Camping Again

I think I broke myself last week. It started with an epic hangover the day of S.’s cousin’s wedding. My evil, evil flatmate Cassie had forced champagne with strawberries down my throat all night and apparently I didn’t know when to stop. I was supposed to get up in the morning and have breakfast with S. and his sister, but I kept having to go back to bed and didn’t make it to the church until 10 minutes before the service. I struggled on to the reception venue, where I managed to find a hidden little room with a sofa to take a nap. Twice. Of course, I got caught by the one person who I really wanted to make an impression on – S.’s aunt M. who has done well enough through her own business savvy that some years ago she was forced to move to Monaco. I’d dearly love to get advice from this woman, so it possibly wasn’t ideal that she first met me curled up in the foetal position. But this woman also used to date the boss of Ferrari and was reputed to be a party girl in her day, so maybe I haven’t done that much damage.

The next day I caught a stomach bug, and now I’m clearly coming down with a head cold. Awesome. But I’m too busy to get sick. the hound’s traffic is increasing every day, and our conversion ratio is starting to rise with our profile. Next week I’m at a high-profile horse show for four days, the weekend after is a big dog show, and the weekend after that is a dedicated pet retail show. Still trying to figure out exactly who my customers are and where to find them. I’m finding branding fascinating; I think I’m about to dump two of my products because they don’t fit as well with the brand — but also because I’ve finally figured out that I launched with too many products. I’m also about to standardize more of my components. Duh.

I have this constant feeling that I’m too stupid to be running a business — that I make mistakes that I shouldn’t be making, and that I only figure it out after I’ve done it wrong and spent a lot of money. Take components: I don’t sell nearly as many leashes as I do collars, but I offer three sizes of leash and my makers want me to order 10 of each style-size at a time. I ordered far too many at the start and am now stuck with a bunch of leashes that I doubt people are going to buy at the current price point. I could of course lower the price, and probably will, but if someone wants a leash size that I don’t currently have in stock, I have to order another ten. That’s ok with collars, as I’m pretty sure I’ll sell at least the tweeds (possibly not the leopard prints, which are the ones I’m thinking about dumping…) but it’s really risky for leashes. So I have a solution, but I have to spend some more money on making a knife for a new design and I have to put the current design on sale to get rid of it.

The most surprising part about the business for me is how much I’m enjoying dealing with customers. Although I know most people think of me as extroverted, I am a classic introvert and a some-time curmudgeon. I really worried that I wouldn’t want to speak to people about the products. But whoah – it’s actually the best part. Somehow all of my customers so far have been insanely nice. And it’s no stretch for me to ask people about their dogs and genuinely care. When I make stupid little comments on my facebook page about how cute people’s dogs are, I actually mean it; there’s no effort involved.

I’ve said it before, but the real reason why I want this business to succeed is not to make a lot of money (though that would be very nice, thank you) but because it’s proved to be so much fun. The anxiety attacks and waking up in the middle of night I could do without, but…. There was a funny exchange on my friend Tam’s facebook wall a few days ago about the stock market crash, and I realised that the last time it crashed I lost all my money without anything to show for it. At least now I’ve spent it on the business – and even if that goes belly-up I’ll have had the education. I figure my home-study MBA has been cheaper than most of my friends’ real ones.

I am missing architecture. I’ve started reading design blogs on a regular basis, which is bad for my state of mind, as there’s no chance of my having any place of my own to decorate for at least another year. That’s how dedicated I am to this effing business, folks. In fact, I’m about to ask my mother if I can move back into hers for two months while she’s in the states, then I’ll find a cheap hole to move into. Hence the reference to camping.

Ah well. OH – I have still been working on Eric and Holly’s place in Boston, and we are hopefully about to go into construction, though we’ve been saying that for some months. Once that gets going I’ll post some updates. It has gone through some changes since that last time I posted plans and renderings, but I think it’s really exciting. More later.

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