How Russ and I have Sustained our Enthusiasm for our Handmade Soap Business (the real answer might surprise you)
Posted on July 06 2015
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - Hunter S. Thompson
Cathy Farrar: Given that you and Russ "do everything," how do you sustain enthusiasm?
Lots of days, I wake up and don't want to do it. I don't want to open my email and deal with anything. Even emails our favorite customers. I don't want to write a blog entry or product description or customer response with forced enthusiasm.
Money is always tight, and given how constantly and persistently we work at this business, that alone is enough to make me feel like giving up and taking a full time job. Yeah, to the extent that I have had real conversations with people about positions in their company.
I hate the uncertainty. I hate the zero-net feeling. I hate endlessly following up with press and wholesale customers, often feeling like I'm just throwing words into an abyss. I hate encountering my own shortcomings when I mess up an order. I hate replacing hundreds of dollars in product when a package is delivered and stolen. I hate having to pay my own health insurance and manage my own tax withholding.
I hate that literally every single week includes those things. I hate that weeks really don't exist unless I make them, because that stuff is constant.
To the many of you who say I have inspired you to start a business, that's the part I never talk about because I assume the ocean of fear and nay-sayers alone is too huge to launch into, let alone all the day-to-day grind of actual business ownership.
I think if people really knew what was involved, no one would ever start a business.
It takes a certain kind of craziness to start a business. It takes a buoyant optimism to sustain the crushing weight of all those things.
It's a blessing and a curse, because sane people never get to feel the joy, freedom, and elation of owning a business. But they also never have to come to terms with the horror of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling like everything you love is sinking into the ocean, even as you clutch desperately at it in the dark.
And I'm writing this from a "good place." Today, I woke up full of piss and vinegar, certain that today -- TODAY, MORE THAN ANY OTHER DAY -- was going to be a fucking awesome day. Today is the day we're going to get the orders! Today is the day we're going to write the things! Today is the day we're going to make this goddamn airplane heave itself off the ground so we can soar with the eagles!
That is craziness and buoyant optimism in action, folks.
(side note: while I was writing this, I heard Russ exclaim from the bedroom "OK! WHO'S READY TO GET UP AND SELL SOME SHIT?!" It's so nice to have a partner who is also crazy and optimistic)
But that isn't enough.
Some days, even blindly positive lunacy isn't enough to make this worth it. And that's when I call in the reinforcements.
I have a handful of other entrepreneur friends who I have met through the Indie Business Network, and when the going gets really tough, I lean on them.
Earlier this year, when things were in their absolute darkest, Stacia of Handcrafted Honeybee, Anne of Sparklefly Candles, and I made a deal: we had to stay in business until January. After Christmas, if we wanted to call the match and quit the game, we could do it. But until then, we had to white knuckle ourselves through.
All for one, and one for all.
Yeah, it's still fucking hard. Today, we're going to go through the garage and put a bunch of stuff on Craigslist and eBay because we need the money.
My friend and colleague, Jennifer Waller of the very successful Celtic Complexion, said she did that in her lean beginnings, and we decided that was the right spirit of gumption and grit.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
And then, there are the customers.
We are blessed with vocal, compassionate, positive, supportive customers. They tell us what they like and what they want, and they tell us when we get things right.
These things keep the train moving forward. It's not just the financial support that keeps us moving, it's the emotional support that comes from hearing when we hit the mark.
Thank you so much for keeping this all going.