you scroll through instagram, and everyone's life looks 100x better than yours. Small business owners are doing this as well, and I don't think it's healthy for businesses or the local community. It's okay to struggle, personally and professionally. Being honest, strategizing about moving forward, and being able to lean on others in the same position can actually benefit you.
You may be thinking, well customers don't want you to air all your troubles, and I one hundred percent agree with that. I'm only speaking business to business here.
Storefronts are dying. Buildings are empty. You need to start strategizing.
I think one thing that holds businesses back from this type of interaction is they feel like they'll do all the work or be ripped off. I'm proof that it happens whether you join forces or not though. Some businesses have poor branding and are simply following a monkey see, monkey do way of running a storefront. I get it. It's easy. But you can't run a business waiting for everyone else to make your next move. Also, you're missing out on that moment I can only describe as pure bliss when you launch something that really works. And you can have that feeling as a team of people working together. Trust me.
You can't change your feed, but you can change your perspective.
I taught for years before this adventure, and had the fortune of having NO social media in my life. Seeing other businesses in our feed every time we log in does a lot to our minds. We are always under the assumption that everyone is doing better than us. It's such a lie and completely unhealthy, yet we continue to do it.
I've been so out of the loop about so many things related to social media, and I can't wait to step back out honestly. One of the things I've learned is that there are communities of people on social media bouncing ideas off of each other and providing feedback. So my question would be why do we trust all this advice from perfect strangers instead of the ten other people in town doing the exact same thing as us? Many businesses are even targeting the same demographic, so I feel like I'm missing something here. Pride is getting in our way, and the shop local campaign is suffering because of it.
Your situation is just that. Yours.
Along the lines of the comparison game we're playing everyday, I think it's important to acknowledge that we are all in business for a different reason, and some people's reasons do not include bringing home a paycheck. I felt confident starting this business because I could go without income for awhile. Small business owners have a hard time saying that aloud sometimes, but a lot of us are putting in a ton of hours to simply cover the overhead. One of my main reasons for closing my storefront was because I was working way too hard for not a lot of pay off. I have other things I want to accomplish in life, and there's comfort and consistency in a 9-5. (Or in my case a 7-3)
So to wrap up my ranting, I'm leaving you with my big takeaways from giving this thing a shot. If you are interested in owning a small business consider:
1. How can you reduce your overhead? (Did I really need a $700 leather sofa and $300 cowhide rug that every Tom, Dick, and Harry has in their store? Probably not.)
2. Learn to say NO or at least be picky. (to fundraisers, publication ads, fashion shows, giveaways, memberships etc. Consider whether or not they are bringing you money in the long run. There are great causes to donate to if you simply have a giving heart.)
3. Don't talk about business owners to other business owners. I've fallen victim to this little trap, and it's so lame. All that time we waste gossiping is time we could spend building this little business of ours. Also, you lose your credibility real quick.
4. Keep in mind that everyone has an agenda. Everyone. (I can't tell you how much I've spent on people and services that I have nothing to show for now. Everyone wants to make a dollar, so treat yours like they are precious.)
5. Do some real research. There are questions that if I had asked myself in the beginning would had absolutely kept me from opening my storefront. Is your business filling some sort of gap for the community? Why are you choosing this location? How much inventory or how many services will you need to provide to meet your goals? Study, study, study.
In the end it's important to recognize that some people have a hobby with a sign slapped on the front. (Hence The Valley was born.) I definitely do not want to deter people from chasing their dreams because I see businesses around me with a full staff and amazing products and services. I just want to be real. I've always been the outsider down here, and although there were some negative responses to that, I think it also came with the privilege to sometimes say what everyone else was thinking.
So maybe this falls on deaf ears, or maybe it resonates with just one person.
I miss not having a number in my mind as soon as a new month begins.
And so The Valley is CLOSED completely and permanently. And I cried happy tears typing that line.
Thank you for the support and lessons,