I was staring at my blank computer screen wondering what to write today and then the idea of Marathons and what they’ve taught me popped into my brain. It might be because it’s the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing last year. It could also be that so many of my friends are gearing up to run marathons. Then again, it could be because this past weekend, I did horribly at a market. It was a serious fail, and one that forced me to pick myself up, dust off the dirt, and move forward.
The market I speak of is the one I advertised on this blog last Friday, the Greenpointers Spring Market in Greenpoint, New York. I was super excited for the day. I had friends, who are also independent artists and small business owners, selling at the same market and the day was expected to be gorgeous. (And it was!) I spent much of last week trying to finish up last minute designs and get them printed to gauge response levels before committing to print. I also spent a few hours practicing meditation, positive thinking, and praying for a good outcome.
Then Sunday came. It started out fairly well, even though I ended up getting to the location late and tweaking my table set up while shoppers arrived. Then the hours started trickling by and I had customers tell me how beautiful my product is and take a business card, but no sales. Rather than focus on that, I talked to my friends and even talked to friends that surprised me and showed up to see me and my booth. One of them even helped spruce up my display.
At five minutes to the end of the market, I made one sale. A lovely woman stopped by and mentioned how much she loved writing notes to friends and purchased one of my favorite sets. She mentioned how much she liked my assorted postcard set and being that I sold one card in the set to someone else (okay, I had two sales), I gave her the set of remaining cards as a freebie/thank you. Another gentleman walked by and wanted one card from a set. I normally do not break sets of cards – a set is a set – but being that I was not making any sales at the time he came to my table, I gave him the card he wanted. We didn’t exchange money for the card, and I’m not sure what his intention was, but at that point, I figured it would be better for me to give a good away and feel like a connection was made, than to harp on not making any money. I’ve always stood by my mission that people write and spread love using my social stationery. Giving that one card to that man keeps me true to my personal philosophy about sharing love and communication.
As I packed up, I thought about how dismal the day had been. How even in such an amazing space, with a table near the window looking toward the Manhattan skyline, and surrounded by amazing artists and makers, I felt defeated. And then I decided I wasn’t going to feel that any more. I acknowledged the feeling and thought, “shake it off.” You can never tell how a market is going to turn out. And yes, it would have been nice to make back, at the very least, the $135 table fee, the $11 toll between New Jersey and New York, the printing expense for new products, and the gas money I spent driving between New Jersey and New York, but it is okay. I’ve lost more money before (doing consulting and custom work) and this wasn’t about me. I mean sure I could have upped my sales pitch, but that’s not really how I sell. I prefer to share stories and connect when making a sale. Not blaming the shoppers here, but there were moments when I’d say hi and attempt to introduce myself and would be told by a shopper, “I’m just looking.” With the barrier in place, I’d smile and say, “well if you have any questions, I’m here.”
There is always a time to say, “I should have done more” or to think, “I didn’t do enough”, but the reality is sometimes being present is enough and all you could do in that time. I was present Sunday afternoon. I was optimistic and excited and I can’t forget that that those emotions kept me there. If I had been anything else, I would have felt even more anger and defeat from the day. Instead, I focused on gratitude toward the customers I did have and the stories I did exchange with them. I focused on how great it was to see friends throughout the day. I focused on how I did my first market of the 2014 year. Which is how this circles to running Marathons.
I have completed four marathons. I have not done exceptionally well (see, I’m being critical!) in any of them, but I’ve completed four marathons. Two marathons were in the United States and two were international. One of them was just a month after my father’s passing and one of them was through my own City of birth with friends cheering me along the way and my Mom and little brother at the finish line. I have spent months training, eating, and berating myself for not being fast enough. I have experienced the highs of a good race and lows of a bad race. I have cried upon completing my first 20 miles and after crossing the finish line in Central Park. I have made friends whom I love and who inspire me and I’ve raised something like $19,000 for cancer research. I have run in honor of friends friends who have passed away and made their struggle personal to remember when I whined at rolled ankles and aching muscles. I learned to love ice baths. Most importantly, I learned to never give up and to always start small in order to accomplish big.
All of that is what it takes to run a business. Whenever I thought I wouldn’t raise my fundraising goal, I’d surpass it. Whenever, I’d have a bad run, I’d remember that I at least showed up and ran; all those bad runs set you up for all the good runs your future holds. Whenever I felt tired or sore, I figured out another way to exercise or get my “run” in, including just resting. I’ve learned that having friends to support you and cheer you on is key when doing something terrifying. I’ve learned to ask, and ask again. I’ve learned that running requires that you live in that moment; you make decisions and set goals and push yourself to points that may seem beyond your limits, and yet, you do it.
Running a business, much like running a marathon requires a lot. It requires courage, faith, determination, support, stamina, and confidence. It requires the present moment and the acknowledgement that you never know how it will go, how your body will hold up. It requires that you believe in yourself even in the face of failure or upset or torn and sprained muscles. Most importantly, it requires that you can walk away understanding that you need those downs as much as you need those ups.
So my take on Sunday’s market is my take upon completing the first two miles of a marathon – it’s a brutal start, but the sweet parts are still to come. I’ll be out again in May, excited and ready for more S2 exposure and contact with potential customers. While I’m at it, I’ll probably go for a run. After all, I don’t know that I’d be here without all that training.