With life moving so fast lately, I hadn’t really had time to process the shop turning a year old this month. Between endless amounts of diapers, a very inconsistent sleep schedule (mostly with Ana, not Eleni,) and our daily grind, the shop chugs along smoothly in the back of my radar usually. So when Chris reminded me that it will officially have been open a year in a couple days, I had that “Oh yeah, it will be,” moment.
I’ve already written about how the shop came to be here, so I’m just going to tell you about this past year of being in business for ourselves; the upsides, the downsides, and the things that have surprised me. I’m a list maker by nature (you can ask Chris about my plethora of half filled notebooks that I buy specifically for making new lists and then never use again) so I’m going to do this list style.
Obviously, the success. I'm not going to say "we're one of the lucky start-ups who didn't fail," because business and luck don't really go together. God provided us an opportunity and we took an enormous leap of faith and took the opportunity. We did an absurd amount of market research, searched locations non-stop, put our 150% towards every inch of it, and didn't half-ass anything, which is my biggest pet peeve. The result? The shop grew faster than either Chris or I could have ever dreamed.
All the people we've met along the way. I'm not a face-to-face people person. If I ever wrote a novel, it would be under a pseudonym with no author photo, that's how little of a people-person I am. But Chris is, which is why our business arrangement works, and he brings home stories about clients and we secretly celebrate moments in their lives along with them. Repeat customer left his job that he was unhappy at to pursue his dream job? We talk about how cool it is and how he'll be so much happier. Another client has a third baby? That's cool, does this one sleep better than the last?
It fits us. The business has molded our schedule and allowed us to be together the way that suits us. Because the shop opens at 11am, Chris is able to help take Eleni to her doctors appointments, Ana to tumble time, and we can get breakfast at Mr. Burger as a family. It also means that our family of night owls gets to sleep in. Ana has never been a great sleeper and I tend to run more efficiently late at night, so making dinner while Chris is at work is super easy for me. Our dinner time is anywhere from 8pm-9:00pm. Yeah, it sounds late, but our schedule starts way later, so we've shifted it. And it works!
*You all know that I'm not one to hide the bad. So yeah, there are downsides to owning a business. I've finally come to the realization in life that admitting things can be hard or not ideal doesn't mean you're not grateful for everything, it's just being honest.
Wearing ALL the hats. I got a taste for how much work it was to single handedly run a business with our photo business. You are everything. You're the creator, the decorator, the finance person, the marketing department, the human resources, etc. The list goes on. And the hard part is, you can't leave your work at work. When Chris get's home, he sorts through voicemails and responds to emails. During the day we have to take time to post to Instagram, Chris cuts the hair, we place orders, contact people about artwork, etc. In the morning we talk over new ideas, collaborate on what step to take next, build things for the shop, etc. It's all day, every day. Sometimes that's fine, but if we're under pressure for a while, it can be a heavy weight to carry.
Balancing small-business sized services to a chain-dependent society. A certain time ago, more jobs were considered 'crafts'. Barbering, butchering, painting, you name it. It was a small business that made up for their smaller operation with quality. With photos it was the same deal. As a society, we've gotten used to being able to get things quickly and relatively cheaply, but we sacrifice quality. As any small business owner will tell you, you get your fair share of people who expect that service from small businesses, but it just doesn't work that way. With both the photo business and the barber business, we care too much about our craft and clients to give them shoddy service just because it's quicker and cheaper, which can be hard to explain to people.
The limitations. We are SO ready to buy a house, but the banks like to see you've been in business for longer than a year with self-employment to lend to you. Do I find it unfair? Absolutely, since at any other place of work, you can lose your job. We've had friends with this same dilemma. Want to do anything that requires proof of income? Good luck and godspeed. Some will deny you right off the bat, others will make you jump through an unbelievable amount of hoops. Systems are not set up or in favor of small business owners, which is total shit.
It's been one big team building exercise. Down to the color of tape we used to repair a ripped seat, (clear packing or red duct tape?) everything has been a combined effort. At first it was really hard and it did strain our relationship a bit. Then we started finding our groove and finally hit our stride. I feel like the rough patch was 110% worth it. Chris and I function better as a team now than we did before this crazy shop started. I have serious respect for all the work he puts in on his end and vice versa.
A little less mushy, it made me realize I do NOT want to barber with him. I love my husband more than anything and he is my perfect team mate, but there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. We have a perfect ying-yang thing. I'm very type-A, more detail oriented, with anti-social tendencies. Chris is the opposite and putting us in identical roles would be disastrous.
I've learned a lot about myself. Going through a lot of my teenage years and early adulthood, I am ashamed to admit I had a, "it's not me, it's you," complex. Especially if it came to projects. Ongoing work with the shop though was a miserable slap in the face sometimes when I was reminded it often was, in fact, me and not you. My obsession with perfect was sometimes useful, but when it wasn't reined in, was destructive to progress. My temper when things didn't go as planned hurt not only the shop progress, but Chris and Ana suffered from my shit attitude too.