Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Last Year!

Last year, last year, last year.

It seems so long ago! I meant to write this before the end of the year, in fact, I started writing it but I read it this morning and it seems like the wrong kind of tone, although I don't know what the right tone is. Today feels sad generally - David Bowie, the doctors on strike, January but it also feels full of hope personally - the shop is moving forward apace, I've even made the first piece of furniture and the shop here is relatively tidy which is the only reason I afford myself the luxury of sitting down and reliving last year. But first, this is what I look like. Over Christmas I lost my glasses, in my room I think, but they haven't appeared yet. My eyes have also got worse so I can't cope with looking at a screen without prescription glasses. So here I am, looking like a tit.

Which is a good a way as any to sum up last year. Haha.
So, I'm going to start off with early in the year I bought the business partners out! There were three of us to begin with but the other two stepped into the background, by which I mean nowhere to be seen, one gradually and one abruptly and so for about three years I've been on. my. own. Running this little shop. Which was an eye opener and bloody hard work and at times I was very angry and upset but actually, it was a pretty good way to start doing stuff that I needed to do - I had no choice.

This morning I've been listening to a podcast about child psychopaths (naturally...) and there was a lot of talk about when the brain solidifies into its adult form. Basically at 25. I was 22 when the shop opened, just. And it was probably a stupid idea but I didn't see it as a big thing then - I just knew I could do it with the teenage-like certainty that a 22 year old still has. There'd be no way I'd do it now, although I have no idea what would have happened in the meantime so maybe I would. Hmmm. I'd do things very differently anyway. I'd work my arse off to do it on my own. I know it comes as a surprise to most people, I seem to have a reputation as a bit kooky, friendly and laid-back, in fact, I am none of these things. I mainly dislike people. People as a whole. I like individuals, some of them. But 'people'? Nah. I'd do happily without them. Haha. In fact, you have to wonder whether retail is the right job for me? After spending two weeks away from 'people' over Christmas I had a little panic about coming back into the real world last Tuesday - compounded by the fact that so much has changed in the centre of town while I've been away, shops closing, shops opening, restaurants all over the bloody place! But really quickly, I settled back in, this shop just causes relaxed, fun, creativity, apart from when somebody's starting a new project in which case it's a flurry of excitement and some squealing. I love my customers. They're not 'people'.

I'm trying to remember now how I went about buying them out. I know I saved money, obviously, and I remember how much but I don't know how I went about doing it. Roughly, it was about £4000 and I know I didn't start saving until a little before Christmas and I bought them out on the 4th of April 2015 because that made the tax year easier. I know I set myself a target to reach each week and saved as much as I could otherwise so that sometimes I was ahead and that helped because a couple of weeks I couldn't save because I'd had to buy lots of stuff or even that the customers weren't there. I'm in the same situation again, I have to save but I don't have a specific deadline yet and I don't have a target because I have no idea what this will cost (eeeeeeeek). What I do know is that, I've done it before, I can do it again. And this time this is for me and it's my vision of what a wool shop can be and I'm the only one that has the experience of being here and knowing what my customers are asking for and how I can help them. I'm also much more settled financially, I know that I will have customers again so I don't need to skimp which is what we did last time when we didn't know that
there would be customers even, never mind an incredible and growing community of them.

However, the new shop has been a shock and surprise. After we were let down with the last one..... Hmmmm.... I've just realised I never actually explained what happened there... I have to bite my tongue a little bit because I am not impressed with the people involved, I'll do my best to stay reasonable and give them the benefit of the doubt where it's possible....

(Just as an aside, this was not where this blog was going, this was supposed to be some bits from last year but I think I enjoy it more when it's like free association, and I definitely need to write more blogs, so anything to make it enjoyable). 

So, I found a shop a few doors down Mansfield Road, closer to town. It's a nice shop, around four or five times the size of our shop plus a kitchenette, toilet and a little storage. It was being advertised by a professional agent who I got in contact with, arranged a date to go and see the shop and all was well. It went a little badly when the owner of the shop was there to meet me instead of the agent. I do like a personal relationship but when I'm talking about a potential contract worth £100,000 to me, I want this to be professional. 
So, the first thing that the owner told me was that I had to read some books about business - all of these books were written by middle-aged, white, men. Now, I like middle-aged, white, men as much as the next person and I'm sure I can learn a lot from them but honestly? I'm here to look at your shop. The reason being, that my shop, which I opened with £3000 five years ago, has outgrown my current shop. If I need advice, I am well aware of how to get it and where to get it from. Can we just look at the site now? So that didn't go well. I liked the shop though, I could envision where stuff would go and how I would use the space (including a small but beautifully formed office around the back, heaven). Some of the things that the owner was talking about I found problematic but I was convinced that I could keep him at arms length, especially with the help of my surveyor. So I got in contact with my surveyor - who is brilliant - he went to see it and found some problems with the shop that I hadn't including some evidence of leaks and potential woodworm. Nevertheless, we went ahead with an offer that was sensible and long term - a slightly reduced rent, six months off rent to compensate for the amount of work needed but a ten year term so that the owner could guarantee a return.

