Micro Entrepreneurism, Simple Living & Art
Over the past month or so I’ve been mulling over how our business would change if we were to “make it big.” The question has been lingering in our minds since REI first approached us last year. The deal fell through after we had spent much time, and some money, preparing for their sure thing order to be placed. We were, of course, quite dissapointed. But I can say now, a year and a half later, that I’m truly glad it didn’t work out. Our business would have grown too fast. We would have to move quickly and spend lots of money to accomodate such an influx of orders. I’m almost certain we would have run into serious cash flow problems, in addition to the fact that it would have made us, in some way, tied to the whims of REI. I say this because REI would have made up such a large percentage of our gross income that odds are we would have felt pressure to keep them happy. Which I imagine would have involved ever lowering prices based on increased quantity, rights to cancel POs up until ship date so we’d be left holding stock that it would take a long time for us to sell and/or shipment deadlines with late penalties. Now I realize this is a lot of guessing about what it would have been like, but most of this comes from some other experiences we’ve had with larger companies. Basically, they aren’t small manufacturing friendly.
The growth question is always on our minds. How big do we want to be? What’s our goal for this business this year? In 5 years?
This year we thought that we were finally ready to take RAGGEDedge to Outdoor Retailer, which is THE trade show for the outdoor store retail industry. A market that we feel our products are appealing to. Financially it was a squeeze for us, but we firmly believe in investing in our business and our future and expanding in new directions. So we signed up in August for the January show in Utah and paid our first two hefty deposits. As time went on, I kept researching booth setups and sales floor techniques and what it would take for us to pull of a professional presentation and get noticed, and perhaps get some business out of it, and the more I learned the more expensive it got. These companies spend $10k, on the super lower end, probably upwards of $100k on the high end, to go to one of these and we were trying to do it for under $5k. This made us pause and ask ourselves what we really hoped to get out of being there – the answer was more wholesale business, mostly via a foot in the door at some smaller outdoor stores, perhaps a dozen. Is this really something we need to spend $5k to accomplish? We decided no, we could do it right from the comfort of our very own home if we wanted to. And the big guys that I sort of had dreamy eyes for, the REIs and the Gander Mountains (anything mainstreamish), they would change things about our business.
The catch 22 of selling products that you physically make is that the more business you do, the more you have to work and I’m just not sure that working more is what we really want. What we do want is enough. Enough to pay off our startup debt. Enough to shop local and shop small. Enough to eat good food. Enough to travel. What’s left over after enough is time we can spend enjoying where we live and how we live. Its time we can spend cooking and learning how to grow our own food. Its time we can use to visit family and friends and see the world. Its time we can use to create.
So the question I ask of myself, and of you, is what does your success really look like? How much do you really want to grow? How much is enough? At what point would you start to lose the part about working for yourself that you love so much? I suspect the answer might surprise you, I know it did me at first.