One of those hilarious stories, while owning your business, that you look back on and think… that could have been a reality show moment. What is a time or moment in your business THAT you often look back on with fond and hilarious memories?
"When I first opened up, I carried a line from Spain that sent the invoice priced in Euros and in wholesale prices. They didn’t have a website at the time, so I didn’t have a reference, but I priced everything at their wholesale prices for the customer. I couldn’t understand why folks were telling me it was so much less than other stores that carried that line. I just royally fumbled and made no money. Yet, I didn’t lose any either. Lessons learned that I now laugh about and haven’t repeated." -Erin
"We like to use the phrase "good problems" around the studio. We are so fortunate to have had so many within the past year. Our little company has grown by leaps and bounds, what feels like constantly fielding orders... to the point it is hard to keep up! Hence "good problems". One of our newest accounts, with well-known chain The Container Store, has definitely attributed to that feeling. We roll each tube of gift wrap by hand, so when we get orders for several thousand rolls it can be a little overwhelming. More than once we have waved at the freight truck taking a completed order away to find the next purchase order sitting in our inbox. We just try and laugh (to keep from crying) and keep on truckin'!" -Meg
"I bought a vintage step van on a whim... my partner was like "you bought what??!" ... we sold it 4 months later for a profit." -Aubrie
"The last 6 months as a working mama has been full of those. I've made business phone calls while covered in baby puke. I've sent important e-mails while feeding the baby at 3am. It's been a new challenge. I often look back at the first studio we rented and the first press we bought with a lot of affection. It felt like the biggest, craziest step in the world because it was our first step. Now it seems like no big deal, but only because so much has happened since then. They were simpler days, but it's always taken my all." -Sara
"I didn't think it was all that hilarious at the time, but I remember last year I had my Worst Week Ever™, where I had to finish my largest wholesale order to date, while also going to jury duty and healing a shoulder injury. I remember the sense of relief when that week was over... I was laugh-crying with happiness." -Erin
"Hm. Hilarious, maybe. Nail-biter, YES. Picture it: my first bold move – a pop-up at a weekly outdoor market in the South End of Boston. I’ve ordered my inventory (it’s already on the way!) and now I need to figure out how 1) to display it and 2) make it transportable. Fast forward a couple weeks and we have built displays that hold 56 cards each and sit on friggin’ heavy pressboard easels. I have to get these four pieces, plus a 10x10 canopy, four 40-pound sandbag weights, three tables, two chairs, 4 boxes of product, two large totes full of bags, tape, scissors, etc., and tabletop display pieces into a Honda Fit. It’s the night before opening weekend and my ninja warrior husband (the one I don’t pay) got everything in while I sat in the house with my eyes shut. I didn’t know what we would do if it didn’t fit, but I did not have to find out. PHEW!" -Kristina
"I had to throw away our first batch of non-personalized products for our shop. I made a mistake that caused all the tabs on our dividers to be too short (they didn’t stick out from the page) and all our colors off. I cried schlepping those boxes to the curb and thought it was the end of my little dream. But it only made me stronger and more focused. " -Emily
"NYNOW, January 2014. I end up going to the show alone, because my employees who were supposed to come help had to stay behind to handle an unexpected volume of Valentine's Day website orders. My boyfriend came out to help me set up, and then he was leaving. It was our first show, and we were on the pier. We'd hired a guy in upstate New York to build us a booth that was arriving in a crate, but we'd never seen it in person. The crate delivery company was 12 hours late and we had 2 hours to set up our entire booth. When the crate finally got there, it was 9 feet high and each wall panel weighed like 100 pounds; the panels were too big to actually handle. The builder said he knew how to build a trade show booth and he was a friend of a friend, and *I* didn't know how to build a trade show booth, so I trusted him. Then the booth wouldn't stand up by itself and kept falling over. The floor was uneven and the walls were just swinging wildly back and forth. We were thankfully against a wall, so we ended up just screwing the plywood into the wall and bracing the sides of the booth with boxes of catalogs.
