"They never tell you starting your own business is going to be so hard"
I've said this to my husband about 90 times in the past month, and his response is always "Literally everyone has...everyone says it."
And he is true. People always warn you how much energy it takes, how all consuming it becomes. An entrepreneur I know told me this summer, if there's any advice he would give someone starting their own business, don't do it. And we laughed, but I could tell there was more than a grain of seriousness to what he was saying.
Since the start of this all in November I have had bumps, but nothing has been too bad. Little things with shipping companies, trying to keep up with ordering, misprinted flyers. All things I could manage. This last week was a different story. After a series of damaged parcels, amounting to more than all those combined since the start, I had a melt down.
It seemed the entire idea of the company wasn't going to work. Those of you who are familiar with anxiety will know this was the start of a spiral. Suddenly, the damaged parcels meant the entire business idea was a stupid. I chastised myself for thinking I could ever create a business...the eco-pouches were dumb, this is why people use plastic, my boxes were dumb, that's why things were getting damaged, my drinks are stupid that's why nobody writes reviews.
I couldn't find a solution because I am a small business and can't meet the minimum order quantities for custom packaging solutions so I might as well give up now before I dissappointed one more person.
And the worst bit of it all, is I coudn't even really understand why the parcels were getting damaged. And as super Type-A I needed to know. I knew the bags were strong- we've stood on them and they don't burst. The boxes weren't super strong, but we had shipped over 400 parcels with less than 5 getting damaged, so why in a week was that number suddenly doubling? I couldn't sort it out.
It was maddening and frustrating. I felt sad, like really sad. Everytime I got an email about a damaged cocktail I felt like I had dissappointed the customer, because I had. And I really just wanted to make it right immediately.
Another thing I have learned is it's much harder to correct physical items over the internet. If we were at a bar and your drink was wrong, I could just get you another one in 30 seconds. Done.
Not such a quick fix through the post. And I kept spiralling down.
I coudn't figure out what to do. My mind was a fog and nothing seemed to be a solution.
It lead to me temporarily limiting shipping to just one cocktail, as those were the only parcels that weren't getting damaged and it was literally the only thing my brain could think to do.
I spent all weekend looking at boxes, trying to figure out what was going to protect the cocktails.
I spoke to good friends, who reassured me my issues weren't anything I couldn't overcome, and in fact part of all new businesses growing.
My husband helped me get my anxiety under control and my head thinking clearly again. We know there is a solution that doesn't mean abandoning the eco-pouches. The first instict is to just go back to the easy route of plastic, but I know that would make me sad and make me feel like I've given up my biggest goal, to provide high quality drinks at home in the most eco-friendly way possible. I started reaching out to packaging companies, hoping to find someone who may have a solution, or perhaps be willing to create one for me.
It wasn't pretty this weekend. But I did learn I can get through the tough. That customers are actually really understanding and genuinely nice when I tell them what's happening, and that makes all this worthwhile. When you work in hospitality (and even though this is technically ecommerce, bartending and cocktails is the heart of it) customers are why you stay in the business.
And I learned way too much about e-flute and b-flute cardboard.