Thursday, June 4, 2015


Chiaroscuro - an artistic term for the use of bold contrast between light and dark. I love that word - first learned in Art History class in my last year of school. A whole year of going deep into the mysteries of Renaissance painting.
I love it because it says so much about life, which is often a canvas of dark and light. Bloggers often present the light, because who doesn't want to put their best foot forward, and who really wants to read a bunch of sad and bad anyway?
The trouble is, without the dark, with just light, there is no depth, no third dimension. I would think that my posts are pretty honest - I am not a candy coater at the best of times, and yet sometimes I get responses that show, my life comes across as a fairy tale. HA! Love it!
Now, I have blessings both earned and gifted aplenty. I would never deny it. But just to give you an idea of what it is like, I want to describe a "slightly more eventful for effect" typical day.

I wake up between 7.30am and 8.30am. I do not sleep well, sometimes I am awake most of the night, and so I sleep as long as I can. I get up, make a smoothie, and read some blogs, check Facebook, email etc.
About 9am I shower, dress, and head out. Sometimes I pop into a local supplier to pick up a few things. Mostly though I drive straight to work. First stop however is Custom, my local coffee shop, for a large flat white to take away, a catch up with the Custom crew and the other regulars, many of whom are local business owners also.
 My fave coffee shop is never usually this empty
Also, I apply my lipstick while waiting for my coffee. It's a ritual now. And because you look to me for beauty tips, it is always a 24 hour stay, either L'Oreal or Maybelline. And red. This way none of it leaks into the tiny wrinkles radiating from my lips, resulting in a Heath Ledger as The Joker grin guaranteed not to sell craft supplies to anyone.
"What type of scissors were you looking for?" Nah, it doesn't work. 
I get into the shop about 9.30-9.45, switch on the PC and deal with any genuine emails. You know, the ones that are not from some idiot suggesting that they can transform our website. Pretty soon my trusty assistant arrives - this is going to be Ben or Karyn, and they get the shop ready and open. 
The day goes like this: we share stories of what we did since we last saw each other. We answer phone calls, serve customers, I ring or email suppliers with orders or queries, deal with Etsy orders. Orders arrive via courier.
Not our courier, our guy is very cool - he has a beard AND a curly moustache!
 We unpack these, I take the invoice into the office and produce price stickers, or create a label sheet if it is something we bag up ourselves. I ring or email suppliers asking why something is missing, letting them know they have sent the wrong colour/size/style, find an alternative supplier if I have to. I reckon I spend 30% of my time chasing errors, omissions and finding new sources. Some days a rep will turn up and I look through folders, have a bit of a harmless gossip, stroke new fabrics, that kind of thing. The Trusty Assistant handles most of the customer service so I can waste spend time on this stuff. And in Excel, where I keep track of expenditure and cashflow to the last cent. I may also do pay roll, reconcile our accounting system, or other creative pursuits *ahem*.
Meanwhile the amazing Melissa is holding down the fort at our small shop in the heart of the business district, and the two of us are cross referencing stock levels, organising transfers of stock, new signage, all kinds. Melissa is a rock and she holds down that shop by herself, and also runs our big shop on Sundays solo so we can have a day off.
If I have got the admin off my back, I try to spend some time in the afternoon either making lampshades, working on commission work that may include lampshades, cutting and sewing bunting strings for sale, making prototypes for various products, kits etc, preparing classes and instruction sheets, taking photos of the shop or product for our Facebook page. This is the stuff that everyone imagines a business owner doing all day. I am lucky if I get four hours a week towards it. Mostly because it is very trying to do anything requiring concentration when you have to stop and deal with the phone and dealing with customers whom I love btw don't get me wrong. My Karyn and Ben and MrC who all partner me on different days, are fantastic but inevitably we get so busy two people need to be in the shop, or a tricky sewing or cake decorating question needs my assistance. Such is life!
At 4.45 on MrC's "office job" days, he walks in the door and I gratefully throw a pile of jobs at him - please pack this lampshade kit, please change that flickering fluoro tube, please ring this woman you promised we could find x for and tell her we can't, please give me a hug and a kiss and take over, please!!!
 Really, sometimes we waltz around the shop when our wedding song comes on the play list.
Then I often DO get an hour of peace to finish jobs, since all the suppliers close at 4-4.30.
We shut at 6pm, although often there is a sewing class on, and Leimomi and her students arrive from 5.30 onwards so the shop is usually full of laughter and energy as we walk out. Some nights I head off to a sewing group, go to a weekly open mic comedy night, or have dinner with one of my friends (we have monthly date nights so as to ensure we do get to see one another!) But most nights, I go home, make or unpack dinner, do some dishes, sit on the couch and watch TV or play on the netbook, because I am too tired to do much else.
On Saturdays, three of us work the shop - MrC and Karyn out front and my job is to teach a class each week. I love Saturday! I try to keep my classes to a half day which is the best because I have the luxury of three hours of uninterrupted business time. My only task is to balance the spreadsheets for the week. And some Saturday nights, I perform!
Sunday is my day off. I try to spend it doing only things I really enjoy, in my own time. Lately this has involved sequins, ahem.
If that sounds glamorous, I'm not telling it right! Satisfying yes. But a lot of it is boring, frustrating, repetitive and has more to do with understanding finances than designing amazing things. And communicating with people who have stuffed up without being aggressive, just assertive, but that is always tricky. And without all of that, there's no fun stuff, so it must come first.
Because financially, most businesses live on a knife edge. Even successful ones. Mess it up - get carried away with buying lots of something that doesn't sell, put too many staff on, and you can be staring at the bottom of an overdraft the bank won't extend.
Lately we have had sad news about the seemingly sudden fall of high profile businesses - BHL being one of them.All we have seen is the light, so when the dark comes it is sudden and we can question what was really going on all that time.
Our business is successful because I have twenty years experience working in businesses, writing business cases, being involved in business strategy, but also looking and thinking and being curious about the places I have worked. I tell you though, I no longer have "opinions" about what other businesses should have done or not.
So if I have a request, it is to please don't fantasise about being in business - please don't get into it with your head in the clouds. It is hard work, and if you are an employer, people's livelihoods are on the line. Responsibility.
 Nuff said. :)

