2 years 11 months and 3 weeks ago I got the keys to my very first business. I had done my research and taken the leap. You see me and my brand new husband were in a transitional period in life. I had graduated from college finally (sort of, I got an AA in Merchandising and Marketing from FiDM) at the age of 29 and my husband was reconsidering his career as an engineer. We weren’t really sure what was next but we did know that we wanted to create something different than what our parents had done.
Both of our parents had worked their asses off often, meaning our fathers weren’t around as much as we would have liked and our mothers were exhausted. We thought if we opened our own business we could build a life that made us more available for the flexibility that parenthood often needs.
We weren’t really sure what was next but we did know that we wanted to create something different than what our parents had done.
I know, I know we were very naive. So we proposed to open a shop that would appeal to people like ourselves. Young wanderers. People who liked to travel, camp and live life to the fullest in style. I had done the research the outdoors market was exploding. Nike had come out with an outdoors brand and so had Urban Outfitters. But people in our demographic often weren’t finding stylish options for outdoors clothing and gear in REI and wanted something more fashion forward. And then we looked at our town demographics and saw a large percentage of people age 18-35 which we thought would be the best fit for our brand. We named it Wander. When a retail space opened up right in the middle of downtown only 2 miles from our home we thought PERFECT. We proposed the idea to my father in law who was looking to invest in a family business and jumped.
Now almost exactly 3 years later we are looking back at another transition. The transition from store owners to… not. We are closing our dream shop. Over the last few years we found out in the worst kind of way that while the demographics were there; they didn’t have the money to buy the type of equipment and clothing they demanded. They wanted quality at fast fashion prices. Though our store was downtown and cost us hugely in rent, our windows were too small and our square footage too large; demanding a large amount of inventory to fill it. That we didn’t know how to market ourselves as well as we thought and to add insult to injury my husband hated working in retail and I wasn’t able to for long due to having had a baby while still trying to build our business.
So we are preparing to say goodbye. And it’s tough. It hurts like I’m cutting off an appendage that doesn’t work anymore but also it means I’m going to not have a leg anymore and that feels fucking weird. I’m going to have to redefine myself. I’m no longer a buyer. I’m no longer using the degree that I still am paying student loans on. I’m no longer a business owner in the same regard. I do not own a shop. I designed my shop from the floor up, quite literally I had it refinished to the original flooring that was there in 1920 when it was built and put in new walls. I filled it with clothing and dreams and now I don’t know where to put all that. A friend of mine helped me with something that is good for my soul though. She helps creatives find their way with a method called Creative Alchemy. April Kling Meyer helped me write a creative mission statement. Mine goes like this.
My souls purpose is to be a voice and a gatherer while I am a creative motivator with myself and others. While I create a world that is a caring partner.
My shop wasn’t helping me make the world a caring partner. It wasn’t helping me be the voice and be a gatherer. It wasn’t making me into a creative motivator any longer. It was sucking me dry of my life force and drive and of course all our savings. So I will find the things that do. Like this blog. Like sharing my story and helping other women to do the same. Like bringing us all into a village where we help each other be better. Like focusing on being the best parent I can be. Like not feeling like a failure just because I had an idea that didn’t work. And we did do something amazing. For three years I built connections to my community. I sold items them helped people get closer to nature and hopefully each other. I went to trade shows all over the country found amazing items from all over the world. I gave my friends jobs that challenged them and was able to use my degree and do my job in a way that I was truly proud of. I carried small brands that gave back to our world.
I followed a dream I had had for a very long time of owning my own shop and business. I shouldn’t be ashamed. But I am allowed to be sad. Because transitions are hard. But as someone who’s words I really love reading (Glennon Doyle author of Carry on Warrior and the Momastary)
WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.
So I’ll cry after I tell my wonderful employees I am letting them go. I will take deep breaths as I mark down every piece of merchandise in my store and pack up the rest for charity. And I’ll try to walk away with my head held high.