Business Owners’ Blood, Sweat & Tears

On July 13, 2004, Scott & I had been married for exactly 1 month & 1 day. We were both 22 1/2 years old & had been dating since we were 16. My first job was at a pizza place in our hometown as a cook. A year or so later, my mother re-married & moved us 250 miles away from the only home I’d ever known. I was a Junior in high school & not happy is an understatement (not to mention there was this boy)! I found a job there too, also doing pizza. By the time I graduated from high school, I had earned myself the title of ‘Manager’.

I found myself back in my hometown that fall (my mother divorced her new husband) working a full-time job to save money for college. When that company went under in the spring, I lost my job. I found myself back at a ‘pizza place’ called “The Pizza Place” as a night supervisor. I learned SO MUCH from my employers! Not just in regards to business, but I went through some rough personal stuff with my family & they were there to be supportive & offer advice. I had worked there almost 2 years when I gave my notice- through my tears.

Scott had gotten a job a few towns over & we decided to move in together. I had also decided to switch to a 4-year college instead of the technical school I was attending. As I explained this to my bosses, they informed me that they had been approached about opening a second location & it just so happened to be in the town Scott & I were moving to- & RIGHT next door to the house we were renting! It was an answer for both of us. I agreed to manage the place when they were up & running. I worked a call-center job in the interim- & hated every day of it. I then worked for them for about a year & a half. The business didn’t do very well there. Poor location/visibility along with a main product ingredient that just didn’t scream “Quality” did them in. I took a different job as a legal secretary in another town… & hated that too.

This convenience store on the corner of 2 main highways in our small town was advertised For Sale. It was a “mom & pop” type of place that didn’t do much business. I honestly had always gone to the store across the street, but when I went into this one, I came out with ideas. I brought it up to Scott who thought I was joking at first. When he realized I was serious, he changed his tune & we started doing some homework. This store had a kitchen set up for pizza. I had always gravitated to working with pizza & this seemed like the perfect solution. The people I had previously worked for were closing their location in September, so there was no competition & I saw “blue sky”.

I quit that legal secretary job in time to prep for our wedding. After our mini-honeymoon, the finalizing of everything took place. What it all looked like on paper- & in my head- was going to be work, but I was ready for the challenge. I was young, excited, ambitious & just wanted to provide something to the community that it was missing.

Let’s fast-forward to today. Let’s talk about the bullshit; some of the things that I told myself or others told me when I started this business…

  • Bullshit #1: This is going to be a lot of work.
  • Bullshit #2: I’ll hire some people to help me & it will be ok.
  • Bullshit #3: People might try to break-in or take advantage, but it won’t be that bad.
  • Bullshit #4: I can set my  own hours & do whatever I want!
  • Bullshit #5: I get to write my own paycheck!
  • Bullshit #6: I’ll just stock the shelves & it will work. It can’t be that hard to sell stuff.
  • Bullshit #7: A convenience store will be really fun to own!
  • Bullshit #8: You’re too young & inexperienced to do this.
  • Bullshit #9: You’ll fail in the first 5 years.
  • Bullshit #10: Vendors will rip you off.

Now lets talk truth to my bullshit! Truth that the last (almost) 15 years have taught me.

  • Truth #1: This isn’t a lot of work. This is a TREMENDOUS amount of work. This is Blood, Sweat & Tears. This is emotional & mental & physical. This is NOT easy.
  • Truth #2: Employees are the bane of my existence. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had/have some really great ones. But I’ve also had some really bad ones. This is the single biggest struggle for me & if I had known then, what I know now about employing other people- I wouldn’t have done it.
  • Truth #3: The attempted break-ins were more annoying than anything. The robbery in the middle of the night in which he set my store on fire was definitely the worst! We were closed for about a month & a half while the store was gutted & re-built inside. “The Fire” as I refer to it, was traumatic for me, even though no one was hurt (Thank God!) The person responsible was an employee I trusted & the amount of anger, fear, disappointment, etc. that it instilled in me isn’t something I can describe even now. I’ve also had to deal with employee theft & pressing charges against them was not easy- or fun.
  • Truth #4: Bahahaha! My business has hours- which means I do too! I was here 6:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m. for the first 4 months of operation. I am the only person who cooks lunch M-F so I HAVE to be here. I gave birth to 2 children & both times I took a week off before going back to work with them. 1 WEEK of maternity leave. I felt a little like Superwoman holding my baby in one hand & her bottle with my chin while I used my other hand to ring up customers & give change. When they were old enough to go to daycare, I went back to work in the kitchen.
  • Truth #5: It’s such a good thing my husband has a good-paying job. It took almost 3 years for me to take a paycheck. Getting this business “on its feet” is something that took much longer than I ever thought! I have 2 full-time employees & their paychecks are still larger than mine. We receive other “benefits” as owners, but I can’t just take what I want, when I want from the checkbook!
  • Truth #6: This is a half-truth, half-bullshit. I was told “If you build it, they will come.”- a quote from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’. This has been accurate to an extent. However, just because they come once doesn’t mean they’ll come back. You have to EARN the privilege of those customers walking through your door. If you have rude staff, a disgusting bathroom, empty shelves, etc. you won’t have returning customers.
  •  Truth #7: While it has its moments of fun, this is a difficult industry to be in. As an Independent Operator, I don’t have access to the things/resources all the chain stores do. Government regulations also make this an expensive industry to be in & I also don’t have the financial backing. We have to save & maneuver & plan months/years ahead for changes that need to be made. If it’s something that has to be done right now, we take a loan.
  • Truth #8: I was young & inexperienced when it came to the big picture. It took a lot of learning to figure out how to do this- & how to do it right. I’m still learning on a daily basis to listen to my customers & to push them to trust me with my ideas 😉
  • Truth #9: Those first 5 years were brutal! I refused to fail because people had told me I would. I worked more, I worked harder, I found new resources & made business relationships with people that made all the difference in how I operated & functioned. July 2019 will be our 15 year anniversary… not bad for a 22 year old girl who didn’t know what she was doing!
  • Truth #10: For the people who have/do experience that, I feel really bad for them. I have had nothing but good relationships with my vendors. My business doesn’t work without my relationship with them. They offer suggestions on sales & placements of products. They help keep my inventory relevant & moving instead of stagnant. Vendors are invaluable & picking the right ones makes all the difference. I have never found a vendor to be shorting me product or being dishonest in any way.

