Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dear Stress, I think it's time we broke up.

There are Five Rules for Life my Dad taught me. 
  • Money can't buy you happiness, but it's more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on the sidewalk. 
  • Forgive your enemy, but always remember the bastards name. 
  •  Help someone when they are in trouble, and they will remember you next time they are in trouble. 
  • Some people are alive only because it's illegal to shoot them. 
  • Alcohol does not solve problems, but neither does milk. 

Thank goodness I have a sense of humor, 
because this week was one I was truly thankful I had one.

Closing the store has been bittersweet. Amazingly we have had tons of business, but because everything is so discounted, it's only breaking even, but on the positive side, I'm not losing money, at least at the store. 
Last week, while not only dealing closing my business, I was also stuck with tying up the ends of my dealings with an unsavory business associate (who I can positively say, thought she was starring in her own real life, adult version of Mean Girls), AND THEN, my 15 year old car just died. No choking and sputtering, no bright orange flickering check engine light, it just DIED.. and coasted to a stop, conveniently in the middle of a snowstorm, in a place with no houses within walking distance or cell phone service for miles. I sat for over two hours until finally someone stopped.. and was able to request help from my blue, teeth chattering frozen lips. After getting warm, I was able to call my roadside assistance and get a tow to a mechanic station, but it was going to be hours as all service stations where backed up with the icy roads and multiple accidents. Thankfully, relying on the kindness of strangers worked that day and I was able to get a lift 35 miles to wait in the warmth and comfort of my home while I tried to make arrangements for another vehicle as, my life story is, no vehicle, no job, no pay-check, we don't eat. 
After eight days, the part my mechanic was 80% sure.. there was some hesitation and questioning about it, arrived and some $400 later, I have my money grubbing fifteen year old car back. Evidently, it just wasn't enough for her that I just put $300 of repairs in her last week and another $600 the month before. 
Of course, in my eight days of being without my car, my customers who are accustomed to seeing my white sedan every day, were curious as to why I was driving a multi-colored, late model jukebox on wheels. It seemed every day, someone would helpfully suggest that I just buy a new car. I smiled, thanked them for such a good idea and putted along on my way. It didn't seem to occur to them that if I could AFFORD a new car, I would be driving one. Between rent, student loans, insurance, food. there just isn't money for a car payment. I don't understand how people do it. I don't do anything but work, only window shop, admiring but not buying, I never eat out or buy those $5 coffees at all the trendy places. I bring lunch from home in my little vintage metal lunchbox and coffee comes from a Thermos that I fill every morning half awake while I wait for the car to get warm enough I don't literally freeze my butt to the seat. 
When I picked up my car from the mechanic, he too, suggested I get another car. Last I knew, dealerships don't accept a pretty smile and a hair toss as payment, especially when it comes from a woman who is obviously not twenty anymore.. or for that matter even thirty anymore. I've started car searching, for something used, yet reliable but not a fortune. Guess what? They are hard to find.   
I'm trying to breathe... deep breaths.. I am trying to not be cynical when I see a relative who has never worked, lives off SSI and food stamps, driving up the road in her brand new 2013 Dodge something or other. I'm trying not to be frustrated or feel sorry for myself. I'm trying not to shove my books down the throats of everyone who follows my blog, my twitter or my website, but in all reality, it is my talents that I feel will bring me greater success than working hard for someone else making them money. I had even debated about starting a fundraiser~ I mean, I see people start crowd funding goals for fake boobs. I'm not asking for some Double D's~ I just want a vehicle that runs and drives and allows me to go to work everyday.  So, if you are reading this~ order a book, download it to kindle or share it with someone who might be interested in one of my titles. It would help me and the only thing I can really promise is you would never have to read another blog post from me complaining about the money-hungry white monster sitting in my driveway awaiting to devour my next paycheck! 

I know it will all work out in the end and this is only temporary, but if your willing to listen to me vent, it helps~ And thank you!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fall down seven times; stand up eight.

 How many times have we told ourselves," if we only knew then what we know now"?  The same thought applies not only in our personal life, but in all aspects of life. In my recent decision to close the brick and mortar location of My Favorite Things, I've realized, this isn't the end, but opportunity for a new beginning. I made mistakes. Some, I probably could have avoided but some where beyond my control. When I first opened the business, I had anticipated purchasing the inventory of an already established business. I was under the understanding the business had done fairly well and didn't have money to hire an attorney so, we had just made an agreement. Had I known what I was in for, I would have never agreed to any of it. If you are considering purchasing a business, by all means, get yourself a lawyer, it will save a lot of headaches down the line. I was not prepared to deal with an underhanded person trying to take advantage of my naivety. I began the business with a complete name change and renovating the layout of the business to create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Our first mistake was overlooking the classic bait and switch. All high end inventory was gone and we were left with piles of unsellable goods, but false promises we would get the rest of it shortly.  I should have stopped and backed out then, but we persisted. We cleaned and cleaned, ran around like crazy adding new inventory and making homemade items to fill the store and when we were done, it smelled good, looked good, was nicely stocked with a good variety. It seemed like we were heading in the right decision. Then, the ball dropped. An onset of angry customers who felt cheated from the previous owner. It wasn't one or two customers but a steady parade of people demanding money or merchandise that the previous owner had failed to settle with them. I tried unsuccessfully to explain this was a new business, and although I purchased inventory from the former business I wasn't associated with them and they would need to take their concerns to the former business owner. Ten days into it I decided to just close temporarily, cancel my purchase agreement & contacted the owner of the inventory to come remove all the inventory and start from scratch. That has been a whole other can of worms that I am still dealing with and trying to sort out. After speaking with an attorney, the contract was never legal in the first place and I'm still tied up in small claims court dealing with the former owners nonsense and desperation for money. I knew after speaking with former customers I was going to be in for hell in trying to reasonably negotiate with the person I was dealing with. So, I learned a tough lesson the hard way.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

