How do you define success?
Is it just meeting your goals?
Is the outcome always favourable?
The textbook definition of success is: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
But on the flip side, can a failure also be a success?
Well I guess we can now turn to the definition of Silver Lining: a sign of hope or a positive aspect in an otherwise negative situation.
A very strong skill is to try and find the silver lining in an otherwise bad circumstance and a way you can do that is by turning your failures into learning lessons. Therefore turning your "failures" into successes.
I am also a really good student of the School of Hard Knocks :P So learning from my "failures" in real time not only allows me to find holes in my processes or communication but hopefully insinuates me to not make the same mistake again.
VULNERABLE BLOG POST ALERT!
My first company Classy Cakes and Cookies was my biggest failure but it ended up having a few incredible silver linings.
I have never been publicly open about this and to this day the company still retains a 5 star rating with 2-5+ incoming requests a day with $0 spent in advertising. Which has allowed me to keep most of this under wraps but let's get to it.
How was it a "failure" in the first place?
That's a bit of a story...I opened my first cake booth over 6 years ago now in a very small, desolate farmers market I will not name. After many attempts to insinuate sales and dealing with menu restrictions, high rent costs, consistently low market traffic, and absolutely INSANE market managers, I ended up leaving the market with no notice. Their choice. After I refused to continually lower my prices for products they wanted to buy from me. I already thought the interaction was odd and strangely enough said market burned to the ground less than 2 months later at a time I would normally have been baking for the weekend. The report from the news said the gas was burning so hot that it would almost be impossible to figure out what happened.
Less than two weeks later new building plans were already being proposed. Interesting...
Either way I had to find a place for my kitchen ASAP!
That's the crazy thing about business. It doesn't stop because you do.
I had cakes booked and for the most part the cake is the main feature for many celebrations. Cancelling last minute on my clients was not something I wanted to entertain.
Luckily we found a great spot with an amazing gelato vendor in a different market.
We had it made!
Sharing rent on big booth and also sharing many fantastic customers. The vendor owner was an incredible wealth of knowledge which was amazing for a fresh entrepreneur like me and her positive attitude was just the cherry on top of an already spectacular situation.
Unfortunately it was short lived when with no notice, the gelato vendor pulled out leaving me three options:
Move to a booth that was way too small to accommodate my commercial kitchen equipment and staff but was a manageable cost alone
Take on the big booth alone and absorb the costs alone
Find another kitchen space. Again. And at what cost?
The only logical option to me at the time was to take on the booth and absorb the costs alone.
Just like usual I went full on! I built a super fun pink and black mini bakery front that allowed me to separate my kitchen from my sales and I had more than enough room to host my equipment and staff.
What was the cost you are probably wondering?
To be open only 3 days a week I was looking at $2200/month.
That is compared to the $2500/month I was being quoted for some actual retail locations. A full location would allow me to be open 7 days a week, at hours I chose, with no menu restrictions which I was still struggling with in the new space.
So why wasn't I in a retail location? Due to my freshness as an entrepreneur, I didn't even think to check into it until pretty much all of the money I was loaned by the bank due to my kick ass business plan was gone.
That was really hard.
How was I not able to keep up? Realistically that's not too bad for costs right?
When it comes right down to it poor planning but I was dealing with:
only being only open 3 days a week
a restricted menu - meaning I was unable to choose what I wanted to sell in case there was a chance of it being sold by another vendor. I was unable to sell coffee or tea by any means even though I was a bakery and I was even denied selling bottles of water for months among many other restrictions.
a different market clientele that was not right for my product - I was trying to sell very high quality items in a market that was more of a flea market than the other farmers markets in the city. I was struggling to sell my regularly priced $65 dollar grab and go cakes for even $25
being a new entrepreneur with a lack of experience - along with a lack of business knowledge at the time I made some poor decisions for sure
high supply costs - I was unable to buy larger amounts of supplies due to restricted space in my booth which meant I also had to shop weekly by myself
and my main oven broke down right before my last Christmas - taking me out of one of my biggest months of the year the last year I was open
In hind site I would have realized the 6 previous issues where a recipe for disaster and pulled out of the market and regrouped. Instead I stuck it out until everything was gone. My income, my savings, my line of credit, many relationships, and my mental health was suffering.
I did try to save the business with one last effort before things were too bad by taking the small booth and renting a storage space all the way in the basement. I was now unable to have staff due to lack of space and not surprisingly the 15-20 hour work days 6 days a week eventually got to me.
Cue the burnout.
What did that look like for me?
unable to think clearly to make calm, rash decisions
insomnia but unable to focus during the day due to being so tired
needing to take more and more breaks
angry outbursts over seemingly small incidents
breakdowns in communication
lack of self care completely- all I did was work
I think you can imagine what that did to not only my business but my personal life... I was behind in my booth rent and my line of credit was completely maxed out so
I was eventually evicted.
I have absolutely no hard feelings towards this. Other than the terrible restrictions, the market managers did allow me a lot of grace when it came to paying rent so for that I am thankful. I am also thankful for the eviction.
I was actually relieved.
It was finally over.
But how was this a success??
I never quit - even when I was at my worst I was still there trying to figure out ways to make it all work
I learned invaluable lessons - the hands on skills I learned are too vast to list and I will carry them for the rest of my life
I was able to create another small company called Cake College to subsidize my rent at the market - during the setup and duration of this company I learned how to utilize free marketing platforms and setup automatons to keep my class successfully up and running for over 2 years with no marketing or setup budget
I made connections and grew my network - I am still in contact with many vendors I shared space with at both markets and my network is stronger than ever
I used my experiences with Classy Cakes and Cake College to open my third company FIERE Fire Digital Design - it is a summation of all of the skills I learned from the previous two. I was also able to organize the processes I used to build a business from scratch with little to no start up cash which I now call the Business Builder Program
I figured out my life purpose - I now know I am here to help other people find their true calling and become the kick ass business owner they were born to be. I am here to connect people and be a positive light down the entrepreneurial path
I would say the biggest lesson I have learned from all of this is to be persistent and consistent.
Persevere when things seem to be crashing a