5 Things I’ve learned since opening a business during a pandemic

A little over a year ago, my husband and I began to dream about opening an eco-friendly, sustainable store that would help people live more natural lives. This dream of ours was originally a 5 year plan. But in February this year, everything had aligned perfectly for us to make big moves fast and open our dream store, Wholesome Home, much sooner than originally expected.

My daughter, Jemma, and I on opening day May 12th, 2020.

The perfect little building right on Main Street in Saxonburg made itself available and right within the sweet spot of my budget. After signing my name on the dotted line of the lease, we got right to work. Walls needed painted, inventory needed ordered, I began developing our e-commerce platform, refinishing display pieces, and just doing everything necessary to get our store open. Our grand-opening day was planned for April 1st and we couldn’t be more excited. Then the week before our grand-opening, the news of COVID-19 making it’s way to the States made world news and just like that, everything was put on pause. April 1st, the day we were so excited for, came and went, but our doors stayed closed.

It’s now, June 4th, and we’ve officially been open for three weeks. It’s crazy to think you can learn so much in a short amount of time, but I really have. These last three weeks have been eye opening for me. I’m learning so much each day and constantly wanting to find ways to improve our business while needing to maintain creativity in providing education to our community. So, though I know these bullets most likely change in the future, here are five things I’ve learned thus far in opening our store during a pandemic.

  1. ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP PLAN…A plan A, plan B, plan C, and sometimes a plan D… Like I said, we were originally supposed to open on April 1st but had to postpone our opening until May. I had to think of ways to promote our business without actually being able to be IN my business. So I launched our e-commerce. And now looking back, I’m actually grateful for that time that I solely got to spend on working with our website. We ended up having processing issues with shipping and taxes within the first few purchases from customers. So like with any new thing, there were bugs I needed to workout and I’m thankful I was able to do that without also being overwhelmed with trying to tweak things within our physical store at the same time.
    I got our website up and running and so that became our plan B and it worked out well. It also gave us more time to spend finalizing display details within our physical store. I originally wanted shelves, but after long discussions and attempts of hanging shelves, I realized that up-cycled furniture would be the better way to go and fit in with our mission too. That became plan C. For some reason, even during a pandemic, so many people want to buy furniture. So not only is up-cycling furniture a great way to repurpose items, but it’s also a great source of extra revenue especially during times like now.
    Basically, when you make a plan, have some back-ups just in case. Because just when you think everything is going perfectly, anything could happen…like a global pandemic. And then you have to change EVERYTHING you had planned.
  2. PATIENCE. Starting a new business is hard. Every time I have a new customer come in, they ask, “how is business doing”? Well, it’s about as good as you can imagine for opening during a pandemic and social political problems. But the market ALWAYS gets better. It might be hard for a little bit, but it’ll eventually pick back up. Our primary focus, the thing most important to us, is helping to educate people on living more sustainable and eco-friendly lives. And during a pandemic shut-down, everyone is utilizing virtual ways of meeting more than ever. So if people aren’t quite ready to come into the store, they can still check out our posts online. But in the meantime, I’ve really had to learn to be patient because there are days when not a single person walks through my doors and those days are long and hard. But then I see the social engagement online and comments from people learning about reusable ziplock bags, wool dryer balls, and more…and that is what fills my cup. Those comments are what remind me why I’m here and why I’m doing this. Therefore, on the quiet days, I take full advantage of playing with my daughter, blogging, reading books, and catching up on office work.
  3. STRENGTH IN VALUES. I am a people pleaser. I hate to say no, I never want to make someone upset, but I have a specific design and idea in my head as to what my boutique should always look like and represent. One of my favorite things about my store is that we feature local artists who make beautiful works of art from reused and recycled materials. So I’m usually posting that I’m looking for more local artists. But when one does that, I swear…everyone comes out of the woodwork. Being someone who has a hard time saying no, it’s SO HARD when I have a friend message me saying they make this one product and ask if I’d sell it in the store but if it’s not made from reused or recycled materials, I have to say no. Wholesome Home is all about sustainability and natural living. Saying no is actually very much encouraged. It’s GOOD to have boundaries and to not compromise your values. If I said yes to everything, my store would become a mix-match store of items that don’t make any sense together. So learning to say no and being okay with saying no is definitely something I’m still working on but had to learn quickly in the last three weeks.
  4. DITCH DISTRACTIONS. There’s a lot happening in our world right now…a lot of chaos, injustice, corruption, and more. It can be overwhelming. Especially for new business owners who are just trying to make a living but may not be allowed to open their store or are in a community being shut down by riots. Just the mental energy alone that it takes to watch 30 seconds of whatever news video is intensely draining. Being that I need to be creative in promoting and educating, I cannot be distracted. I have little time to myself to create because if I don’t have customers, I’m usually busy entertaining my daughter who hangs out at the store with me all day long. To help ditch the distractions, I’ve had to unfollow almost everyone on my social media pages…this way, instead of constantly consuming, now I can constantly create. Yes, I still stay informed of current events. But your mental health is so incredibly important too, that the break from the constant negativity in my news feeds has been such a relief. 
  5. GIVE ALL OF IT TO GOD. I worry…all. the. time. Am I going to make enough in sales to cover rent? Did I educate that group enough? Did I help to empower that mom enough to make holistic decisions? Did I present that information correctly? I’m always in constant worry and second-guessing mode. If there’s one thing that, maybe I’m not just learning it but instead, I’m being reminded of it, is to give it to God. God provided this opportunity. God has planned for me to do this for some reason. So I need to give all of it to him. It’s a lot easier said than done, I can promise that. But on the days when my heart is heavy with worry, talking through it with God is my favorite and I just know it’ll be okay.

These lessons I’ve learned don’t only apply to business life. In fact, all of it has also been a lesson I’ve learned for my personal life. Times as crazy hard right now all around the world for so many people. We need to practice more kindness, love, and support. My hope is that you, my reader, can take something from what I’ve wrote and apply it into your daily life or business too. And I pray that through the chaos, you find peace.

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