Monday, April 30, 2018

The Highs and Lows of Being a Business Owner

I'm getting real today and diving into a topic that is on my mind more than what I plan to wear tomorrow. Most people don't sugarcoat it: owning a business is not a piece of cake. The last 16 months have certainly shed light to that, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I've had nights where I've cried to Stephen or my parents wondering what in the world I've done.

It's a hard jump leaving a corporate job full of security and diving into the creative or retail field where you become your own boss. But what I've found in the 8 months that my store has been open is that the days that are the hardest are always followed by a day of pure joy and happiness that remind of you of why you started in the first place. 

The Lows:

Sometimes it feels like you're all alone. I've sat in my office after the store is closed for the day, perusing my credit card charges, the payouts from the day, and the stack of bills that needs to be paid. It's a heavy feeling, knowing that you're the sole individual responsible for all of those things. 

Work/life balance. What is that exactly? Stephen says I'm always scheming something, which is partially true because it has to be. When you own a business, there are no true days off, because there's always something that can be done. That's not complaining at all, as I would guess that most people know that's what they're signing up for.  But because of that, it's hard to find the balance. Stephen and I have a "rule" that we try to stay off of our phones at dinner. As hard as it is sometimes (so bad, I know), it's so nice to have connecting time one-on-one without the distractions of social media or my point of sale system. 

Finding your stride. This has been a hard one for me. I feel like I finally get into the groove and then I'm thrown a hiccup or setback that I wasn't expecting. I remember picturing my office when I first got the keys to my space: it would be beautiful, bright, perfectly decorated. Ha. Walk into there right now, and it looks like something exploded in there! It's hard to keep up. There's always something. But that's part of the journey. 

Being your own boss.  It's a weird feeling, knowing that you report to yourself. For the few years after college when I dove into a corporate career, I reported to someone else. And though it can be difficult at times to live up to someone else's expectations, there was always someone there to guide you. When you are your own boss, there are certainly some perks, but you are the responsible individual. There's no one else there to back you up if something falls through the cracks.

The Highs:

Contrary to that first low, more often than that, you're not alone.  I could never own and operate a business without my husband and family and team. Mom stops in at least 3 times a week to check on me and help me out, my sister stops by to bring me coffee or take Sophie out for me, my dad is my on-call contractor, and Stephen is always there to put together something new (how he spent his Saturday afternoon). My parents have owned their own businesses so they know what goes into it, which certainly helps. My in-store team is pretty small at the moment with my staff, but I treasure the time and effort she puts into the store, especially when I'm not there.

I've also adopted a few mentors along the way. I friend that I came to have due to owning a store is someone I turn to when I have a question or a difficult situation, and a father of one of my closet friends has become a mentor as well, as he has run his own business for years and years. It's good to surround yourself with people who can help you and guide you. 

The people.  Like I mentioned earlier, what feels like the worst day ever can quickly be turned around by genuine people. I had a crazy day last week. It was Friday, we'd had good traffic at the store in the morning, and then things slowed down a bit. Out of nowhere, I had quite a few people in with a line for the dressing room (wonderful feeling). I started checking out the first client of that rush when the payment wouldn't process. Oh the joys of wireless technology. Then I realize it's not working on any of my devices. I have a line starting to form at the register. I've got my laptop pulled up for my point of sale's help desk and realize there's an outage that's affecting hundreds of stores. There's no way for me to process payments. On a leap of faith, I send our customers out with their purchases and invoice them, asking them to pay them once they receive a text from me that the system is back up. Not only did each person pay their invoice right away, each customer was incredibly sympathetic and upbeat - not letting it become an issue. That almost-disaster was followed with a new customer who was in from out of town who was just a pleasure to shop with. And on those days, I'm reminded of why I do what I do. Sure - it's just retail. It's just clothing. But it's all about the people. 

The community.   This point is similar to the one above, but on a different scale. I have connected with so many entrepreneurs and business owners in the last year and a half. It's incredible getting to work with so many talented people on collaborative efforts that better impact your business and the community. This week, my shopping center will be hosting its first fashion show with the four women's boutiques that are currently there. Not only will we be sharing what we're all passionate about, we'll be raising funds for a local domestic violence help center. And on top of that, each boutique is owned and operated by women that live here in our town. It's amazing being a part of that.

You're the boss. Another contradicting point, but one to point out nonetheless. Despite the pressures that fall into the boss category, it can also be rewarding as well. It's a pretty neat feeling getting to "make up the rules," so to speak. I love having the creative ability to decide how the business is going to run.

The pride of your space.  I will never forget walking into my space for the first time knowing that it was "mine." And then again, the day we opened. I was a bundle of nerves and excitement when I unlocked the door on September 5th, knowing that we would hopefully have real customers stopping in to see what we had to offer after a couple months of the build out. There are days when I want to walk out and never look back, but especially after a day of rearranging or putting out new inventory, I love sitting in one of the palm-printed chairs and just taking a look around at the space.

Overall, I will never look back at this business venture and regret taking the plunge. Needless to say, my friends and family have heard the words "ZIA Boutique" more than they could ever want to I'm sure. But I'm so thankful for the village that has joined be on the journey that is being a business owner. 

Do you own a business or have a side-gig that seems difficult sometimes? How do you overcome the obstacles?
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