Today, I am checking my usual humor at the door and ripping down the curtains obscuring the view into the true state of our business: Last month, I planned to shut our doors permanently by the end of December. Usually when I contemplate closing, it’s in the midst of an emotional meltdown, all sobs or screams and half-serious intentions. The toll of small business ownership and a never-ending string of bad luck in the last four years more than once made want to quit and work a corporate job where life may not be better but at least it’d be easier. As the tears dried and my mood stabilized, I’d rush remorsefully back to the shop as if it were a sentient being whose feelings I injured with my idle threats.
In September, closing was not a threat. I was serious. For my family, 2018 has proved a mixed blessing. At the start of the year, my dad needed emergency surgery and ultimately discovered he had the initial stages of testicular cancer. After several weeks, the doctors were confident they completely removed it, and we resumed more regular hours. Shortly afterwards, I contracted e-coli followed by an antibiotic resistant staph infection which required months of treatment. No sooner did I feel better than we received a hateful email threatening to burn down our business. In August, my dad discovered significant swelling and tenderness at his incision site–another emergency procedure, more scans, more follow-ups, and more missed work. In the end, the doctors did not discover any cancer and chocked up the irritation to a complication from the initial surgery. No matter what happens with the business, I am grateful for the good news. My mom passed away several years ago, and my brother and I depend on him for so much. We needed him to be okay, and he was.
Unfortunately, when it came time to crunch the numbers, our cash flow was nonexistent. We are barely scraping by to pay bills, and I had to request a shipping hold on new inventory until I can afford to pay for it. The natural question was whether we should just take this as the final sign from a cruel universe and look into winding down the business by the end of the year. It certainly would be easier than fighting every day for even the smallest victories. I began researching the best ways to shut down a business, which steps we needed to take, and so on. Suddenly, the emotionally insincere threats were taking on a somber, rationale tone. I was objectively detached from the situation as if I hadn’t spent the last seven years dedicated to this endeavor. The disconnect jarred me.
For better or worse, I put myself into this business. I rely on a mix of cool rationality, compassion, humor, and caring to make business decisions. Whether it is the way I interact with customers to the dedication I have for educating people to my posts here, many like this one where I bare my soul, I have always been deeply connected to the shop. My passion fuels everything we do. How could I compartmentalize those feelings in such a large decision? Would I regret dispassionately dismantling something into which I poured my everything?
Ultimately, I pushed the computer aside and began evaluating how many more personal sacrifices I was willing to make and where we could trim budgetary fat and improve our cash flow to facilitate recovery. The same day I contemplated the fate of A Sophisticated Pair, I received an email from a lady who wanted to personally thank me for the service we gave her and how shopping with us had changed her life for the better. She was grateful we were here, and almost all at once, my heart flushed with warmth and then ached with a profound sadness at the thought of closing, especially because of the circumstances. No, I thought to myself, I have lost too much because of things outside my control, and I’d be damned if this was one more item to add to the list. I am going to fight for this place, for what it means to me and for what it means to our community. If I lose, at least I went down swinging.
Part of that fight means making changes and adjusting our strategy. We will not be bringing in any new inventory until we rebound financially. If you want fashion colors or special items for the holidays, you will need to special order them. We are essentially entering a holding pattern, only replenishing what is absolutely needed, phasing out what isn’t, and saving to bring in the inventory we promised. Furthermore, we will be enforcing strict special order and return policies (which I’ll discuss in a later post) because we are losing thousands of dollars every year by not doing so.
The last component of my rebound strategy is the hardest. I need to ask for help. No matter what has happened, I have always managed to overcome it, and I feel a sense of shame or wounded pride or both that I couldn’t manage on my own this time. Dad’s second cancer scare reared its ugly head in the middle of our busy season and ended at the start of our slow period, making recovery that much more challenging. And so here is my plea: If you love our shop, our blog, and/or our videos, consider contributing in one of the following ways:
- Be understanding. I am doing everything in my power to save this business, and it means you may need to wait a little longer for orders or that the inventory won’t be as fresh as usual. I am sure we have all had times of struggle, and having a support system of understanding people makes it easier to recover and ease the stress.
- Shop our sale section. On our website, we have assembled amazing deals on a variety of sizes, all of which are available in-store too. Sale items require no replenishing and allow me to direct the total of the sale toward our current finances.
- Buy gift certificates. They never expire and contribute fully to our inventory.
- Consider donating. I set up a Paypal donate button on the blog as well as in our Bra Naked Truth series. For over seven years, I have provided an ongoing source of free advice on our website, through our videos, and in email, and I have never once asked for anything in return. If you are someone who has benefited from the help I have given and continue to give freely, please consider donating. Every little bit helps.
In the meantime, I will be working tirelessly to continue improving the blog, the website, and the shop for all of our customers. I do not want to simply rebuild the business but to nurture and grow it. There are so many products and styles not represented yet in our store, and my ambitions for the heights the store can reach are limitless.
Regardless of what the future holds, I want to personally thank everyone who has made this journey possible and whose ongoing support has propped us up during these long difficult months. You know who you are. Your thoughts and prayers have been a constant reminder of the good in this world and the power it offers all of us. With all my love dear friends,