Opened, Shut, and Almost Everything In Between
I bought a business with no entrepreneurial experience whatsoever. I closed that business having learned a few things along the way. Sharing it with you won't give you everything you need to start your own, but maybe it's a sign to give you a little direction.
The motivational decorative piece in this pic was hanging in the fitness studio my partner and I bought. Clients saw it on the way out. I saw it everyday from the check in desk. When we officially closed our business, it was one of the many things we were unable to sell, so it came home with me. And while I was worried that seeing it in my home would bring a sad energy into my personal space, thankfully it did no such thing. You can still see it in the background of my online fitness videos. When I thought about owning a business, my goal was to motivate and inspire. That sign is reminder of how plans can change, but goals can last a lifetime.
It's been almost seven months since I turned in those studio keys, and this is what I know.
There is never a perfect time to launch a business. Stars can definitely align and depending on what's already on your plate, certain times are definitely better than others, but there is no ideal time to willingly dive into one of the most stressful life experiences. Just those words alone give me anxiety! STRESSFUL LIFE EXPERIENCE. What was I thinking? At that time, my kids were both in middle school, I was teaching fitness classes at various locations around town and I just knew I was hungry for something different. Something flexible and close to home so that I could continue to be present for my family, but something that was new and challenging. Taking chances affects more than just you. But, having a strong support system from family and friends provides that safety net for when you fall. And you will fall.
Brands only work when you are your most authentic self. Anything fake will show eventually. One of my many reasons for becoming a Yoga instructor was to expose Yoga to everyone, especially culturally diverse groups. I never really saw images online of Black women practicing Yoga. In fact, I rarely saw images of Black women exercising. I saw the occasional stock photo, and let's be real, you can always tell when it's a stock photo. It was extremely important to me that the images I put out there would be authentic and showcase people of all colors, shapes and sizes, from our clients to our staff. If everyone is truly welcome in your business, then you have to put what you value out there. What truly means most to you, must be shared unapologetically and without hesitation.
I was 40 when I bought into the studio. I was definitely not naive in thinking that my ideas were always the right ones. Thankfully, we had colleagues who were born in different decades! And in this age of social media, sometimes you need a little more youth to cast a wider net. Thinking Young is not necessarily about YOU acting young. It’s about being open to change and using a different lens to make your vision a reality.
Fitness instructors KNOW all too well the importance of smiling. Whoever was the first to say "Fake It till You Make it" was definitely an entrepreneur. I can't tell you how many times I slapped on a smile when I was crying inside. More often than I care to remember, but my tears we’re not why clients came into our business. They came to put their own tears on pause. My first job was in retail so I knew at sixteen, that customer service was about providing a service for the customer. It truly is a sacred transaction. Someone is in need of something and they come to you for it. You are their gateway to feeling satisfied. This doesn't mean the customer is always right, but the customer must always receive respect and that starts with your smile. No matter what.
Oh, we are getting into the nitty gritty right here because I am the queen of holding a grudge. Well, truthfully, I used to be. My mom is the queen of good advice and she once told me that not every situation needs a drawn out discussion or explanation. This is an English Major's worst nightmare. I love words. I love to explain. I want to make sure my point of view is heard. If a mistake is made, we must address, dissect, and plot out steps to make sure those mistakes don't happen again. I learned pretty quickly owning a business, that time is precious, especially when you have employees who have lives outside of your business. Mistakes happen because, after all, we are human. Some of my instructors could read my mind. We were always on the same page and some of my instructors, well, let's say I could predict when my phone would ring based on who was teaching. Beyond the common business practices that everyone had to adhere to, it's important to remember that the crew can only handle so much and "much" is relative. You have to be willing to let go of expecting the same behavior from different people. Lean in to who you can count on.
No one will love your business like you. Period. I gave more than I ever thought I even had to my business. I certainly gave a lot more than I planned when I bought it. But a business, lives. It thrives with love, suffers with neglect, falls when it's not believed in, and shines when it gets attention. Treat it like a burden and it will be exactly that. Just before the studio closed, I was overwhelmed with relief. I felt guilty a few times knowing I'd see tears from others while I was happy on the inside. I cried on my last day of teaching there. That was real. But as I comforted others, those people who were really an important part of my fitness family, I reconciled that my happiness wasn't in vain or shallow. I had loved this thing so deeply, that when it was time for it to pass on, I was willing to let it go. Death, after all, is a part of life.
I occasionally get asked if I'd ever own a studio again. Today, my answer is no. NO. NO. NO. NEVER AGAIN, NO! Not only will I not do that to myself, but I won't do that to my family and friends again. And just an FYI, I was laughing as I wrote this. I can probably count on one hand the people who know everything I experienced over that almost three year period. The highs, the lows, the lowest of the lows. . . I could never keep those trials and triumphs to myself. Seeking the wisdom from others I'm certain is how I can sit here today and claim that I have NO REGRETS! Your business will never fail if you took something of value from it and sometimes it takes time and distance to appreciate that.
Did you know that you can dream big and not even know what the dream is? In the few months leading up to my buying into the studio, I wrote on instagram about how I felt something new was on the horizon. I started listening to podcasts about marketing and building self confidence. I lightened my teaching class load all in anticipation of something I didn't even know was coming. It's like a plan was set in motion and I had to get ready. I wrote about launching new ventures and sharing my gifts in a way I hadn't before. My dream was to inspire, make a difference and help people see that they could do the same. Owning a studio wasn't a part of my dream, but it certainly was a part of my journey. So you can dream big, and broad and vast without knowing where your next stop is. Just make sure you pay attention to the signs along the way and absolutely pick them up and take them with you.