There seems to be a bit of a trend to write these ‘year in review’ posts, so I thought I’d do mine too.
Because honestly, this year has been craaazzzzzzzzyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!
Myself, and hubby and the kids have come a very long way in just 12 months – and are looking forward to a far rosier 2020.
Prepare yourself for a very long story, but here goes…
It started in January, with the massive decision to close down our physical retail store.
For me in particular, that business had been my baby.
For those who aren’t aware of this story – in a nutshell – hubby and I build up an eCommerce store part time, over 10 years – selling horse products (because we both had a passion for horses – and both wanted to do the business thing, rather than being stuck in ‘normal’ employment).
Five years ago, we decided we wanted to expand the business by building a physical retail store in our local regional country town.
For a couple of years, around looking after two tiny babies/kids, I worked crazy hours doing the corporate thing in Melbourne (2 – 3 hours away) – so we could afford to (and get the bank loan) to purchase a block of land and build our store.
We finally got to the point where we started building – but our first hurdle was our builders who promised a 4 – 6 week process (it was literally just a shed with a fancy shop front!) which ended up taking 6 months (with a lot of stress and project management effort from me!).
Then we were up and running.
And what started off quite strongly with promising signs of local support – alas as commonly happens I’m sure, the newness and novelty factor soon wore off in the local community.
We also came under some hugely increasing (and unforeseen) competition in the local area (with new horse shops and second-hand home-based saddleries popping up almost everywhere!) – and with a major regional town just 10 minutes away – we soon started to struggle.
Our customers worked in town, so they shopped in town, despite often driving straight past us on their way home.
But I can’t blame them or that. It’s just the way it was, and no matter how hard we tried to be price competitive and convenient etc. etc. – it wasn’t to be.
I can’t blame anyone or anything specifically for the fact that it didn’t work. I mainly blame myself – as I certainly made plenty of mistakes. It was our first huge business venture – we overcommitted ourselves financially from the beginning – and there was a lot of pressure, particularly on me as it was my ‘thing’ and hubby had to work part time to keep us afloat.
I did however have THE most amazing part time staff member who not only worked like a trouper, doing anything and everything I asked, and plenty I didn’t ask (she cleaned and dusted that darn shop like a pro!) – but she also provided me with incredible emotional support and friendship throughout a very difficult time.
She was my rock and kept me afloat on a personal level, went above and beyond what she was paid for, and is now one of my very best friends – so thank you forever Leanne 😊
Despite the fact that I can pick apart where I and ‘we’ went wrong with our retail store, there were so many factors both inside and outside our control that contributed to its demise, that I have to have compassion for myself (I worked 6 days a week, almost around the clock to try to make it work – often with tired and grumpy kids in tow) – and I don’t regret any of it for a single moment.
We learnt so much – and it’s what has come since that has completely transformed me, our family and our future lives.
Making the final decision to close was incredibly hard – but in the end, I was done.
I was so burnt out, exhausted and we had no further options.
But because we had dug ourselves into such a huge financial mess – as we had tried to persevere for 2 years (we should have in hindsight closed much earlier) – I had no choice but to find another way to make money – and fast.
So I returned to the one thing that I had ever been good at and knew I could do – writing.
As I worked my final 8 or so weeks in the shop, besides dealing with the occasional customer as we were selling out our remaining stock – I began this business.
We also put our physical retail building up for both lease and sale – in the hope that one of those would happen to rescue us from financial disaster.
Trouble is, with small country towns, the demand for commercial premises isn’t huge (to say the least!).
And somehow, I had to pay the bills and keep our kids fed in the meantime.
I started this business with ZERO confidence. I started out of desperation.
For so long, I had felt like my retail store and ecommerce brand was a huge part of my identity. I thought it was who I was and didn’t know who I was, without that.
I was absolutely mortified and embarrassed about ‘failing’ at that business, because retail of course, is a very public space. The entire local horse community knew me and initially I hated the thought of what everyone thought of me.
But I no longer wanted to work within retail and to be tied down to physical products – so we also put our eCommerce business up for sale.
And I poured every ounce of energy I had left into building my copywriting business.
And in time, I managed to let go of that old identity and our horse brand – and I stopped caring about what other people thought of me.
I focused 100% on getting this business firing fast and blocked out all the fear and panic that I could have very easily succumbed to.
And yes – I did apply for some corporate jobs too as a ‘just in case’ scenario – but nothing came of my applications – and I took that as a sign (and had this overwhelming feeling) that I could make this business work.
Over several months, this business started gaining traction and bit by bit, I started gaining more confidence and readjusted how I saw myself.
In fact one of the biggest things to occur over the course of this year, besides my super-quick business growth, was my own personal growth.
I discovered that everything I had learnt from my retail business, could be adjusted and applied to this business.
And I went very quickly from feeling like a complete failure to seeing those first glimmers of success -and the person I could be.
As the year went on, and I gained more happy clients, I grew.
I joined a community and membership for copywriters, led by the magical Kate Toon – which catapulted my business further.
And I networked like a crazy person online, which has led to a few incredible partnerships and opportunities behind the scenes.
In July – we managed to sell my much-loved eCommerce brand and horse business to lovely new owners. I wish them every success in the world – and hope they can take my brand and creation to a whole new level.
And it was a little over one month ago, when we finally sold our retail premises.
Initially we had honestly hoped it would sell quicker, so we could get ourselves out of financial trouble more easily.
But in many ways, I’m glad it took time.
