Jul 3, 2006

Boutique Blues

I get a lot of women emailing me or stopping in the store who want advice on opening and running a small boutique. How did I get started? Where do I get my inventory? How much money does it take? Where did I get the nerve? While all these questions are good, and I will answer them another time, today, I just want to vent a bit, if that is okay.

While there are many, many rewards in owning a business ( many of them have nothing to do with increasing your bank balance), there are times, frankly, you have to wonder if it is just worth the stress and worries. Take my last two weeks for example.

It is no secret that a small retail store has only a 50% chance of being in business at the end of its first year. Those who make it through the first year - only 40% of those businesses remain open for the second year. And those who make it through the second year, only a percentage of those make it to the third year. I am in the middle of my third year. But I digress...I started out this blog of wanting to share my last two weeks with you.

Due to a lot of factors with which I won't bore you, I had to replace a lot of equipment in a span of four days. One by one, and slowly, my two computers crashed, my printers weren't working, my fax drum wasn't working properly, my phone went on the blitz, and my wireless networking was crashing or freezing up. I had to stop all appointments and projects to buy a new lap top, a new desktop, two new faxes, a new printer, a new phone, wires, cables, router, and a new speedstream. Plus, of course the insurance and extra warranties all to a tune of nearly $5K. I then paid over $100 to get my data retrieved from my crashed laptop and paid almost another $700 to have it all installed, wired, and coded. None of this, and I mean none of this was in my budget.

I then had to download my quickbooks disk for my bookkeeper, only to have the disk break - I mean - how in the world does a disk break?? So I had to spend another $200 to buy a computer program that I already have. Lucky me, my 2003 version was just "retired" and the only way to get my data was to upgrade for a tune of $200. Then after all that my A/C breaks down - just moments before I broke down.

My lovely landlord took 8 days to fix my A/C and then only after I spent an enormous amount of time on the phone trying to talk to a human being, instead of a machine, to come out and fix my A/C. They didn't show any concern that my store's thermostat was reading 92 degrees inside. I had to close my store for business on Friday because one of my employees informed me late in the afternoon only the day prior that it was too hot for her to work, and I, having already having an out of town appointment could not cover the store - thus my business was closed for a day. And of course, that was the day that the landlord was sending out someone to fix the A/C and no one could be here to let them in.

Then on Saturday, my bookkeeper, whom I pay $35/hour arrives to do my books. We down loaded my new quickbooks program only to discover that the backup data disk (that I paid over $100 to retrieve) was missing. So now I, my employee, and my bookkeeper are searching for about an hour for this disk and could not find it. I had just about had it at this point - I had just seen it the day before and now it had disappeared. So, my bookkeeper manually updates my books in a matter of a couple of hours, which if we had found the disk, it would have taken only minutes.

I was trying to get at least something done that was productive and went down to my workshop to sand some furniture- only to have my favorite sander die on me. Yes really. I used my back up sander, which is very hard to hold, especially with my carpal tunnel. (With so much around me breaking down, thank God I don't have a pacemaker!) It was around that time that I discovered that my cell phone wasn't working - it hadn't rang all day, which is very unusual, and I noticed that the screen was blank. So, I stopped what I was doing - drove to the Sprint store to get it fixed. Of course, there was a huge line. I sat in a chair and waited for my turn - but I fell asleep in the chair as I waited and missed my name being called. You see, the last two weeks, I had to work every night until about 4AM, because that is the only time my phone doesn't ring, my clients don't call, my employees don't need me, and I don't have to talk to computer tech people or my landlord -all of which needs to be done, but eats up my entire work day. So I work nights. And days.

On top of all that, it seems lately that I see more bugs in my workshop than I have ever noticed before.
I hate bugs.
Really, I do.

So, not to discourage any of you who are wanting to open a store, because it does have many wonderful moments...just know that there are moments (no, weeks) that can make even the most optimistic store owner question her sanity in wanting to continue. The need to express a creative spirit can sometimes outweigh common sense.

But, whoever said creative people are common?

from my house to your house (which is air conditioned, I'm sure)
P.S. my next blog will be inspirational - I promise!


Anonymous said...

OK, wanna be shop owners, I can add to this list: Imagine trusting your employee to baby sit your store only to learn they come in after hours and use your computer, scanner and printer, 'borrow' jewelry to wear to a party or arrive 20 minutes after you are supposed to open. Then imagine a store full of some of your favorite customers shopping to have a good time and someone comes in, puts a gun to your head and makes them all lie down on the floor and takes whatever money you made that day. Decide if you want a shop when there is eight inches of snow on the ground and you have to open because you need any possible sales and you are out shoveling a path for your customers, dragging in bags of salt so heaven forbid, you are not sued for negligence. Imagine a lovely, fragrant store filled with special items and someone tells you there is a dirty diaper outside next to your front entrance. Lastly (although there is so much more) heaven forbid you say a cross word to an employee or customer on one of those days that everything is going wrong because they will think you are an ungrateful bitch for all the things they have done for you. Despite your lack of income, busted back, sleepless nights of worry- I am supposed to be the grateful one for all those people who helped me along the way. Because it has NOTHING to do with MY vision, my style, my display, my buying- it's always about them. Heaven forbid we be real, open up, cry once in awhile in front of someone or let a customer or employee see how overwhelmed we are keeping everyone happy and putting ourselves at the bottom of the list. But then, I am not supposed to feel this way because shop owning is so much fun. I am following my dream!!!!!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Only a seasoned shop owner could have been so to the point. Thank you for understanding - and for living your dream.

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