My shop had been open for just over a year when I realized it wasn’t working. I couldn’t even put my finger on what “it” was, I just knew that “it” was not what I wanted and “it” was not functioning as a healthy business model.
My initial fanfare and success was followed by a harsh winter and a steep decline in sales that left me floundering, confused and unhappy. But there was something more substantial contributing to my discontent; the fact that the store I owned, and the product I carried did not in fact reflect or represent me at all. Trying to establish a business out of this contradiction was clearly not working, and I had a difficult choice to make. Sell the business as it was and return to regular full-time work, or scrap what wasn’t working and throw everything I had at the wall one more time and hope that it stuck.
The day I decided to rebrand and basically start from scratch was not my favorite day. But it was a necessary day. It was one of the most important days of my life as an entrepreneur, and, more or less, a human. This is for the following reasons:
1) I’M NOT A GENIUS (AND THAT’S OK).
I’m an over-achiever. I come from a long line of perfectionists and wunderkinds, so it is my natural tendency to get things right (and brilliantly right) the first time around. If I don’t, I usually quit immediately (i.e. basketball and chemistry) to avoid anyone noticing that I was bad at something. So you can only imagine what this ordeal did to my confidence. I cried and lamented over my failure as a business owner, until someone said to me, “Why do you think rebranding translates to failure? I mean, if you’d given up I would tell you that you failed. But you didn’t.” All of a sudden, I saw the light. Flopping is basically just part of the job, and the part that pushes us to learn more. The very definition of learning is “the acquisition of knowledge” and in order to acquire something, you have to get it from outside of yourself. I’m not a genius, but I know a lot of brilliant people, and I live a lot of life in a day, so I figure I should be able to learn enough along the way to keep me going. So basically, I let myself off the hook.
2) I DID EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO DO.
I realized that the majority of my unhappiness came from the fact that my store was not an authentic representation of who I was or what I believed in. I had been so concerned with catering to a certain demographic and fostering a specific image that I had sacrificed the fundamental principles that made me fall in love with retail in the first place. I sat down and thought about what kind of store I would want to shop in. From the chairs I’d want to sit and wait in, to how creative and intentional I could make my displays, to what product made me say “I need that in my life immediately”. As a result, I’ve found myself hearing exactly that from my customers. It has been incredibly rewarding to see my clients respond so positively to what’s really in my heart. People can sense authenticity and it changes the entire atmosphere when a business has the same pulse as its owner.
3) I WANT TO FOLLOW THE DIRECTION OF MY CITY.
Hamilton is moving up. Always up. I’ve been a witness to, and a member of this ever-evolving, ever-growing, ever- surprising city for almost three years now and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it is only picking up speed. I want to stand behind a business that speaks to the blossoming nature of Hamilton. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “You won’t be able to sell that price point in downtown Hamilton” to which my response is, “I can, I have, and I will”. Then I go on my merry way and proceed to sell items at that price point. Hamilton is a city that knows, wants and deserves quality retail. Just because we enjoy the gritty elements of our city and don’t mind rubbing some dirt in it to get the job done doesn’t mean we’re not refined and appreciative of the finer things. Believe me when I tell you…this city and its people clean up beautifully. This is the city that I serve, that La Bichette serves. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What am I saying by all of this? Basically, I’m telling you that it’s ok to flop. To admit that you’re wrong and start all over again. To surround yourself with people who are better than you and ask them to raise you up. To create something simply because you believe in it. To have faith in what you see in front of you, and to have faith in things you haven’t seen yet but know will come to pass.
A sharp learning curve can be the blanket that smoth- ers out the fire of your ambitions, or the blanket you wrap around yourself to stay warm while you rekindle the embers back into the blaze you know your dream can be. Chances are, you just didn’t stack the wood right the first time.
This is my theory of evolution.