This isn’t a happy-go-lucky how to find success in difficult times story. This is me being raw with the world about the realities of being a small business owner, and how making a life choice can have a detrimental impact on your business.
It all started last year, and when my ex-husband and I agreed to separate in October of 2015. It probably seemed sudden to pretty much everyone, but it wasn’t. There wasn’t any infidelity. There was no big, messy divorce. It was a simple matter of an inability to compromise, on both our parts, and failure to handle life changing events in an understanding way, on both our parts, over the course of several years. There’s no single person at fault, we just weren’t the right people for one another. I can say this with confidence, because he’s moved on, I’ve moved on, and mutual friends who were actively there during our seven year relationship and marriage openly tell me that we are both so much happier and better off without one another. We tried to make it work, and it didn’t, for the simple fact we just weren’t right for one another. And that’s okay.
Shortly after filing for divorce and moving half way across the country to NC, I deleted over a hundred people from my personal Facebook page. Old friends from KC, some random crafters I had added but never spoke to, my old hair stylist (who I loved and miss very much!), obviously my ex-husband and his entire extended family. No hard feelings against any of them, I just needed time to heal, and privacy. I kept only my close friends and family in the loop through that transitional period. I valued Facebook as this weird, sort of sacred space as a place to share my journey into my new life with only those I felt intimately able to open up to. I figured there were so many other channels to connect on, Twitter, Instagram, email, phone calls and text, that I could still keep in touch with anyone else I removed from my personal Facebook page during this time. What I was going through was very personal though, and my logic was if anyone was concerned about me during that period, they would reach out and ask me how I was doing, or if I wanted to talk about it. And I would have! Because reaching out to someone is personal, and my preferred method of discussing personal business is one on one, heart to heart conversations.
Perhaps severing those connections wounded some. That wasn’t my intention. I was simply taking the time & space I needed to heal. My business felt the almost immediate throat punch of my transition though, more than I did at the time. Upon my move, I lost my support network I had built in KC over 6 years. Some to bitterness from being removed from Facebook, I’m sure (if they had asked I would gladly have explained why!), some perhaps simply to the fact I wasn’t a local business anymore. Either way, I was fully unprepared for the next 8 month stint in which online sales slowed almost to a halt right when I needed them the most, as I was fully reliant on my monster making income for the first time in the history of being a small business owner.
I struggled with feeling deflated & depressed about my business during those months; After years of successfully growing Lu & Ed, suddenly, the silence was overwhelming. The lack of income was terrifying. I attempted to find a job locally but was turned down for every position I applied for because my work history – having owned my own company for seven years & the list of skills that went along with that “overqualified” me for every position I tried to apply for, even when I dumbed it down. Tax season helped a bit; I was able to use money from my return to secure my own place, where I thought if I had more room to produce more inventory, sales would increase. Unfortunately, not the case. And now I had rent and utilities to worry about it. And the cost of living in WNC is much, much higher than I anticipated.
It was a very scary point in my life for me.
Thankfully, my family & support network here helped me as much as they could – my brother let me live with him for the first five months free of rent so I could save money. My mom and dad pitched in when I couldn’t make ends meet after I moved into my place in March and had the slowest month for sales ever recorded in the history of Lu & Ed. They all encouraged me to keep working my dream, to keep making monsters. They split foods in bulk from SAMS Club to offset food expenses for me in April, which enabled me to finally able to write my first rent check completely on my own for the month of May.
From there, things began to look up. My new partner, Kris, moved in with me to help alleviate living expenses & help raise our son. I was able to relax a little about bills & reinvest a small portion of my income into doing local shows to help establish my little business here. While the shows were hit or miss, and I had to back out of a few for time issues or health reasons, I have had several good stockings in my shop since then, and sales are steadily picking back up. I secured a seasonal wholesale account with Scout & Timber Co in Colorado, a consignment deal with The Littlest Birds here in Asheville, and will be meeting with another children’s store locally this month to discuss another wholesale opportunity.
I also started babysitting a few kiddos during the week, which has greatly helped while I work to become established here in WNC with my monster biz, and it’s also super helping me with making connections & building my mama tribe here!
So slowly, things are coming together. True to my word of the year, the first half of 2016 was all about grinding off the jagged edges to expose the loveliness underneath. I couldn’t have gotten through these last few months without my family, and Kris. I am so thankful to have them, and to be so very close to my parents, my siblings, all my nieces and nephews. It’s such a beautiful life here, even when things are scary, volatile and uncertain.
I have a good feeling about the second half of 2016. Still got some grinding to do, but I feel like things are going to start smoothing out soon – I am stronger than I was before, and more eager than ever to embrace this brave new life, no matter what it throws at me!