We’ve been in business for almost a year already, which we never could have imagined at this point last year. Running the shop has made us better people, period. We wouldn't change anything for the world. But this isn't a Disney movie... and when other business owners tell you it’s going to be a roller-coaster, it couldn’t be a more perfect analogy. Every single day is literally an up and down; sometimes more down, sometimes a few ups in a row. This year, we've had conversations with people that were curious about how we started this up, what the process was, etc. Here’s a few takeaways we wanted to share for anyone interested in owning a small business, or anyone just looking for some lighthearted laughs. We aren't in any way complaining, just being open and honest.
1. Why don’t people answer emails or return calls anymore?
So a big thing in our personal life and in business is to not be jerks. Pretty simple credo to live by...we always answer emails and return phone calls. But apparently this isn’t common place anymore. Surprisingly, when we contacted many of the local rescue groups regarding hosting adoption days and raising money for them, most attempts, probably 95%, were just flat out ignored. We get solicited all the time with goods and services, to which we ALWAYS reply one way or the other. It only takes a minute and it's common courtesy, or so we think. So going forward if you reach out to us and we don't reply, it's because we've been hardened and just want to stick it to someone, no hard feelings.
2. That roller-coaster thing? Yea it couldn’t be more true.
If you’re going to open a small business, no matter the industry, make sure you have a strong support system behind the scenes. You'll need the emotional pick-me-up, the glass of wine, or whatever your vice is. There will be great, amazing, BUSY days when customers are coming in and out, you’re having great conversation, sales are terrific, and you’re feeling good! Then there are the rainy weekdays when you are sitting there by yourself for hours, and you can literally feel the Dark Side of the force slowly consuming you. Those are the tough ones, trust us. There will be exhilaration, you’ll feel prouder than you can imagine, but there’s also a whole boat-load...strike that, a whole fleet of fear, doubt, and regret. Just hold on tight, and trust your idea.
3. People want you to fail
This is just the reality of human nature...miserable people hate good things. They’ll hide among your own network of friends, they’ll come into the store and complain about everything, or they'll just lurk in the shadows of Instagram and Facebook, never supporting anything you do (download an analytic app for social media to track metrics....it's quite entertaining to see who your "friends" are and makes for some good laughs). It is what it is, and honestly pales in comparison to the support you'll receive from family and your tight knit inner circle. Just smile and do your best every day. The people that want you to fail are likely the ones who are unhappy with their own situations, and don’t have the courage to take the leap of faith you did. In fact they are probably reading this right now : )
4. You won’t make any money the first year.
Possibly even the second too. Just forget it. It doesn’t mean you are failing, but keep in mind all your start-up costs and the simple fact that you’re just making this up as you go, and that's ok! Just do the best you can, network, build your customer base, and hope you don’t lose too much money in the first year. Be prepared to give your business AT LEAST 2-3 years before re-assessing.
5. You are the goddamn boss.
Close when you want to, take a vacation, make decisions and stick with them. Everyone will have an opinion, but guess what....it's your show. You have complete creative control over your marketing, your social media, your website....everything. And yes, it is cool.
There are more lessons I'm sure, but we don't want to spoil all the fun. But to end on a positive note, know this. The customers are the best part....they are the reason you do your best every day. The incredible interactions we've had with so many people, the positive feedback we've received, and of course all the dogs we've met along the way, it makes it all worth it!