So, y’all know I’ve been locked up in my workshop for the past few weeks, working on a huge retail order, right? I single-handedly produced, packaged, labeled, shipped and delivered 792 units of lotion to 33 Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, (all the Colorado stores). There’s nothing like a trial by fire to get you going, am I right? Here’s the thing, I thought I knew everything, but it turns out I know nothing…well, not NOTHING, but way less than I thought. There is that moment, or series of moments that every small business owner has, where an opportunity arises for you to take the next step to grow your business and you’d better be ready, or else. I learned a lot from this process, a lot that will help me be smarter and faster and more prepared in the future…in fact, here’s a little list:
- I’m not organized. Now, for people who know me, this will sound absurd. Everyone thinks I am organized. In my other, corporate life when we had to take those personality tests to teach us all how to work together and we’d have to make a list of traits for our co-workers, every single list, every single time, always started with “Sarah is very organized”. It’s a persona that I just assumed over the years, but apparently it has no basis in reality. I lost track of orders while assembling boxes, I shipped the wrong thing to the wrong place, I miscounted my order about a billion times, I lost stuff in my own office…see? Not. Organized.
- I can’t count and math is hard. I needed to make 18 units for each store, plus three testers and three staff samples. So when I did the math, I multiplied 18 times 33…forgetting about the other 6 units….which means that instead of 594 total units, I needed 792. Ooops. Guess that explains why I ran out of literally everything halfway through and had several very late nights (and also several mini-heart attacks), in order to pull this off.
- Stuff costs money, ya’ll….ALL the stuff. It seemed like every time I turned around, I was having to buy something…boxes, (yes, I thought those would magically appear), packing tape, paper for the printer, labels, raw materials, lid liners, and on and on and on. This was an expensive lesson.
- I’m a self described hippie, you guys, as I have mentioned many times, and I like to move through life at an easy pace, letting the Universe guide me this way and that. I like to be spontaneous, I don’t like to plan shit out too far in advance, lest I suck all the fun out of life’s little moments…which brings me to…You gotta have a plan, man. A logistical map of what needs to take place and when, so that when the big order comes, you are ready to execute with minimal anxiety and no midnight heart failure. 792 jars of lotion ain’t gonna make themselves. Or package themselves. Or ship themselves. Which I learned the hard way.
- STOP BEING SUCH A JERK AND ASK FOR HELP! I suck at this. I want to do it myself. I want to prove I can. I don’t want to take the time to show anyone else what to do. About a billion people offered to assist me during the last three weeks and I said no to almost all of them, and that, friends, was a giant mistake. After all, if this all goes as planned and I grow my little home business into a giant corporation, I won’t be able to do it alone for long. This is a difficult lesson to learn. After all, I am the girl who sports a giant scar on my shin because I refused to let my friend Ken help me over a fallen tree on a hike during my college days. Sometimes, “I can do it myself” is really just me being an asshole. No man is an island, and all that, right?
I know this all seems so negative, but the good news? None of these things will ever happen again. I now know exactly how much Shea butter it takes to make 792 jars of lotion (130 lbs. For those keeping track at home), and how much is costs to ship 24 units to 33 stores, (I won’t share THAT number, it would make you weep), how many boxes I need, how much tape I need and how much time I need. I got to see myself in action. I got to see where my weaknesses are, so that I can shore up those areas for next time. And you know what else, you guys? I did it. I met my deadline, the quality remained consistent, I did not have a midnight heart attack, I did not fold under the pressure, I did not quit. I took my licks, as my Mama would say, and learned my lessons, and I’m ready for the next one! Bring. It. On.