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It seems almost silly to sum up what I learned in year one. It’s like asking a kindergartener to give a commencement speech. There’s a whole road ahead of us and we’ve only just laced up our shoes and started the trip. Or whatever.
But if I had to pick one thing that stands out–something I know now that I didn’t know on day 1 of opening FOODE’s doors that I know for sure now it’s this: Social Media is a powerful, powerful beast to a small business. It can save your tail when you have a lot to say and absolutely no money with which to say it (i.e. Facebook, Twitter). It can catch you completely unprepared with your pants around your ankles (i.e., Groupon and the droves of new faces it brought). It can tick you off and leave you with no way to defend yourself (i.e., the blasts on Yelp). And, it can help you share your message with vision, precision, and (if you’re lucky), a little bit of personality.
We knew what we needed to do as soon as we could afford to do it. Well, I should say, Beth knew. Beth always knows. And if you ask me, we can never afford it, but Beth knows when to insist. And as we approached the end of year 1, she insisted we launch a new website. So here it is. The new site, the new blog, the next step of FOODE.
It’s the beginning of the next beginning. Or whatever.
This is my last entry for thefirst365. I asked Joy to write the blog post for the final day … after all, FOODE was her idea.
I could get all emotional here, but I’m not going to. That’s not my style. Remember, I’m the first to admit that I’m still not a great businesswoman .. I have so much to learn. But I did learn a lot – and I’d like to share it with you.
So, here goes.
Research is everything. Do not rush into anything. Trust your gut. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Think smarter. Trust your instincts. Have an excellent staff. Pay your staff well – or as much as you can. You get what you pay for. Be honest. Have tough skin. Cherish customers. Get comfortable saying no. Be okay when someone says no to you. Attack debt. It’s okay to be scared. If you want customers to come back, more than the product has to be wonderful. Be kind. Be tough. Get ready for surprises – and some are going to cost you. Not everyone is your friend. Get used to being poor. No social life. At one point, you’ll think about quitting. Make it your life – there should be no Plan B. Give customers a reason to connect with you and your product. It’s okay if people blast you online … if you think about it, it’s actually pretty funny. Smile. Have an excellent business partner. Growing pains are okay. Admit when you’re wrong. Be humble. Sometimes, people can be mean – even if they don’t mean to be. Find a positive way to release stress. Ask a lot of questions. Do not over-extend yourself, or something will suffer. Be brave. Stand up for yourself. There’s a reason why other small businesses have been around for years – figure out what they’re doing and why people continue to support them. Pay attention. Watch every little detail. It’s okay to be sad. Don’t cry. Get your shit together. Don’t curse. There is never enough money. Be there every second of every day you’re open.
And finally …
You will never, ever work this hard again in your life – unless you’re lucky enough to make it to year two.
What a year.
we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it! we’ve almost made it!
Joy and I went out to eat last night in Old Town Alexandria. We went to Virtue Feed & Seed – one of our customers told us to check it out. It was amazing. But I have to tell you what blew us away the most was the atmosphere. It. Was. Incredible. It looked like the place cost them a fortune. Joy looked at me and asked me if I wanted to have a place like this, and I told her yes. But not now.
There’s a price to growing too quick – and it’s one that Joy and I admit we can’t afford. I will not live my life in tremendous debt – and as much as I’d like to have a place like Virtue, I know I just can’t afford it. I’m sure the people who own Virtue busted their tails until they could create this amazing spot. It probably took them years. I hope one day I can do something like what they did.
But until then, the $5 tables I found on craigslist will have to do.
You know how I feel about websites like Yelp. I’ve devoted time to the my feelings about it on this blog in the past, which is why I want to pass along this article I saw in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I hope you enjoy the read.
I’m really hoping that no one notices that I purchased the finest box of hair dye that $5.99 would allow, put it on this morning at 5 am and now have black dye streaks running down my forehead. I really, really hope no one notices.