This is not something easy for me to write. As some of you that know me well may know, this year hasn't been the easiest for me. For the first time since graduating from college 7 years ago I lost my engineering job in oil and gas due to a lay off. I know I'm not the only one in this boat which gives me some sense of understanding but it's hard to sit here and not wonder if I went wrong somewhere. It's not only the feeling of failure but its also the questions of supporting yourself financially and figuring out what your next steps should be. Figuring out your next steps while somehow feeling completely worthless. It's not the best mind set to be in... positivity is the best motivation. I feel like at least once a week I have to answer the question "So, what do you do?"... it used to be so easy to answer this without thinking. "I'm an engineer."... usually the end of discussion... didn't have to mention my small business during small talk. Being a small business owner and explaining that I make candles just isn't an easy answer... "I'm a candle maker"... I'm pretty sure even if someone gave me that answer I'd have questions. When is that ever an answer that someone gives? It's not like it's a bad thing, its just that making a small business and a brand isn't an answer without an explanation.
For 4 years I worked full time and ran my shop after work and on the weekends so its still hard for me to say that my shop is my full time job. I've always been someone who likes to be busy all the time. I'm not a big TV watcher, I don't like to workout, I have to force myself to get in bed or even to sit down long enough to watch a movie or tv show (which drives my husband crazy when I ask "wait, what just happened"). As much as relaxing is nice I actually don't enjoy it... even that is a complicated answer... what I mean is that unless I am asleep or getting a massage I need to be doing 2 to 3 other things at the same time. So what do I do? I don't know... what don't I do... I basically just told you. ha! I check social media, I like to cook, I like to read, I like to spend time with my husband, I like to listen to music, I like to MAKE things, I like to decorate, I like to come up with new ideas and brainstorm, I like to hang out with friends, I like to drink wine and check out local restaurants, I like to garden, I like being outdoors, I like to paint, I like to take pictures, I like to paint my nails, I like to hang out with my cat and my dog, I like to participate and shop at local handmade markets, I like to travel and plan trips, I like to jam in as many things as I can in a small amount of time aka I like to plan and organize my time efficiently, etc.... That being said, being laid off as completely shaken up my schedule of going to work as an engineer and delegating my time outside of that to my shop and things I enjoy doing.
There are so many complex things to starting and running your own business. Two of the hardest things to figure out are what to invest in, whether its time or money, and how to handle growth. My current situation is determining where to go or grow from here. Growth obviously doesn't come from no where but at the same time that can be how it feels. Some days you can feel like you aren't successful at all and the next day you look back at where you came from and know that's not true. Comparing yourself to others is always a battle. The success of someone else can make you feel like you are not successful. You have to remember that you are your toughest critic, I have a really hard time telling myself that and believing it.
Yesterday might have been a little break through for myself mentally. I told myself today when I woke up that I would relax after the long day of markets yesterday but here I am reflecting and writing this with my mind racing on what to do next. Yesterday was the first time I attempted to do two markets in one day, luckily a friend came to help me break down and set up between the two events (Thanks Heather!). Markets for the most part always boost my confidence when I interact with people first hand and hear and see their feedback. Sales are obviously a tangible thing to feeling success but interaction with customers and other people in the creative, small business society is also something that is very valuable. This is my first time working in "customer service" and for the most part it's not bad at all. I think the handmade market is the best to be in because the customers you are targeting are the ones that appreciate your hard work. I did however somehow have my rudest "customer" (if you want to call her that because it was obvious she wasn't going to buy anything and that she just wanted to lecture and shame me on her opinion of paraffin and soy blend candles). Besides that, I realized that I might have also had one of my best days socializing. Hearing the 4 female founders giving their business "pitches" and stories at NextSeed's Next Up event definitely made me feel like I'm not alone. There is a story behind every small business and the person that created it. There's also something that we all have in common: growth, how to create it and how to handle it.
I received quite a few compliments on my display, presentation, and design of my candles and branding including creativity in general. Direct compliments and even a few second hand compliments from people saying great things about me around town. You have no idea how much that truly means to me. It's that confidence booster that you did but didn't know that you needed. The feeling that you're not alone and that other people actually like your work and taste. The feeling of someone giving you honest compliments when they have no idea what is going on in your life. With that I want to say thank you so much! Don't forget to treat people the way you want to be treated. I will also be completely cliche and end this with a couple of quotes!
"If you see something beautiful in someone speak it" -Ruthie Lindsey
"Don't judge people. You never know what kind of battle they are fighting"
"Never underestimate the power of spontaneous texts from a friend, apologies, and random compliments."