So my Blood, Sweat & Tears are literally in this store. Anyone that owns & operates a small business will tell you the same thing. That is my name on the front door, I sign the paychecks, etc. My reputation & the brand I’m building for our children is reason enough to keep going. I pray that this is all worth it someday. Even when employees don’t remember “Bosses Day” or the guy working on that construction project in town steals a pair of sunglasses, the effort is worth it. The blood, sweat & tears are worth it.

All my love,

Jenni

 

Haircuts are a Celebration!

My “hair lady” is back from maternity leave!! This is much cause for celebration! For the last 8 years, this woman has worked magic & supported my tresses as only she can. I’m sure you all have “the one” that does your hair better than another so you can understand how liberating it is to get your hair done by them! However, getting my hair CUT in itself is a celebration- it means I actually HAVE hair that can be cut!!

Ever since I learned how, I’ve been particular about my hair. Let no wind, rain, tousling, etc. flatten my perfectly poofed crown! My brother-in-law even referred to me as “Troll” due to my high hair & 5ft. stature. I still won’t go out in public without my hair done. No get-out-of-bed & leave for me! So imagine how I reacted when that hair all started falling out…

My husband & I own a convenience store & had an opportunity to go to Mexico in January of 2016- & we took it! It was the first trip like this for either of us & the first trip without our daughters. I run the business & my husband works another job. I experienced increased anxiety and this vacation was just what was needed! We were enjoying the sun & relaxing & NO responsibilities- as was expected! One of the days after I had showered, Scott went in to use the toilet. I will always remember his comment & the subsequent conversation… & the next 3 years…

He said, “You sure shed a lot.” I was like “Huh?” He said, “You shed a lot. Look at all the hair in the bottom of the tub. I haven’t noticed that at home.”

I went & looked & was also very surprised. I didn’t think much else of it- we were on vacation & I didn’t have my tri-fold mirror to perfect my hair. Besides, no one knew me there!

Scott & I on our last night in Mexico.

Upon returning home, my tri-fold mirror revealed a bald spot on the back right side of my head… not just a small spot either. This was tennis-ball sized & growing daily. I messaged my “hair lady” with a picture. “Did you notice anything when you did my hair before I left?” “No!” she replied. “You need to see a Doctor.” I was fatigued & irritable & scared. I was convinced it was cancer of some kind & I worked tirelessly to convince myself that I would be around to raise my daughters & grow old with my husband.

All the blood tests that my doctor did revealed one thing: I was as healthy as could be.

I was referred to a dermatologist for final diagnosis. I asked about stress/anxiety & the role it could be playing (because let’s be real- I Googled that sh^&). I was told there was no direct link, but if I was experiencing high stress, to work to reduce that. I asked about changing my diet- would Whole 30 be the answer? Could I survive Whole 30?? No wine, no chocolate? That in itself was punishment! I was ultimately given a diagnosis of Alopecia Areata. I would then spend the next 2 years losing my hair, having my husband shave my head & steroid injections in my scalp too numerous to count while watching it grow back. I read books & blogs & tried to connect with other people in the Alopecia community for support. The second time it became evident I was going to lose my hair, I went to my “hair lady” with a friend, a bottle of wine & some tears while I watched her shave my head & then slightly customize my new wig.