I'm not giving up entirely. At the moment, I am just closing the brick and mortar location. Had I known the situation, I would have never agreed to purchase anything from the other business. I actually, would not have chosen to open a business in that location, because even when we removed all the former inventory, had new signs installed and sent out press releases, people just assumed it was the same business and just had the name changed and new employees. Six months later and people still didn't get it. In a small town, the location was doomed from the beginning.  No matter how many times we explained to people, including putting a sign on the front door that we were not associated, people thought what they wanted. It was a harsh reality that our lack of traffic came from customers who had already been burned and vowed never to step foot inside our locale. At this time, we are just clearing out, officially closing on February 1st.

 We will continue to sell online. 

At some point in the future, perhaps we will attempt to re-brand and re-open in a new location, but for now, the stress and embarrassment of not fully investigating what kind of person I was trying to do business with is enough to deal with.  I won't give up, because I truly believe I can be successful and I have faith that everything in life is a blessing or a lesson, this time it just happened to be a little of both. 

 Learn from me, if you ever decide to purchase an already existing business, ask around, don't just speak with the owner or their favorite customers. Speak with everyone in your community, speak with the police and see if complaints had been filed. Fully document everything, in writing and never sign a contract without a lawyer reviewing and and being present. Never assume anything and always put everything in writing. Don't think purchasing an already existing business is going to be easier than starting from scratch. Either way is hard. Owning a business is never easy, but from scratch you don't inherit enemies of the former business and you don't have to clean up messes you didn't make. 

Lessons Learned.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

End of small business for brick and mortar establishments

The last few weeks I've been trying to brainstorm any ideas that may save my small business. Unfortunately, in a small and impoverished town, I feel I am at the point where, it only makes sense to close. It is a heartbreaking decision, as my daughter and I have poured our blood, sweat and tears into building a wonderful little shop. We have a great group of loyal customers, but not enough to continue operating a business we are losing money each month. We will continue to sell online, but to continue paying overhead out of pocket, after not even drawing a paycheck, isn't what we set out to do.
While I have no regrets in the experience, it is time to say goodbye to that dream. Perhaps down the line if the economy improves we may try again, but at this time we are moving strictly online. Perhaps brick and mortar businesses are now a thing of the past, like an old memory. It seems more and more, the businesses I see succeeding are those online. Maybe it is time to join the 21st century and strictly sell through the Internet.
My biggest struggle was traffic. We selected an excellent location on a main road between two towns, with a hair salon and nail salon next door. Minutes from a small shopping mall and down the street from my arch enemy, Walmart. Clearly visible from the road, with plenty of parking, well lit, open flag flying and yet, some days we would be lucky to have three customers. Granted, customers who came bought, but the volume we needed to survive just wasn't there.  Many items we carried were upcycles, taking a green initiative, but alas, Walmart offers identical items, of course not upcycled and made in China, for the same or lower prices and frankly, people don't care. It does not matter if it was made in China. The mentality was, "Well, I can get it brand new (rather than upcycled) at Walmart for the same price." We strive to keep prices low, but Walmart, buying in massive bulk can sell items cheaper than I could even purchase them. It is the way of big business and how they drive the small, locally owned shops out of business all together.

I can accept that. Angrily, but I can accept it. Personally,  I make an effort to try and shop locally and shop green. I visit local restaurants and bakeries, instead the chain stores and I look for kitchsy little art places that have unique gifts or something so unusual I fall in love with it and have to bring it home with me.  I will begrudgingly admit, that I too, often shop online. Mostly, I started because I could purchase specific items that I could not find locally, and then I found even with shipping, the cost was significantly lower than I could purchase elsewhere. So, I understand the allure of online shopping. The added bonus is not dealing with ignorant and rude people, being subjected to the smells, behaviors or annoyance of the masses. I get it. There is no haggling online, which was one of the hardest things about running a small business. Even though a sign was clearly listed, stating, "This is not a yard sale, all prices are firm",  I don't believe I had one day of business where someone didn't try to undercut me by at least 50%. It is with sadness that I close the doors, but we will continue selling on our facebook page at My Favorite Things.   

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
 I am also preparing for a new adventure and joining what I believe is the future, selling through Amazon.com I am a fan of Amazon, where I can easily find what I am looking for,  read reviews from other customers and usually find the best price out there. I already publish through Amazon, after a very poor experience with Publish America (that's a whole other story, one I will share in the future) and have always been quite satisfied with my experiences there. In addition, it helps to support the US Post Office, which of course is my day job, so I justify it that way. ;)  So, please, shop through my online store at Amazon, which I am learning how to sell my own products, as well as offering some of the best deals I find on there. You can find us at:

It's been a fun ride and a learning experience and I am glad I was fortunate enough to experience owning a brick and mortar business, before they truly become a thing of the past.