Looking Back And Moving Forward.
As we come to the end of 2021, I want to reflect on the reality of the present state in which we live but also the highlights of the many great moments for Mill Pond Card & Gift Co. The beginning of this year was marked with government mandates for closures in retail combined with substantial seasonal losses. I continued to reassure my customers we were working hard to pivot to place our business online. It was a slow start compared to the in-store experience but, I continued to remind myself that I was building again, planting seeds at a whole new level. I continued to enjoy being around with my family more while working from home (actually loved it and knew why so many small businesses opt to to do it) New customers and inquiries, a plethora of ideas for connecting with other local artisans and their products lines began to fill my days. Again, I wasn’t getting many orders but, I was convinced that wasn’t the most important thing I needed to accomplish.
With the opening of retail shops in the spring, I still was hesitant to move back in. My family has always come first and the idea of placing them in jeopardy with the day in day out made me feel uneasy. We went through the summer continuing to do our best with the copious amounts of inventory and placing it online. As the lazy hazy days came to a close, and society seemed to be slowly rising to its feet again, I made the decision to go back to the bricks. I knew it had to happen as we had back-rent to pay and the quickest way to build back up was face-to-face. I planned a “two-tier” type of platform in my head beforehand to sell all my locally produced product at regular price points as I see this as the future of my business. The rest of the product I reduced to a 50% markdown to clear inventory and pay the bills. We got busy very quickly!
There was a part of me that felt immense anxiety about transforming into a type of discount emporium; it was not what I wanted the face of my business to become. Yet, I defended the price point of my small selection of locally crafted products and to my surprise the majority of my clients agreed with this. It proved to me people really do want to support the small guys and see them rise again. I managed to reduce inventory while promoting the very charism of what I wanted the face of my business to become. It gave me a renewed sense of hope that I could move forward without feeling I made the wrong decision not working solely with U.S based import/export companies. I also decided to keep almost all my accounts open with these companies and assured my customers I would do my very best to meet their needs in the future.
As time moved on, the prospect of moving was becoming more of a reality, yet I knew these things took time. I made the choice to live in each and every moment with those who entered the shop and not worry or be anxious about the future. A transformation, one I hadn’t known before, began to happen. Six months earlier I couldn’t have had the conversations I was having about the online nor my future and I knew going back was the best thing I had done for the business. The loads of customers, some new, some old, who unburdened themselves with the many worries in their lives was incredible. At times I felt like more of a therapist than a retailer. The continued questions about "why I am still in this place,” began to make sense.
As a retail owner then, my greatest realization this past year was you build a business which may at times succeed or face failure but it’s the relationship you cultivate with all those people either in person or online that make it worth it. I have heard the saying “we do what we do because of you” for years. But, I don’t think I did what I did for that reason until these past few months. It was a full recognition of why I founded the business in the first place. I know that I had worked hard at meeting the customer need but, once back face to face, I came full circle. This year, I know has had some serious pitfalls and at this very moment it is looking quite bleak for small business but, when the business belongs to you, you’ve entered into a lifelong relationship. My friends, as we close this year, I take each and everyone of you into my heart and pray for you, your families, your livelihoods and so on. You have taught me why I do what I do and made every minute worth my while. Happy New Year!