Picture #1 is me in my new hair April 2016. Picture #2 is the after effects of an appointment at the dermatologist & a round of injections in my head April 2017. Picture #3 is me in my new hair June 2017. 

Fast forward to November 2017 & my hair was thinning again. I had a bald spot about the size of a ping-pong ball in one area & one about the size of a quarter in another. I thought “Here we go again.” I was experiencing the same fatigue & irritability. I was on the phone with my step-mother arguing about Thanksgiving (again, like every year) & I had my first REAL panic attack. I’m thankful at this point that I have only experienced one of those & I hope that I have things under control now to not go through that again. However, the next day, I wasn’t ok. I just wasn’t. I called my doctors office & asked to be seen right away. I was put on an anti-anxiety medication- something I was afraid to do for too long, for all the wrong reasons.

I’m a HUGE believer in mental health support & asking for help & believe that it’s ok to not be ok. Anxiety & depression run in my family & while it took too much “work” to bring it forward along with family stressors, I am acknowledging it & work through it daily. My bald spots stopped growing after I started that medication & I haven’t experienced any new ones. I truly believe that stress & anxiety were the causes of my hair-loss all long.

So stop & think about that. A perfectly healthy 35 year old woman who works out 5 days a week, drinks ample amounts of water, eats salads prepped in mason jars (& gets picked on about it) & who by all accounts is HAPPY- lost all of her hair from too much anxiety.

That’s heavy.

Stress & anxiety are very capable of wrecking total havoc on our physical selves, not just our mental & emotional ones. By all means, I beg you, ask for help! I still take a daily medication. I bullet journal, I read a daily devotional & say my prayers (both of which are newer to me). I make more of an effort to STOP working- be it my business or the housework- & enjoy time with my kids. I learned to say NO to the things that added to my anxiety instead of alleviating it… I’m still learning to walk away. I choose to surround myself with people who are supportive & encouraging & who are just all-around amazing.

Me today- & that hair is MINE 🙂

So the next time you go in to get your hair cut, think about all of those people that can’t. Think about the women like me. Think about the cancer patient. Think about the person with Alopecia. Think about how something so “normal” to most people, is literally a celebration for others. Then throw a quick “Thanks” to the higher power you believe in & ask yourself if you’re doing all you can to control the anxiety & stress in your life before the anxiety & stress controls you.

All my love,

Jenni

Here Goes Nothing

I’ve tossed around the idea of starting a blog for a while now, however there are several things that have kept me from doing it. Thing #1: I don’t have anything to blog about that people will be interested in anyway. Thing #2: I have NO IDEA how to start a blog! I mean, how do these things work? Thing #3: I have SO much spare time to do that in… will it ever make sense? Thing #4: What if people I know actually read this & it changes the way they think about me??

Then I started reading a lot of books about motivation & not being perfect & not being afraid to put myself out there. I started to realize my value. My value as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a business owner, as a friend…. all these “hats” I wear on a daily basis! Granted, part of this revelation could be in part to my age… I’ll be 37 in a couple of months & I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to love myself in all my imperfect glory. Does that mean I am super confident? Does that mean that I don’t have “Mom-Guilt”? Does that mean that you can eat off the floor of my kitchen on any given day? Does it mean that I don’t look in the mirror & wonder what my husband sees in me? NO! I experience these things everyday! The biggest difference is that I’ve taken advice from Brené Brown & her book Braving the Wildnerness in which she advises to “speak truth to bullshit.” So that’s why I’m here. I’m speaking truth to the “bullshit” in my life. I’m hoping that someone else out there finds my truth to also be their truth.

This brings me back to my 4 “Things” about why I shouldn’t start a blog. So I spoke truth to myself about my fears & came up with answers. Thing #1: Maybe no one will read it. Ever. But putting it out there for someone to find brings opportunity to both of us. An opportunity to connect through words & find peace & comfort & hopefully a little humor. Thing #2: I just googled how to start a blog- & here I am! I’ll research (because I tend to obsess over new-found things) about ways to improve your experience, but I’m just here to be honest! Thing #3: I’ll MAKE the time. I am passionate about many things in my life; my husband, my kids, coffee, wine, chocolate, essential oils, friends, exercise….. ok, I’ll stop 😉 but you get the point. Making the time to share challenges & triumphs with you will help me through it!  Thing #4: If speaking truth to the world- & subsequently the people I know in my life  & it changes their perspective of me in a negative way, then that’s another truth I’ll deal with.

This is our fur-baby, Lilly! She’s seriously like having a toddler in the house again!
This is my world! My husband Scott, our daughter Kaitlynn (9) & our daughter Abby (7). This was taken on the shore of Lake Superior while on vacation.

That’s it for today. It seems I have this “job” & payroll needs to get done! Until next week!

Jenni