We were considering bankruptcy.
Scared out of our minds, this time, last year unsure of what our next step should be.
We couldn’t afford another mistake.
A dear friend recently shot me a text, “I’m seriously looking into opening a coffee shop and am trying to talk with other small business owners to see what my first steps should be. Your feed store popped into my mind. I would greatly appreciate any advice or helpful hints.”
Insert wide-eyed emoji.
“Oh girl, small business ownership is too much to text. I will shoot you an email.”
Thus, this post was born.
J was a self-employed farrier with a tired back. I was a former public school teacher turned stay-at-home mom for all of three months before we decided to purchase the store. The previous owner had offered it to us seven years prior. At that time, we were both very satisfied with our jobs. It wasn’t until J had a humbling summer with his back that we began to consider our options. We surely weren’t getting any younger.
When the feed store owner presented us with a reduced offer, we prayed day and night September through mid-December until we both had peace and felt good about yes. Barely knowing what that yes looked liked we unlocked the door as owners of Fort Payne Feed and Garden on January 1, 2013.
I was as scared as cat on a tin roof.
Would the people come? Will they like the changes? Will we know what to do? What about inventory? Will they shop with us? What about inventory? Do we have what they want? How many varieties of this or that should we carry? How should we advertise? How much should we charge? How much is too much or not enough?
I could fill this post and your computer screen with the questions that raged in my head those first weeks. And then, there was the back side. The financial part. The paperwork. Filing. Invoicing. Vouchers. Taxes.
Confession: I didn’t know how to reconcile a bank account.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!?!?!? Is this thing on?
We were owners, of a store and I could barely define the word reconcile!!!! No joke. Had it not been for a dear CPA friend who so graciously came alongside me offering a crash-course in Accounting 101, I am sure I would have died like a troll in the attic staring at the cursor in Quickbooks.
From there it looked like this:
Year one: The YES year.
We said YES and bought the store. We said YES to every sales rep who walked in the door. We said YES to their products. YES to their samples. Yes to advertisers! YES to anyone who asked for a donation. YES, YES, YES!
Year two: The NO year. No, thank you. No, thank you. No, thank you.
We had to figure out how we were going to pay for all of the yeses from year one. Fear crept through the back door by late October. The Spring rush had long since passed taking with it the joy of Summer. Leftover Fall decor gave way to looming shadows of doubt. What are we going to do? There’s not enough coming in to carry what’s going out. We need help! Who should we turn to for help?
We sought wise counsel from friends, pastors, a pro-bono lawyer and pit bull lawyer. Still unsure. Having exhausted all of our efforts I asked Jason if we could share the hard truth with my family. Yes, we had mentioned our struggles in passing but not to the full extent.
We gathered as we do on a Sunday night. Supper was a blur as I felt the lump rising in my throat, “We need to share something with y’all. The store is in trouble. We are in trouble. We don’t know what else to do. Will you pray for us?”
No one asked questions. No one hesitated. We moved in unison to the living room where Jason, our boys and I knelt down on the floor, and our herd of loved ones swarmed us saturating us with prayer. The inexpressible freedom I felt at that moment surpasses all understanding. I knew regardless of the outcome; we were going to be ok.
And we are.
Nearing the end of Year three:
It’s been almost a year since that night on my momma’s living room floor and still on paper it doesn’t make sense. The numbers. The ebb and flow of profit and loss and yet it’s working. The Lord, because apart from him, we are nothing and precious, loyal people like you are the common denominators in this equation. I say this because it’s true.
When we bought the store, we were praying the Prayer of Jabez found in 1 Chronicles 4:10. We substituted “us” where Jabez said, “me.” Because we believe there is power when believers pray God’s Word back to him. If you visit our store you will see these words hanging on the wall behind our counter.
“Oh that you would bless us indeed and enlarge our territory. Keep your hand upon us, and keep us from evil so that we may not cause you pain. And the Lord granted their request.” We praise Him for His faithfulness.
Dear Friend Considering Small Business Ownership,
- Pray, every day for God to bless your business and all who enter.
- Ask God for a support system. Someone good with numbers. Someone to help you manage. Someone to assist you with taxes. People to work with you and for you who will represent you well. You can not do it alone.
- Love your customers well. Without their business, there is no business.
- Know going in you can not say yes to everyone. You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.
- Start small and grow. Do less better.
- Ask God for a merciful banker.
- Thank God for your merciful banker.
- Make friends with other small business owners. Learn from each other. Support each other.
- Keep praying.
- Remember at the end of the day, it’s about building relationships. Because more than people buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Good Luck and Best Wishes,
P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to visit our store, Fort Payne Feed & Garden, click HERE to watch this video see a bit more of what we have to offer you!