But here we go, shop post attempt number five...
If I could sum up my year, I would say it was really, really awesome.
Maybe you are sitting in a cubicle at a job you don't particularly enjoy or staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. wondering 'what am I going to do with my life?'. In that moment, owning your own retail space seems like a sweet little dream. You see my Instagram account and I'm going on vintage appointments, hanging sparkly stuff all over my window displays or wearing a crinoline on a Tuesday and you think that would be so very fun. And you're right! It is as fun as you dream it will be.
(Another great perk of running a retail space. Meeting so many new people and making lovely new friends. Like my girl Nat who came on my opening weekend last year and is now my go-to for texting cute animal pictures...)
For me personally, it was affirming to have other people 'get' what I'm doing and to be able to turn this love for fashion into a business. I mean, it started with me just loving fashion, thinking I wanted to be a bridal designer, hating that and then starting a blog, thinking I mayyyybe wanted to be a pro blogger, realizing I sucked at that and years later, finally feeling confident enough in my skill set to take the leap and start a shop. I'm good at picking unique vintage pieces, I'm good at putting clothes together and I'm good at displaying things in an appealing way and I get to turn those talents into my day job. Yup, pinch me. It is kind of a dream.
On the flip side, I could also sum up my year by saying it was really, really hard.
I feel almost like an ungrateful jerk the moment those words leave my mouth (or appear on the page). I really do have a great life. I have a perpetually positive and supportive husband who does not mind when vintage jewellery takes over the dining room and I have perpetually adorable and ungrateful cats who do care that vintage clothing takes over 'their' room. I have a great family, amazing friends and blog readers who genuinely care to support me. I have a lovely home, a mediocre car and a giant closet full of crazy vintage and black pants. Most of all, I have the opportunity to take this chance on a small vintage store and I know that is such a luxury in itself.
And yet, I want to repeat that it is really, really hard.
I was talking to a friend about it and trying to articulate exactly what makes it so difficult. I think part of it is that because your business is tied so closely to your own self that you feel every success and failure and mistake so deeply. You can't shut off your business obligations even when you step away from the shop.
Also worth acknowledging is the fact that retail is a beast. A beast that cares nothing for hard work, visions, excitement and the tender young hearts of starry eyed entrepreneurs. I think any unexpected business fluctuation can be explained with a small head shake and by muttering 'that's just retail'. Yes, the weather, the time of year and 'events' certainly have a role in determining your sales totals but so often you just can't predict it at all. At all. And when sales are really slow, you get thrown for a huge loop.
'I should re-do my windows.'
'I should re-do my displays.'
'I should re-do all my merch.'
'What am I even doing with my life right now????'
And if it is slow in the shop, it's not like you can stop working or just shut the shop for a few days. You need to still show up, bring in new merch and paste a smile on while you silently beg for that lady to not crush your spirit and ask for a discount on the $30 dress which will be your first in-store sale this week. I come from a landscaping back ground and I'm used to working 6 hours and getting paid for 6 hours. And now I've started a shop and as can be expected, you don't draw a salary as you are growing your business. Personally I've had two really slow periods in this last year and they both came at times when I was working extra hard. The early spring and late fall were really rough. It's just a busy time of year for me; in addition to running the shop and finding, cleaning, fixing and prepping the merch and planning some events, I was also trying to get online collections up and I was really busy at my other job (remember, no salary for a year or two... and I still love landscaping;)). So I would live off my to-do lists everyday and fall into bed at night exhausted from life and yet the shop was so slow that it felt like there was nothing to show for all that hard work and teeth grinding.
I'm not sharing this for sympathy (yes, I am. I need a hug.). I'm sharing this because this is what happens when you start a small business. You get blind sided by how hard it is and you question why you ever, ever disrupted your life to do that stupid thing and follow your dream. I am not special. This little post about the struggle of a small retail business is not unique. And yet, we don't often talk about it because it's kinda crappy to admit that you are not always a shining success. Other shop owners warned me beforehand that it would be tough, especially establishing yourself and building your consumer base. They warned me that is would be slow and you would see your bank account dip and your spirits would dip with your bank account. Maybe your consumption of spirits would rise though... (see what I did there). I believed it when they warned me but I was still shocked at how defeated I could feel.
And so I'm sharing this to be honest. And to encourage anyone in the same boat or hoping to hop on their own boat someday. You have to hustle, you have to have a solid business plan and you have to know some days will royally suck. But it will be worth it because past those terrible days are days when you are living the dream.
I hope to wear crinolines to work for a few more years at least...;)