UPDATE: I started this post weeks ago and have kept picking at it. And as I did, a big black shadow has fallen over my business, with light breaking it up. More on that in my next post!


  1. Nooo! Not a big black shadow! I trust the light will break it to bits in time.
    By the by, it was great seeing MrC treading the boards again.
    I have now realized that my skills (such as they are) are of the writing variety, and Not the acting variety - you have my sincere condolences for being the director under whose aegis this became evident.

    1. Hello there! MrC told me you came to see it. I too had the utter blissful relief of that epiphany - I lover to perform as myself or my alter ego, but I am NOT an actor, I hate it, I feel like a complete twerp the whole time. The truth sets us free! :)

    2. I loved hearing about your business day. Hubby and I had a family business for years and can so sympathize.It all rung bells with me. I recent blogger/pattern seller wrote a "business" post and bullet points for success. She suggested picking one day a month to review accounts and pay bills, HUH? I love that you have shown that a professional business person deals with these issues every day and must in order to stay on top. It's not easy being a small business person but it is so satisfying to know your personal efforts allow you to buy groceries and live life and you don't depend on the whims of a corporation to survive. Loved hearing about your day.

    3. Thanks Bunny! One day a month huh? I guess if your business were a one person band maybe done on the side, that would be OK but not for a business of our size. :) And I measure my success by the happy customer and staff, being able to pay bills, get on with my suppliers, make a difference to the community through giving back, and yup, the all important not being beholden to a corporation and its politics to live any more. We're sort of a refuge now for people still stuck in that world :)