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Behind the Curtain…My Office {Pt.1}

After sharing more about our humble beginnings yesterday, I thought you might get a kick out of peeking behind the curtain a bit more.  The evolution of my office gives a lot of insight into the evolution of Plume and my attitude as a small business owner in those early days.  When I started Plume I wasn’t sure it was going to be a business.   I was almost embarrassed and shy telling people what I planned to do…because well…I actually had no business plan.   I had no financing.   It was an idea.  A fixer upper.   (Wanna know what I mean by fixer-upper…you can go back and read this post.)  I had vision.  I had this little voice inside that kept pulling me back and said…”this can be something great”.

While I had this strange un-explainable sense that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, I was scared.  Jeremy and I had a not-so-great small business experience in the past.  We had also had some successes in the real estate market buying and fixing up small starter homes which gave me a little courage.   But overall, I was cautious and non-committal.  I started with a six-month lease.  I purchased no major equipment.  I didn’t sign any contracts.  I didn’t have a POS system to check out customers.  I didn’t (and still don’t have a phone in the shop).  I didn’t (and still don’t) have traditional internet in the shop.    I still have a self-made “free” website.  I didn’t want any obligations so that if things didn’t go well, there would be nothing holding me back from just packing it in.  I didn’t want to go “all-in”.  What if it didn’t work?  What if I told everyone I’m starting this “business” and then it was a huge flop?

This was my office at the house (aka my breakfast nook in my kitchen).

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And this is child labor at it’s finest.  Luci is sitting here sorting tags that were removed off of every item I sold in the shop, and sorted at the end of the month so that I could pay my vendors the right amount.

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It was like one big yard sale!   And that was just the sales & vendor part of the business.    At the end of 2014, my first full year in business I had receipts stuffed in every little nook & crannie, shoe box, you name it.    These are my wine boxes in my little breakfast nook.  That thing didn’t see a bottle of wine for 2 years.

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I had no working budget, no financial statements & no clue.   By the grace of God I knew what was coming in each month and paid all my bills and was actually making a small profit…but I was so disorganized and inefficient.  I finally purchased a new laptop with Quickbooks on it and hired a bookkeeper to train me using all those receipts and bank statements I had crammed in boxes and she dug me out of the pit I was in.   By the end of 2015 I was still a little behind on my bookkeeping and still basically working out of my kitchen and breakfast nook but I at least had every receipt in a folder for each month the expense was incurred.

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By the end of 2016, I had actually logged all my receipts and reconciled my bank statement every single month, and knew exactly what my profit was for the year.  And my profit GREW!

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In March 2016, I was still handwriting tickets and running credit cards on my ipad and then manually creating excel spreadsheets at the end of each day to tally up what I owed vendors.  I was finally about to completely fall off the edge due to the amount of administrative paper pushing I was doing each month.  I bought a desktop computer for Plume and partnered with a great local software company to implement a POS system that did all that for me!   Plus allowed me to capture customer information and all the other things REAL businesses normally do.   No more sorting tickets and excel spreadsheets at month end.   I don’t even have to hand-write the vendor checks anymore!

Today, a little over a year after implementing that new software I’m starting to realize the time savings.   I have 2 wonderful part-time employees.   I can start to see what it looks like to be able to step away from my business.   I even got to do a little makeover to my breakfast nook!  (Note that there is now room for wine in the wine boxes again!)

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On one hand I’m so thankful to have this new technology, and all the things I’ve learned.  Onon the other hand I kick myself wondering why I didn’t do this from the beginning.   But honestly, I don’t think I could have handled the pressure and commitment of taking on those expenses early on.   If I had known how much work it was really going to be…I don’t think I would have had the courage to even start.

I’ve been so sad to see so many other small locally owned businesses who’ve opened up since I opened Plume and are now closing.   I feel for those owners.  I get it.  I know how hard this is.    My hours are unconventional.  My location is unconventional.   But when I see so many other shop owners saying goodbye to their “babies”… that’s when I know.   These unconventional hours in this unconventional location are why this works for me.  It may not work for everyone else, but I knew when I opened Plume that if it was going to work for me and my family…I was going to have to break some rules.

There have been many times over the last 4 years when I’ve felt like everyone else was passing me by.  I’m thankful that in those times from deep within I would hear that little voice in my head say…

slow and steady.

just do what YOU can do.

There have been times I’ve second guessed.

There have been times I’ve been fearful.

There have been times I’ve been disappointed.

There have been times I’ve been paralyzed and unable to make decisions.

Thankfully…this isn’t one of those times.

There are some pretty exciting plans on the horizon so I hope you’ll stick around.   And almost four years in I finally have a beautiful & inspiring new office at Plume.   I don’t get to actually sit in there and work as much as I would like to yet.   (Heck, I’m writing this at my dining room table as we speak)   There’s still so much required of me elsewhere.  But I’m working on it…I promise.

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P.S. {Stick around for part II of this post tomorrow and I’ll share all the before & after pics of my office remodel.}

P.S.S. If you’d like to be kept in the know about all the new things coming, make sure to sign up for our email list here.

P.S.S.S. Don’t forget to stop by tonight from 4-8pm for our Light Up the Night!  Event.  Complimentary GOPO 6 Flavor Popcorn Bar + Logboat Beer + Free Gift to the first 40 folks who make a purchase!