Hard to believe that it has been one year since Putnam and Speedwell planted roots in Athens . . . a few thoughts about growing pains!
We rented the space at Eclipse Company Town, an old mining town, last November about ten days before Thanksgiving. I was thinking that we could whip it into shape by Thanksgiving. We missed the mark. No kidding! The stress was too much; it is not unusual to lose business partners. And I did soon after renting the new space. A start-up takes grit, determination and even sleepless nights that winnow out the weak. I went on alone in the endeavor. I had confidence, energy, experience and a lot of spirit . . . enough to overcome this loss. Certainly, I was stunned but I looked at strengths . . .and perhaps foolishly, overlooked any weaknesses.
1. Finding vintage furnishings was not new to me. It had become a habit, you might say, to look for great old things for our great old homes that needed lots of work. Perhaps more importantly, we understood the value of reducing waste. McDonald’s began promoting Happy Meals to sell burgers to children . . .outraged Daddy would drive out to the landfill with our very young children in tow! I often wonder if the effect was akin to “the starving children in _____” talk given by my father when liver was served. So vintage and antique bargains were one of my specialties – a natural fit for those of us that gravitated toward great old houses.
2. In a previous life, I owned a retail storefront borne from my love for pure soap that was hard to find in the old days . . . pure cotton accoutrements of all kinds and linens. My sisters and brothers worked hard and built a great enterprise that became too big for us to handle . . . I had an intimate understanding of the danger of burn out. That storefront was huge 2500 square foot; and the new storefront was small and dry so it seemed just right. . .
3. Another plus, or so I believed was my experience with the Internet in my previous life. I relied on the internet for research, as in historical research. I believed that I lived in a golden age. The Internet was a BIG step for the democratization of knowledge connecting libraries and even archives. But at a desk in a research library or on a computer, the work is quiet and solitary most of the time.
If I understood my strengths, I also misunderstood a few deficits. The learning curve for Social Media and Social Marketing. Hmmmm . . . this was a new world with a steep learning curve!
In that other life, we built the business one person at a time and one day at a time – and time was slower. The internet was a boon to every entrepreneur on the block, right? Yes, but the process of learning took months not weeks nor days . . . At the beginning of this first year, I was not on Facebook, I did not Tweet nor did I blog – I am a very private person, I read history, I wrote, gardened and cooked like a madwoman and took long walks. Stepping onto this public platform was a venture like no other . . . but yet, since I overcame my fear of public speaking in large lecture halls with low light and Powerpoint, I believed that I was up to the challenge.
Thank heavens my daughter although incredibly busy with her venture and growing family came to my aid on many occasions. But still, there were many nights that I greeted the morning sun . . . WordPress is easy up to a point. . . Facebook was very difficult. Share? Follow? Friend? I looked at these words with an archaic mentality. . . still I do not know exactly how to tweet or exactly what to tweet. I rely on software that is on the Cloud . . .the big bunny cloud up there next to the giant hippo . . . Shopseen. A big help until I clicked buttons without understanding the danger of over-posting which of course led to unlikes which made me cry. Alyssa, another daughter, helped ease the pain . .. “this is not the real world, Mom” . . . since she too has built a business online with her husband. Thank heavens too for Novak, who stood by with confort et aide as an expert in logistics.
The energy and determination soon dwindled. Sleepless nights are not good at my age. Normally, I am quite healthy. Not this year . . . influenza and a fever that spiked at 104 degrees, an infection that ended with cellulitis on my face (very ugly) , DVT (get off your feet, they said) and last but not least, the wet winter and spring rain led to high levels of mold/mildew at the storefront. Oh and last but not least – the snow! Driving to town was nearly impossible at times. On one occasion, I had a hard time finding the car buried under the snow for days! There were times, I could not make it to the store and worse yet, I had not hired anyone to be there if and when I was not. Big mistakes . . . bought a 4WD truck and de-humidifier! I prioritized – letting go of furniture restoration, home renovation and big landscaping projects. I sleep more, eat more and laugh more. I wonder if my home will ever really be clean and tidy again! (Whew – talk about going public!)
It has been an amazing year of growth. The storefront at Eclipse is finally coming together . . . and selling online is coming along nicely . . . but still need to find a few good people to help grow the business. There are many ways we can grow – and serve the community better.
I have met some really terrific people online and at the storefront at Eclipse. I am thrilled that I am once again doing history – now with two books outlined, research progressing and ready to start writing . . . God Willing and the Creek don’t Rise! I am learning to take the time to do the little things that bring joy, health and happiness – and let go of the bumps along the way. You might say that this has been the worst of times and the best of times.
And last but not least, thank you to every one who has helped along the way with patience, kindness and the incredible gift of friendship. It is hard to stumble in the public arena; but, it would be impossible to recover without the kindness of others.
Now, it might just be a good time to celebrate times past and the good times to come!