In the interest of writing about things that, you know, are actually happening in my life right now (I know, such a novel concept!) I decided to go back and see just what, exactly, I had told y'all about the store I own.
In my memories, I had written page upon page about the intricacies of the business, the people from whom we bought the store, the total overhaul we did, the struggles, etc. In fact, I was so sure that I had unleashed a store-related barrage of posts upon the public that I was almost loathe to do another.
Turns out I haven't written much at all.
As I was re-reading some of the entries I have written about that lovely, sanity-shredding boutique, I found one that dates back to early August of 2006. A little over a year after we bought the place. In fact, the bulk of my store-related posts are around the year anniversaries of starting the business, and this year I have thus far failed to mark that date.
Consider this the celebration post. The start of the 5th year, the 4 year anniversary, however you wanna look at it. I've detailed the way I prefer to look at it (don't short me one brutal day of ownership; it's the START OF THE 5TH YEAR), but if you're a very close-minded and cruel type (hehe), you can say it's the 4 year anniversary. And in honor of starting my 5th year of business, I am going to re-post some excerpts from that 2006 entry, with new commentary (of course!) in blue.
There's not much I can say to concisely explain the Store Situation, but in an attempt to sum it up, I will say that it has been an Experience to out-experience all others. It has been awful, it has been wonderful, and above all, it has been DIFFICULT. Difficult to the point of being basically impossible; an uphill battle that we could never win; a web of deception from which we are STILL trying to extricate ourselves. That's the wordy emotional short-descript, the logical numbers-based explanation is that the previous owners told us, our accountants, our attorneys, and the IRS that the store was grossing a certain amount per year in sales, and we bought THAT store. You know, the one that was grossing A CERTAIN AMOUNT PER YEAR IN SALES. Actually what we got though, was some other store completely, one that was NOT EVER grossing that certain amount per year in sales. So we bought a dying business, one that the previous owners were trying desperately to get out from under, and when they discovered that no one wanted to BUY a dying business, decided that hey, I bet people might want to buy a thriving business! Let's just lie!
And it worked. I (shockingly) don't have much to add to this - yep, that's what happened!
We are dumb. But not really, that is one of the mindsets that got me OUT of the saddle in the first place. That and truly believing that the store and all the misery it has caused was all MY fault, that somehow I could have known what two accountants and an attorney and the US government didn't know, that I convinced by so much arm-twisting my father and brother-in-law and his wife to participate in this business endeavor, and that now that the business is failing that it is ALL MY FAULT, EVERYTHING IS ALL MY FAULT, I HAVE CAUSED SO MUCH PAIN FOR EVERYONE AND I AM A TERRIBLE, STUPID PERSON. Still think this, all the time, ALL THE TIME. I don't know how to stop myself from thinking it; the nasty little thoughts sneak in when I'm unaware and pretty soon I look up and that's what I've been dragging around for months.
Isn't that an impressive amount of self-confidence?
But the facts of the matter (when I choose to recognize them and step out of my world of self-depreciating guilt) are that I never convinced anyone to participate in the business, they all saw the same numbers I did and WANTED to do it. The fact is, I didn't go to school to be a CPA, our accountants did, and I, although I had plans to go, have not been to law school either. But our attorneys have! And they all believed in the business as well. We all saw the same balance sheets, all saw the same financial statements, and all researched and believed the made-up statistics. It was a good trick. And we all equally bought into the business, AKA the Lie-To-End-All-Lies. Yes! Pep-talk!
Another fact is that we have now had the store for over a year (now over 4 years), and our sales have been excellent (some years have been good, some years have been - well, 2008 was rough). We have done better this past year than the previous owners had done in quite a few years. Everyone told us to expect our first year to be the hardest; to expect lower sales; to give ourselves a learning curve. But we went ahead and blew all of that out of the water, bringing in new merchandise, giving the store a major and much-needed face lift, and adding an entire GENERATION to our demographic. We have kicked proverbial ass. And as much as my brain, who apparently hates me, wants me to forget, even in the worst months of the worst years, we have STAYED IN BUSINESS. When I wrote this I thought we were on our last leg, and this store either has about 600 legs or I have somehow - gasp - succeeded thus far. Dragging and limping along, but STILL HERE.
But it isn't enough. We started in such a hole behind such a boulder up against such a wall (of cliches, apparently) that we would have had to do better than the previous owners EVER did, by quite a large margin, to even BREAK EVEN. What a great deal, right? This still remains true. We have been ensconced in a situation where we really, truly do have to do better each and every month than the previous owners ever did just to break even. This is mainly due to a completely disproportionate loan we took out to start the store, and is a SOUL-CRUSHING reality that I have been dealing with for over 4 years now.
So back to the Last Hurrah, the one I had last week in Los Angeles. Basically, unless something miraculous happens (i.e., the legal system actually WORKING) (or, now, people actually spending money - lots of it - in the middle of one of the hottest summers we've had in years and all my lenders deciding to conveniently forget that I owe them lots and lots of money that I don't have), the store is going down. And I have been in quite a funk about it. I have had a really hard time understanding how to be happy about a situation that has been nothing but bad, worse, and even worse. How can I not live a life of stress and misery when nearly every day I get MORE bad news? How am I supposed to smile and gracefully accept no paycheck, no respite, no justice for over a year now? Over a year now. HA! TRY OVER FOUR YEARS, 2006 ELISE.
Well, the answer is that I was seeking the wrong answers. There are no answers to those questions. (This is always a supremely difficult and frustrating conclusion for me to come to. I like for there to be answers. Things have to have solutions! Be wrapped up neatly!) Or maybe those answers exist, somewhere, but they aren't known to me or anyone else on this earth. The questions I should have been asking are not WHY or HOW or WHAT DO I DO. Who cares why this happened to me, or to my brother-in-law, or to his wife, or to my dad? Who cares how I am supposed to be happy in these circumstances? Who cares about what I'm supposed to do with no paycheck or any of the financial security that it might bring?
I drove myself into a very dark place by asking those questions, and the only way I have FINALLY begun to see the light again is by my brother and his girlfriend (now wife - hi, Mary!) telling me to get over myself.
What's the big deal? they asked. Why are you letting yourself be so miserable? So you bought a business, and it's not going so great. Well, you must be the first person who's had that happen, right? Oh, well, then, you MUST be the only person who has ever had financial struggles. No? The only person ever who has wondered why God placed them smack in the middle of a mess? Hmmm. Then maybe, just MAYBE, it's not that big of a deal. All so true. And things I really needed to hear again.
So what, if the store goes down? Have you tried your best? Have you done everything you could possibly do? So what if you have to face your worst-case-scenario: filing bankruptcy, corporately? That will almost certainly NOT happen, but even if it does? So what! Are you dead? Are you going to ever be able to recover? Are you, at the ripe old age of 25 (well, now 28 but still), going to ever be able to build your financial history back up again?
I am going down with the ship, people. I have tried my best at the store, and I will continue trying my best as it either thrives or fails in these next few months. Because it might thrive, it really might. We have a great shop, great merchandise, and a year of really good sales to build upon. But if it fails, I will be the last one on the helm of that ship, standing proud, knowing that there was absolutely nothing I did wrong, and nothing I could have done differently to prevent the sinking.
It's a good thing that we aren't allowed to see the future. Because if I would have seen, with my 2006 eyes - if I would have known that midsummer 09 I would be re-reading that and thinking oh my GOSH this has been going on for over four years now - I might have re-routed my car straight off a cliff.
Or at least re-routed my plane to Mexico and changed my name and all identifying information. I could be writing this from the beach in between teaching surfing lessons. Of course I'd be a wanted felon, but still.