Because in that time I managed to build a thriving, successful little business, against all odds.
I discovered the strength that really lies within me – which has given me more confidence than if the journey had been easier.
In the end, our family was surviving because of my business income. We didn’t NEED the retail premises to sell to stay afloat.
Which was very empowering to say the least.
The sale has however made life much easier and far more relaxed now.
I no longer need to work crazy hours and can look after myself more, rather than my usual habit of running myself into the ground out of necessity.
I now own my dream car (thanks to our shop selling) – a beautifully sporty (and uber-sexy) 2017 Holden Commodore SV6 (one of the last REAL Commodores to be made).
(All I can say is – thanks Dad for my car obsession and teaching me to appreciate a nice Commodore :p)
That car (as silly as it may sound) has made me feel more powerful than ever.
(Particularly as it was an upgrade for my husbands 2002 Ford Falcon which he was keeping going by stuffing tissues in the engine haha!)
But it sure is nice to have a safe, comfortable car that just goes when we need it, for our family, without any hassle.
I also magically ended up with my dream horse – my superstar gold pony Bewitched who is changing me in ways I could never have imagined – and giving me so much fun and enjoyment.
It’s nice to finally be enjoying my own horses and riding once again.
And instead of us and the kids surviving on rice, tuna and a few veggies – we can now afford to buy meat and fish again (believe me it’s a small thing but its so freakin’ awesome!).
We can put petrol in our cars without thinking about it.
And we can pay the bills without strain.
It’s a nice feeling to be able to relax after all the panic and stress we were under earlier in the year.
We also have a far better lifestyle as a family.
Our kids are healthier and happier as they aren’t stuck in the shop day in, day out.
(And their parents are no longer so stressed and shouty!)
We can actually do things as a family and have the freedom to travel and play.
Hubby and I have reconnected all over again. The stress of our retail store could have torn our marriage apart – but we fought on through, and thankfully, we are stronger than ever.
I work from home, around school hours (I can actually pick my son up from school and be there for him!). No travel, no corporate stress. I ride my horse before I start work in the morning, or at lunchtimes, or in the cool of the evening when I wish to.
I myself have freedom and flexibility to do things my way. To live in the middle of nowhere, on our beautiful farm, without ever having to leave or go too far away for work.
We’re looking forward to 2020, that’s for sure.
But I’m also incredibly grateful for 2019.
It’s been hellishly scary at times, and it’s been a massive emotional rollercoaster and it’s even taken hubby and I the past month or so to actually relax and unwind, knowing we have the financial stability to keep us and the kids safe.
But I’m so god damn proud of what we’ve achieved. What I have achieved.
I’m proud that we had the guts to give our retail business a red hot go – as a lot of people are too scared to take that kind of leap.
I’m proud of having put in so much hard work – and such long hours.
And I’m glad it pushed me to learn so much about business, marketing – what to do, and what not to do.
Because everything that shop and business taught me, has gone directly into making this new business a success so quickly.
I’m grateful that I found the RIGHT path for our family to be on. A business that lights me up, has massive potential for growth, that keeps me at home with my family and gives us the freedom and flexibility that many people can only dream about.
Most of all, I’m grateful for the support we’ve had around us during this difficult year.
To my parents – Rob and Jenni – there really are no words to express how grateful I am for your constant belief and support.
To Toby’s parents – Noel and Lynne – again, your incredible support means ever so much.
Toby and I, and our kids, are so incredibly lucky to have two amazing sets of parents/grandparents in our lives, constantly there for us, and egging us on.
(Although secretly, I think we may have surprised them a little with my business turnaround, as they probably all hoped I’d go back to a normal job with more security haha).
To the rest of our family and friends – thanks for always being there.
To the clients and the amazing people I’ve met through this business this year – thanks for believing in me.
And to the small business owners out there who may be struggling – keep believing.
Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and your dreams – and even when one idea fails – your winning business formula or idea could be just around the corner.
We’ve proven this year that failure is only the beginning. That sometimes, things need to fall apart for you to find a better path.
And my favourite quote of the year is “Stay true to your goals, but flexible in your approach” – sometimes there really is more than one way to skin a cat haha.
If our shop had have worked – it just never would have given us the lifestyle or the income we wanted. We would have forever been tied down and restricted to the physical nature of that business.
Even when I thought that business was our future and what we wanted – it turned out the universe had better plans and ideas for us.
I’m glad we trusted that.
This has turned out to be quite the essay.
It may not be the perfect prose.
But this signifies the end of a mind-blowing year for us – and writing this post helps me gain that little bit of closure.
It’s nice to leave all that stress, struggle and heartache behind us.
To look forward to a new year, and new decade – full of excitement for what it will bring us.
I’m a completely different person now, than what I was 12 months ago.
And I’m actually really liking, who I’ve become.
And where I’m now going 😊
And if this story of bust to boom helps to inspire just one other business owner to keep chasing their dreams – my job is well and truly done.
No matter how dark it seems – there is always hope.
As a side note – I’m also considering a rebrand and change of business name, as my brand evolves.
I’m not sure if ‘Web Copy Diva’ is really me, or reflective of my other ‘marketing’ services.
If anyone out there has any brilliant suggestions for a 2020 kick-arse name – feel free to let me know 😊
And I’d love to hear how your 2019 has been – and what plans you have for the new decade…
Wishing you all a fabulous, safe Christmas and New Year – from our family to yours.
And here’s to a freaking fantastic 2020.