The Found Cottage is officially back open under the guidelines that have been set forth for us as retailers in the state of Michigan. After three bleak months it feels good to have the doors open and welcome guests back in with 6 feet of distance behind us. As a little girl I always knew I wanted to try my hand at running my own business. I used to made bead animals (remember those with pony beads?) and sell them for $1 each. When I wasn’t little enough to close the deal I hired my little sister and paid her 10 cents commission for every animal she sold. From then on I’ve pretty much been having a side hustle but no business class or printable from Pinterest could have prepared a small business…for a virus.
We’ve had our fair share of disasters owning this shop. At our old building the snow made the roof cave in. We also had a pipe burst and leave about 2 inches of water in the shop. All of those, could be cleaned up in a matter of days and we could keep other parts of the store open. We were excitedly getting the store ready to open and in the middle of construction on the addition when rumblings of covid started trickling into our area. The Saturday before the mandated shutdown we knew this would be our last day open until we figured out what was going on. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be almost three whole months before we could open again.
We were closed a few days before it set in that this could be a while. Thanks you my good friend Shawn and her amazing savvy web abilities, she got our site up and running for shipping and we now FINALLY (thanks to her and her fast pace) have a beautiful e commerce site that we are going to continue to stock every Tuesday. Our loyal customers kept us running and each and every web sale helped pay a bill. We were given just a few days notice that we were going to be allowed to open with appointments and thanks to an incredible team were able to open the shop on June 1.
So far we have had incredible customers listening to the guidelines and wearing their masks. Nobody wants to wear a mask but for the sake of employees that have to wear them their entire shift we are so grateful to those who are medically able wearing them. I was nervous to open with all these restrictions but I am so grateful for the customers who come in and are so kind and generous as well as understanding towards our team and restrictions.
I’ve thought long and hard about what I would have done differently if I would have known this was coming. It’s hard to fathom that it could happen again (I pray it doesn’t) but I thought I would share for some of my fellow business owners or people starting a business some things I learned along the way.
1.) Save your money. I thought it was wild when multiple professors said small businesses should have three months rent saved up. Hello SMALL business. Three months rent is a lot but looking back, it’s a great cushion for times such as this. Start setting aside a bit each month until you have that nest egg filled with a security blanket big enough to last you a couple of months.
2.) Manage your inventor levels. I have what I call the “hanger system”. I know that I have X amount of hangers in the shop on average and it equates to a certain $ cost. That is based on what I sell in a given month and as long as my hangers are full with a few back stock of items for instant replenishment, I’m good. There is nothing worst than having to unload a boat load of inventory. Be picky, Be exclusive. Know your inventory and pay attention to your sales report. Having a well structured inventory system that works for you will help you know your numbers.
3.) Your #1 investment is a good accountant. Three letters PPP. We read the proposals and I scratched my head. Luckily I have the best accountant (my husband) but he really showed me how important it is to have an accountant on your team that takes the time to understand your business and can help you navigate things like PPP funds to help you continue your business.
4.) Be Frugal. When things are good it’s easy to become lax on things like watching waste, hours and inventory. Being frugal in the good times will help you be profitable in the bad times.
5.) Build a Team. We could not have done this without the incredible team and staff at The Found Cottage. We had employees who figured out shipping, learned how to do construction and work together to keep the store functioning while we were closed. We also had Shawn, our incredible web master helping us launch our site right down to the photographs. Finding incredible people who care about your business as much as you do is tough and we are incredibly blessed with amazing staff and friends willing to pitch in.
I know some of this information might leave you going “well duh abby” but honestly 2020 started out being one of our best years yet. Now we are picking up the pieces. It’s easy to forget and relax on the fundamentals when times are good. Lesson learned: Keep on your toes.
I truly enjoy running a business and I know so many of you out there have your own, I would love for you to share below in the comments some insight and lessons learned during the pandemic shut down.