Having a business has changed the way I think in a lot of ways. It has changed the way I think about my time, my abilities, and my comfort zone, and it has definitely changed the way I think about self worth. But perhaps the biggest change has been in the way I think about money.
I grew up in a family that truly valued a bargain. I learned from an early age that I : 1. Cannot afford everything that I want, so 2. When I do purchase something, it better be a good deal! Getting a lot of bang for my buck has become something ingrained in me. Most of the things I buy are secondhand (excluding food...), I feel a desperate need to stop at every garage sale I happen to pass, and I am well practiced in the ways of searching for the lowest price possible for anything I may want or need. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I am very proud of being able to give some of the things that I buy a second life, so to speak. But there are times when I do buy new items, and I've found that my attitude towards the price of the things that I purchase has slowly started shifting.
The longer I own a business, the more I pay attention to pricing, and in a completely different way than I used to.
I used to walk around craft shows and think: " Everything is so expensive! How can anyone afford to buy that with those prices??" Now, I walk around craft shows and think: "Everything needs to be more expensive!! How can anyone afford to stay in business with those prices??"
I am now so much more familiar with all the back end work and overhead that goes into a business that I have a million times more respect for people who price their work at a sustainable level. It is not easy to do in a culture that is populated with people (like me) who are always searching for the lowest price. It is not easy in a society full of big chain stores that can sell a product similar to yours for a fraction of your price, simply because the labor is so much cheaper out of the country. I used to think that big chain stores could afford to sell at a lower price because they had found people SO good and SO fast at what they do, and that was the only difference. But I have worked at a factory, and I have seen that no matter how quickly the 30 year sewing veterans could whip out a product, the customers would still find the cost of production too high and instead choose one of the overseas factories. It is a simple matter of the cost of labor.
So now I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma, because in theory, I am a fan of supporting local. I'm a fan of American Made. I'm a fan of supporting small businesses. I say "in theory", because of course I talk the talk. But do I walk the walk? No. Or, more specifically, not until recently. This past summer, I was confronted with this very dilemma and found that, this time, I couldn't just ignore my conscience.
My husband Eddie is growing out his beard. This is related, I promise. He'd bought some beard oil, and was on the lookout for a beard comb, to help keep it in line. I happened to run across a video on Facebook showing a clever little product called a Beard Bro shaping tool, which is a comb and a helpful shaving tool all in one. Even better, it was a small business out of Florida, and it was manufactured in the US. Awesome right? I decided it was a perfect little surprise for Eddie. So of course I typed "BeardBro" into google and clicked the shopping tab. It seemed to be sold all over the place... and the prices varies, but the lowest price was $1. Great! $1 it is! I go to check how long it takes to ship and see that it is shipping from Hong Kong.... what? It was the exact same product, with the exact same photos, but sold by a different person, from out of the country.
Sadly, you hear about this all the time in the business world. Some competitors will copy your products, and produce them for cheaper. But then some competitors go even further, and not only copy your products, but steal your photography and advertising online, making it extra confusing for your customers. I tracked down the actual website, and found that buying from the original company I wanted to meant paying $15, not including shipping. Old me, pre-business-owning-me, would have been sorely tempted to go with the $1 option. But now, knowing how hard that small business has had to work, knowing why they have to charge so much more, knowing how upset I would be if someone did the same to me, there was no real question. I HAD to put my money where my mouth was, and pay 15x more. My conscience would have kicked my butt otherwise.
I realize that this was only a $15 purchase, and it was a pretty clear case of right and wrong. Not all purchases are this clear, and not all purchases are this cheap. But it felt significant to me. It felt like a turning point. Owning this small business, has made a small change in how I view things, and has made this small purchase a small turning point in my life. But who knows, maybe it will turn into something much much bigger.
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
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Madeline Stage firstname.lastname@example.org
"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
- Earl Nightingale