Fortunately, we had a ton of catalogs... because we had no buyers. There were only about 40 vendors on the pier, it was the Super Bowl, and it snowed 18 inches during the show. The weather was so bad, the buses didn't run from the Javits to the pier for two days. At the end of the show, the union guys felt so bad for me, they just let me leave my entire booth there on the show floor and they didn't even charge me.
I got back to my hotel that night, and Joe, our head of ops, texted me and was like, "did you get our gift?" and I was like, "what are you talking about?" Turns out my (super sweet) employees had sent champagne to my hotel room to celebrate the whole ordeal being over, but they sent it to the wrong hotel by mistake -- I had to switch hotels midway through the show, and they sent it to the first hotel. AND (this is nuts) there was ANOTHER Emily McDowell staying at that hotel, so SHE ended up with it! I swear I am not making this up. Insane, right?" -Emily
"Our very first time we did a flash sale (back when flash sites were starting to get big) we were contacted to do one. At the time, it was like "yeah, we're going to totally be millionaires after this sale!" And we WORKED OUR BUTTS OFF printing and folding and sewing and having family and friends come help out. We paid them with food and beer and we worked super late. When the sale ended after 3 days, we realized we had totally overshot our inventory and hardly sold anything. We went from being on I love lucy in the chocolate factory scene to Jeff on Flipping out, having a heart attack about how unprepared we were for such a venture." - Lisa
"Gosh that's hard. I'm not sure we've really had any reality show moments here, especially since we don't get to work in an office together. I can say that we're constantly making mistakes and having to learn from them. They can be comical or down right painful at times, but it's the very best thing for growing and becoming smarter at what we do. I think looking back over the past 5 years, there have been a lot of things I laugh about and wish we didn't do or create, but at the time I thought they were great ideas. I think that being creative you have to have a lot of those moments. Not everything is going to be a winner." -Taylor
Photo by Delbarr Moradi. http://delbarrmoradi.com
"I feel like the first few years I was working on Iron Curtain Press were just chalk full of bloopers. The time my feet ended up in the background of a greeting card photo that we actually used instead of re-shooting the photo. The time I walked into a store and showed them my “catalog” and “samples” - a little bitty catalog with 10 letterpress cards priced way too low with way too high a minimum order. There’s the time it finally dawned on me that I share initials with Insane Clown Posse. It’s wild to think back on all that I didn’t know. I am thankful those learning lessons are far in the past at this point, but I also want to hold them close so I don’t get discouraged in the here and now - there’s so much to learn about running a growing business. I am learning lessons of a different kind these days, but if we can overcome feet in the background of a product photo, we can overcome anything!" -Rosanna
"The time we had to print 400 double-sided navy handkerchiefs with white ink, and the ink bled through, so the night before they needed to be delivered we bought all of the Scotch Guard from three different Targets, bought more handkerchiefs, and laid them out in the parking lot while we scotch guarded them so the next round of ink wouldn't bleed through. Good times. Good times." -Arley-Rose
"We used to run Packed Party out of a two car garage in Texas and my mom fulfilled packages for us. Yes, if you know Packed Party you know this means she hand-signed each card in her precious cursive hand-writing. As our following grew in the beginning my mom had to write some seriously hilarious things on cards. I won't go too far into it, but yes, my mother had to hand-write the "f word" more than once or extremely personal messages between boyfriends and girlfriends. We always laughed so hard her hand would shake and we'd have to start all over again. She's glad she doesn't help us anymore needless to say!" -Jordan
"It definitely wasn’t hilarious at the time - and maybe still not now, but some day haha - I’ll never forget the latter half of 2013. Tom and I got married in July, went on our honeymoon, and when we came back, Tom joined the business officially. It moved very fast. We moved out of our two bedroom and into a teeny loft, and got a separate studio space for our business in downtown LA. There was a month of pure bliss - shorter hours, riding our bikes around - and then a giant PO from West Elm hit. We worked probably 45 days in a row. I don’t know what we were doing, newlyweds throwing ourselves into the fire. There were times I felt going into business together was a mistake. Our business seemed so linked to our marriage once Tom joined. We persevered, got the order done, and pulled through, both professionally and personally. It taught us a very important lesson about how to work together, and at what point to say “we need a break from work”. Tensions were super high, though, so it would have been a fantastic reality show. Honestly I feel like our business would be a good reality show sometimes, haha! Especially in our old space, which was tiny with 8 people with big personalities crammed in there. During the summers, our neighbors called it a 'Hipster Sweatshop'." -Kristen
