Approximations. I’m learning to become comfortable with them in lieu of the perfectionism I’ve accidentally clung to all my life. With that in mind, I’m learning to appreciate the journey and not just the results. And the scariest part of that is sharing it with others, faults and all, in an effort to honor the reality of progress. So this will be the first of many posts taking you along for my homesteading/ foraging/ permaculture/ off grid quest.
First it was school, and all of the rules and unnecessary fluff that made me want to escape it.
Then it was college and the grating incompetence that surfaced any time a group project was to be undertaken. Next it was shitty part time jobs, bosses, coworkers.
Eventually I realized it was me. I was the problem in these equations. They all called for a variable that obviously wasn’t me but I kept inserting myself in anyhow and throwing off the calculations.
I even had the audacity to stare at everyone else like wtf have you done? Yeah, I know.
In time I stopped being mad at them and started to see that I needed to stop trying to fit into their systems. What I needed to do was design my own system around things that functioned for me.
The first step was to be the boss. Or so I thought. It turns out managing people takes -wait for it- people skills.
And that’s where as a small business owner I instantly went wrong. I had vendors, and assumed that they’d just plug into my system and function as needed. No. Wrong. So wrong.
They wanted personal relationships, they wanted to vent to me about their lives, they wanted me to watch their cat when they went on vacation.
This was not what I had in mind.
You bring the stuff, I sell the stuff. You pay your rent, I pay you for what you sell. You come to drop off more stuff, then you promptly go home.
Despite observing first hand the nature of stores that had vendors (I worked at one for over a year), and the relationships the vendors developed with one another and the store owner, I foolishly thought it would be different for me.
Here I learned another important tidbit, some (most) systems come with expectations. It doesn’t matter what you intend for. If everybody else is used to something being a certain way, they’re the majority and that is the way that it is. End of story.
So I ignorantly stumbled through a few vendor meetings (I never went to one at my old job, I assumed nobody intentionally visited that level of purgatory) and fielded complaints about things I couldn’t fix.
Well Nancy, unless you want your rent raised the store is going to be 65F. Put on a coat. No I’m not listing your things on eBay for you, why would you think that’s my responsibility?
But, I knew I couldn’t fold despite the overwhelming evidence that I was not cut out for this.
Or at least not for this version of small business ownership. Of course for the sake of the bigger plan I had to remain committed. It takes approximately 3 to 5 years to establish a solid customer base after all.
So yeah, there’s that little nugget- I was quietly planning an escape just six months into owning my business.
Next I thought I could cut the number of vendors I had (and the number of complaints and soul sucking sob stories when their rent was overdue) by bringing in a paint line. Chalk paint is hot, this particular line is zero VOC, do a few shots and teach a few classes. Easy peasy.
Ah, no. Not once did I teach a paint class.
Once I received the paint and used it I didn’t understand how on earth I could sell a class to somebody. Who can’t dip a brush in paint and then apply it to a piece of furniture? Go learn on YouTube for free if you’re that bamboozled by the three sentences that comprise the instructions.
Once again my INTJ self was blindsided by the obvious. -Most people do not go to a deeply basic class to learn. They go to bring a friend, make a few new friends, share some wine, and BS for a few hours.
At this point I began to wrestle with the possibility that I was a dangerously slow learner.
Silly me wanting a thing to work my way despite it already basically being coined to work another way. A sip and paint. Why on earth did I think I could lead a sip and paint?
That’s another thing I would never willingly go to, it sounds horrid. Sorry not sorry.
Third try is a charm, right? Maybe?
My last ditch effort was to do markets and antique shows. Yes, there are expectations with that too, but with a simple caveat- it’s quick bursts of interaction at a planned time with a planned end in sight.
I can slap a smile across my face and sell for 5 hours when I have the prep time for it and alone time afterwards. Heck it might even be a genuine smile if I can have a drink in my hand and your children aren’t touching my shit.
Low and behold that format worked. I’m completely fine with the physical labor involved, and the social labor is short and noncommittal. A quick hello how are you. Maybe a 4 minute conversation here or there. Nobody is trying to become my best friend or get a free therapy session out of me. It’s even lucrative enough to be worth the tedious set ups and tear downs.
So I thought, okay, when I’m only involved with people for short periods of time I can bring my best self to the table and then leave before I’m feeling drained and reclusive. Dare I go so far as to say it’s actually enjoyable?
Having found this bit of success I wondered how best to expand on it.
Move the shop to a place with no rent, drastically cut hours to start a massive new undertaking, and share the story as it unfolds. Obviously.
Yeah I know, I jump to things. Or at least that’s what people think. Keep in mind I’ve been low key planning this for over two years.
So all of that to say, I’m moving the shop! And rent free you ask, why yes, because my dad has a fantastic barn that just needs a few renovations.
I plan to do some big seasonal shows at the barn, close during the slowest summer and winter months, and probably only be open two or three days a week otherwise. I’ll also keep doing local markets.
No more vendors paying rent- I’m keeping a few skilled artisans and only taking a commission which I feel is more fair to both them and me.
When I need a vacation I’m taking it. When I’m sick I’m closing. And when your bratty kids are literally throwing a globe across my store (yes that has happened) I will scream at you to get the hell out and take your your ill-mannered spawn with you. It’s going to be glorious.
Oh and as for the massive undertaking, it’s a multifaceted project so as it takes off in it’s various forms I’ll be sure to write about it.