Confessions of a Former Business Owner - An Introduction

One of the most challenging experiences in life is business ownership. And there is perhaps no greater disappointment or heartbreak than making the decision to close that business. I know this heartbreak all too well.


I started my business, The Sensible Gourmet, just after losing a job in 2004. The loss of the job was unexpected and devastating. I had no desire to find a new job but, I needed to find something to keep me busy and keep my mind of the fact that my husband was out of the country. As devastated as I was, losing that job was the catalyst that pushed me, to take an idea I had playing around with, and put it into motion.


I opened just before the holidays with a consultant based business model. In those first few months, I was able to keep all of the products I sold in a couple of boxes and a hutch in my dining room. By the same time the following year, I had taken over the entire dining room. Then came the orders to relocate from Virginia to Texas. We put our house of the market for sale and caravanned half way across the country to our new duty station. We rented a house not far from post, with an office just for me and my business. Things were going well, I was still learning some things, but all in all, business was growing. We had almost a hundred consultants in 37 states. I was looking forward to another good year. Then the bottom dropped out of the housing market and everything changed.


With no offer on our house after 6 months, we decided to put it up for rent. It took another 6 months to find a renter. By that point we had blown through our savings and had run up quite a bit of credit card debt. While my business was growing, the income it produced was by no means enough to help us recoup the money we had spent trying to stay afloat. I was going to have to go back to work outside of the home if we were going to stay on top of things. I tried working a full time day job and running my business on nights and weekends. For a little while, I managed to do it. But, I found myself getting irritated with my kids when they needed me in the evening. Weekends were spent in front of a computer trying to catch up with product updates and inventory instead of enjoying time off and having fun with my family. And I was getting further and further behind in filling orders and answering questions for my consultants.


I remember lying in bed about four months after I got my day job and realizing that I had to make a choice. Quit my day job and focus on my business and risk putting us in financial distress, or close the business and focus on my family. I whole-heartly subscribe to the idea that if you are going to work for yourself, you have to love what you do. I had to be honest. I was miserable. I was being pulled in so many different directions. I missed my family, I missed the excitement I used to feel every time a new order came in. We had bills to pay and I knew this was one of those times I had to do what was right for my family.


I cried the day I announced that I was closing. I could barely see the screen through the tears as I tapped out that farewell letter. I thanked all of the amazing consultants that had helped me to build my business. I explained to them what was going on in my life, the reasons for my decision, and penned a sincere promise that when the time was right, I would come back and we would try it again.


That was four years ago.


The decision to close was hard, but in doing so, I truly believe I opened the door for another opportunity. I was lucky enough, about the same time I decide to close, to find a position as the executive assistant to the owner of a web development and marketing company. I had a little bit of knowledge in the field, all self-taught over the previous four years of trial and error while running my business. Over the next year, I moved up to project manager, and finally communication manager, each day absorbing every little tidbit I could about things like email marketing, effective website design and social media.


Now, when I think back to when I started my business, I remember thinking I knew it all. I had a plan, I was going to take the world by storm and be in the black within six months. Boy, was I wrong. By the time I decided to close my business, I had learned a lot, and I remember thinking, now I know it all. Then I got that day job working in the web marketing industry and realized I still had a lot to learn.


So where does that leave me now? I still feel that entrepreneurial itch. I still daydream about going back into business for myself. The day will come when I am ready to print out my new business cards with “Owner” printed just below my name, but until then I am happy to share confessions of my lessons learned and the knowledge I’ve gained since then, in hopes that it will help others avoid some of my mistakes.


Next Time…

Confessions of a Former Business Owner: Don’t Forget the Small Stuff


Sometimes the little things we use to run our business add up to big costs. Forget to include them in your pricing, and you’re hurting your bottom line.

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