Earlier today I was thinking about the events in the years my husband and I have been married, and I thought we’ve had two businesses together, but there have been more. I’m not sure how long ago it was that I first dreamed of having a business of my own. There’s something about it that appeals to my fiercely independent nature.
Many years ago, my husband and I started a “homemade” little bit of everything business. We sold birdhouses, doormats, lawn chairs, stuffed animals, dried flower arrangements, decorative shelves. Everything had a country crafty look. It wasn’t exactly our style, but it’s what we could make so we went with it. It didn’t last long but we learned something from it –
never try to sell something you don’t love.
Then my husband started a part-time cabinetry business. The man has a gift, let me tell you. He started building small things, then worked on some home remodeling finish work, then was asked to build some beautiful custom pieces. He started to have a waiting list. Then we were transferred out of state. My husband learned a lot –
do something you enjoy and don’t overestimate your abilities and people will be pleasantly surprised when you exceed their expectations.
Around the same time and before we moved, I wanted to add to our household income, but I didn’t want to start a business from scratch. A friend of mine had a party and invited me and I ended up signing on as a sales rep for a multi-level marketing company. I was pretty good at the sales thing. I followed the outline for having a party, put a couple of custom packages together, and did pretty well. But I didn’t like trying to keep up with the ever changing inventory. Too many “limited editions” made the company prosper because reps had to keep ordering, but it was hard on me because just as soon as I got a limited edition item in, they were discontinued and I had to have a sale. They probably worked well for reps with a ton of customers, but I wasn’t one of them. Our out of state transfer made it easy for me to stop selling the products. And I learned something –
never try to sell something you don’t love (yes, I’m a little slow) and I don’t like following someone else’s path, even if the path is well marked.
After our move, I thought I’d love to own a coffee shop. Coffee is a product with a HUGE profit margin (did you know that?). At the time, it cost about 2 cents to make a cup of plain old not so special coffee that sold for $1.50 a cup. The ratio is probably still about the same. I also loved the idea of creating a destination. A place that customers wanted to come to. We looked into buying an existing coffee shop for sale, but after working out all the details and arranging for financing, I knew I’d miss being able to do it on my own. The customers had an expectation of what the shop would look like, smell like, and taste like, so we decided not to buy the shop and started on the path to open our own. I had suppliers all lined up, menu items picked out, the location selected, business plan written. We picked up the lease and took it home to read it over before signing a long (three year I think) lease. Just before signing it, we found out we were expecting our fourth child. We knew I wouldn’t be able to handle pregnancy, new baby, new business all at one time, so we stopped everything. I learned a few things –
there’s nothing wrong with using someone else’s dream to inspire your own, but at some point you need to go in your own direction.
Come back tomorrow for part two, and you can find out what our new adventure is.