Happy New Year, friends! Last week we reminisced 2013, uploaded our last seizure-inducing Flipogram videos before the clock struck midnight, and toasted to the new year. Which, we always say, will be the greatest year yet. At least this is what I gathered from my Facebook and Instagram feeds. As for myself personally, I had one last meeting with Emilie to discuss ideas for this month, grabbed a bottle of scotch, invited friends over, and spent the night hosting in my pyjamas.
I have never been into recounting the latest year and welcoming the new one with optimism or anticipations. I’ve barely kept track of my birthdays or age, let alone catalogue or archive my life events. However, this past year was truly unexpected. This blog was started not only to serve as a platform for my friends and me to share our voice and exercise our creativity, but also to provide a way for me to document my journey as the candid confectioner (yes, all lower case) and to share my trials and errors as I start and grow this small business. So! In the spirit of ringing in the new year with lists and new beginnings, here is my selective list of five things that I have learned in the last half year as a small business owner. Forgive my lacklustre prose for now, as I’m rather rusty; the last time I wrote anything public or reflective was as an angry, emo teenager, clad in tattered threads, too much pewter jewelry, and obsessed with duct tape and red eyeliner.
1. You are too young to be overwhelmed.
I was brought up to view mistakes as something to be avoided and not welcomed. When Meeru Dhalwala, the mastermind behind the Vij’s and Rangoli menus, first heard about my caramel venture, she sat down with me briefly and asked how things were going. I said I was having fun, but was overwhelmed. I was eager, but felt I was diving into something completely unfamiliar, yet was also touched by the wealth of support and love from my friends and colleagues. Meeru replied, “Stephanie! You are far too young to be overwhelmed! If you’re overwhelmed with even this, forget about having any sort of future! It’s pathetic! Just deal with your shit now!” At first, I thought she was disgusted with me and felt embarassed. But, rather than get caught in my initial reaction, I recognized that Meeru is very much a fearless, no-bullshit, dynamic kind of personality. I realized that this was her way of giving me a nudge or pep talk. She later added that I really had nothing to lose and whether I succeeded or failed, she was proud of me anyway. “Just go for it, and deal with it now,” she urged. She was right. Whenever I feel that I’m in over my head, I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am too young to be overwhelmed, that I’m gaining valuable experience and knowledge regardless of the outcome, and the time to figure it all out is now.
2. If you don’t know, ask. If they don’t give you an answer, keep looking and asking.
I always joke that I never learned about “caramelling” in Political Science or English Literature. Everyone who has started a business has gone through the same or similar process. Some have gone through it alone, others were fortunate to have help. I’ve had a mix of both. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be part of a company that has a wealth of individuals and resources within reach. However, that didn’t mean that I knew exactly how to package my caramels properly, how or what to apply for in terms of licensing, or how to determine my shelf life. I emailed, called, and approached people personally whom I felt could be of help. If and when I did not get a reply, I either tried again, or found someone else who was more willing to share information. There are no stupid questions. Be persistent, be confident, be receptive.
3. Take command over your decisions with respect and integrity.
Everyone, especially friends and family, will have their own oar to put in when it comes to running your business. Some advice will be valuable, others will induce a series of eye-rolls. Don’t actually roll your eyes. Say thank you, and move on. Listen openly and respectively, and gather what you feel is valuable. The process of even coming up with my name took months. At first, I bounced ideas off others, hoping to reach a decision by consensus. This was silly, if not lazy of me. Trust your gut and do what feels right to you. If you spend your energy trying to make absolutely everyone happy, ultimately no one will be happy, and you won’t be serving anyone. Especially yourself.
4. Build your community.
This has been one of the biggest highlights for me so far. I have really only just started, but building relationships with local businesses and colleagues has proven to be incredibly rewarding and inspiring. It keeps my work feeling purposeful, meaningful, and personal. It also keeps me from feeling lonely when I’m actually alone in the kitchen at 5 a.m. on an all-nighter, hand wrapping the 567688394615363782816th caramel with two chefs knives within arms reach in case someone breaks in.
5. Take care of yourself.
There have been countless nights where I’ve taken a cab home at 6 a.m. (Often after having worked at Rangoli during the day before heading to the kitchen) and crawled into bed just as my boyfriend was waking up to go to work. There is no time for self pity, and I believe strongly against the idea that “if you build it, they will come.” I believe that if you build it, you have to hustle at least twice as hard to make things happen. However, this doesn’t mean throwing self-care out of the window. Make time for yourself, even if it’s just a few hours over a couple of weeks to indulge in your favourite activities or have coffee with a loved one. Your sanity will thank you. Your work will benefit from these acts of kindness to yourself.
For those of you who are going through a similar process, I encourage you to share your journey with us. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences with you and hearing your stories.
the candid confectioner