This offer was declined with no reason as to why.

So, on my day off a few months ago I wrote a long and detailed explanation of where we started, what I've achieved and where I plan the shop to go. This was because the owner was apparently into personalities rather than money, him being some sort of millionaire. It was also supposed to cement us as his favourite option, which we were until we made the offer. No response. So I left it for a few weeks, hoping that he might be thinking about it. And then something a little odd happened. I saw an advert on facebook for a business which is based in the same building and owned by the nephew of the owner. There was something wrong with what was being offered in the advert, though I won't go into details and I questioned it. A few days later, walking into work I was collared by the nephew to speak to me about my questioning of the advert. We chatted about that, he was wrong but I couldn't change his mind (such is life...) and then the conversation inevitably turned towards my offer...

He said 'can I give you some advice?'

This, dear readers, is about the worst thing you can say to me. I love advice, I take advice all the time, I listen to people, weigh it against what else I know or other advice that I've had and decided whether it works for me. What I hate is when people ask if they can give you advice. Have a think about when this has happened to you in life. Has it ever come from a woman? I would be comfortable to guess that it didn't. Always men, always to women. Mansplaining. And why ask? If you've got something reasonable to add to a conversation, bloody say it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Superfluous words annoy me. Ugh. Anyway, his advice?

I shouldn't have gone in with a surveyor. His uncle likes things done on a handshake. He didn't want a contract. He wanted a rolling agreement. I had suspected as much. I had been the favourite, like I said earlier, until I went in with a surveyor. I'm uncomfortable with this anyway, never mind what happened next. I don't think that the law is perfect, in fact I know it's not, but it has been built over a 1000 years to afford protection or at least stability to everybody involved - if we know where we are then we know what we're allowed to do. No contract? No stability. 
Now, you've seen me, I do not look like a 'businessperson'. I look mostly like a tit:

Case in point.

I don't mind this. I like the way I dress. I was watching Loose Women yesterday and they were reviewing a book that's apparently the newest bestseller about how to sort out your home and life (and blah blah blah nobody's good enough blah blah blah) but the biggest point of this book is to get rid of stuff that doesn't give you joy. Everything that I wear gives me joy. They might not go together but I love them. I have stupid hair because it gives me joy. I eat a lot and am fat because food and cooking and baking and eating bring me joy. I get that. But it does mean that I don't present as a business person, perhaps why he was telling me to read those books? Anyway, I suspect he thought that because I look like a tit, I am a tit. When  in actually fact, although I do often act tittish, I am in fact a business woman. Only this business like, not bothered about other businesses, but I run this business pretty well as evidenced by the fact that I'm still here five years later and I need a bigger shop. He thought he could pull one over on me. Ha.

The conversation got more interesting after this (all the way through I was thinking 'don't say anything, keep getting stuff out of him'). He, accidentally I think, let slip that his uncle was getting on a bit and at some point would want to sell the property to a developer and they wouldn't want a business like mine sat there for another 10 years, they'd want to be able to chuck me out with three months notice. So, we see, that the rent wasn't the problem, the six months free wasn't the problem, the asking him to put the shop into a reasonable condition wasn't the problem, the way I look or what I'm doing or my plans aren't the problem, the problem was that he wants to be able to (excuse me) fuck over a tiny business (the shop wasn't big enough for anything bigger than a tiny business). Any business settling into that spot would need to spend a lot to make it a reasonable space and I hope that whoever takes it knows what they're getting into.

My one little bit of power in this exchange was, when I realised that I'd got as much information as I wanted, I simply stopped him mid sentence, said 'thanks for your time, it's been informative' and walked away. He wasn't happy.... ;)

I rang my surveyor straight away and told him it was over. I still needed to pay my surveyor, he'd put effort and time into that after all, so this blokes messing around had cost me money. At a time when I could have done without it - I'm still saving for a new shop afterall.

Then I got on with my life, still saving money here and there (£100 a week at that point) but I gave up for a little while. Thinking that I'd restart looking for a new shop after Christmas and January is out of the way. Meaning I'd be moving in maybe August which would be the perfect time as that's when we start gearing up for the busy time. But that wasn't to happen.

But I do feel like I have to stop talking now, what a lot to write and read! But now I'm on it, I'm going to write what happened next in a blog to be published tomorrow. And then maybe I'll get on to summing up last year?! Finally?!

Love Eleanor. xxxxx

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