"The beginning was the hardest part- meeting random people for coffee, watching youtube videos trying to learn photoshop/ photography and taking pictures of myself with a tripod in my dining room for our homepage. Oh man, we’ve come a long way!" -Jillian
"Back in 2008, about a year into running Sycamore Street Press, Kirk and I decided to do the Art vs. Craft fair in Milwaukee. We were living in Ohio at the time, far away from family, so we decided to make a long weekend of it. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at a fancy old hotel downtown. After dinner, we took a walk and Kirk phoned one of his sisters. I overheard him tell her about our weekend and the craft fair, and then say "Ideally, we'll break even." Ever since then, I've loved to tease him and say that whatever we do with our business, ideally, we'll just break even." - Eva
"Hanging our sign. Signs are expensive and installation is expensive and I'll let you in a little secret I am sort of a cheap skate. So like a lot of things in our life I made us do it ourselves which worked out but was maybe not the best idea. I love our sign and think it is beautiful but it was a doozy getting it hung. We had a welder cut the letters for us and then my husband mounted them on wood. We didn't anticipate the weight that the sign would become when it was all together or how hard that would make getting it up the 15 feet to hang it. We moved scaffolding we already had from doing renovations and I think 3 different ladders outside and called in a lot of favors. We got so many crazy looks as people were driving by but I have never felt so loved. Nine different people dropped what they were doing to come and help us hang the sign. It got hung (and is still hanging thank God!). And we had a good laugh about it all. I am a planner and pride myself in trying to think things through down to the very last detail...I totally missed the mark on this one and it could have been a disaster but because of some really awesome people, quick problem solving, and all the ladders and scaffolding we were able to pull it off. Standing back and looking at that sign to this day fills me with warm and fuzzies." - Dana
"Every time I pack my car or bite off more than I can chew, I feel like I LOVE LUCY and I just laugh my way out of my self-inflicted crazy times." -Tiffany
"Our first NSS in 2009 was a ridiculous rollercoaster of tears, chaos and laughter. SO many things went wrong, the biggest being that we were shut down by the fire marshall about 20 hours before the show started and made a mad dash to Ikea for furniture for the booth. Yes, seriously! But at the same time, a lot of great things happened at that show, like meeting some of my now closest friends and colleagues!" -Katie
"Right after I opened my shop my mom stopped in to visit. A young woman peeked her head in the door and asked if we did wedding invitations. My proud and boisterous mother belts out “Yes!, My daughter has the most amazing invitations and would love to help you.” The poor girl didn’t know what hit her as my mother dragged her and her mother inside. Lucky for me, Stacy and her mom stayed and picked out an invitation. She was my very first bride and we formed such a wonderful friendship." -Susan
"There are so many! They usually involve working late hours with little to no sleep and lots of giggles! We once used the magic 8 ball app to decide if we were going to open one of our retail locations! Right before my debut appearance on HSN, they said lets test your mic... There was no mic... They told me not to worry we have plenty of time. Seconds before going live I got my mic and was a blubbering mess! But I smiled really big!" -Kelly
"All the offices in our building have very very large open windows that face into the hallways; we had new neighbors that were moving in and walked past my window just as I was blasting Jay-Z, using my hands free breast pump, and dressing a child sized mannequin." -Amy
"I think if most people saw us setting up for the Paper Party during the National Stationery Show each year they'd be amazed that we manage to pull it off! It always looks like a disaster zone when we start setting up and comes together only in the last few minutes and with a TON of help." -Nole
Thanks again friends for following along on our new series and I truly hope you enjoyed it! Catch question 10, next Wednesday!