It’s been ages since I’ve posted on here. I wish I could say that it’s because we struck it rich and I’m currently writing while floating on my yacht. The truth is, it’s been tiring. I think everything prepares you to work hard for the first five years of owning a business – and for us, since we started out so slowly and so piecemeal, maybe a few extra years. But what happens after those first few years have passed? And what if the game is different?
I remember that one of our first employees signed us up for an Instagram account. We were like, “What is this and why does it matter?” She told us that it’s a good way to just share what we’re doing. Who would have guessed that it’d be an incredible asset for many different businesses? Or that there would be “Influencers” to replace the traditional food editor? It’s a concept that I lean into every few months – post more, invite people to come in, etc – and then I fall out of it because I wonder…how many different ways can you post a macaron without it being the same? Maybe I’m the only one not getting this!
We made a lot of big changes last year. The biggest one is that we closed down the St. Marks Place location. It was our baby, but it also wasn’t anymore. We had long outgrown the kitchen and were renting additional space. More frighteningly, a lot of the businesses around us started to close down. Half of the bars were closed by the Federal Marshall and all the businesses in one of the buildings were shut down due to an illegal gas setup. We had a business that in some ways thrived on a scene that wasn’t there anymore and we were renting additional space because we needed more storage. It wasn’t an ideal situation. As we were thinking about what to do, we discovered that the tenants in the place next door to Meow Parlour had moved out. Upon visiting, we saw that it was not just larger than our East Village store, it also had nearly a full sized basement. For weeks, we mulled over it and asked some friends for their thoughts. We knew the foot traffic wasn’t going to be the same as it was when we first opened on St Marks Place, but neither was the foot traffic there at that time. Eventually, we realized – we would be able to consolidate multiple places into one store and it would save us a lot on the resources we spend just managing logistics. I was sure that saving both resources and head space would allow us to focus on other things.
While our first store opened over 7 months after we signed the lease, we weren’t falling for those same mistakes again. We weren’t going to waste our time debating over two different types of tile. The construction was completed in just 19 days and it only took a few more weeks to move everything over and get started in our new home. If I could have told this to old me, I would have probably beaten me over the head with a sheet pan about it. I had no idea that it would be possible to push through a construction process that quickly, but it’s possible. It took some late nights, some early mornings, and some compromises, but in a business where every day you’re not open is a day when you don’t have sales, it’s important to open on time (or early). If I knew this 6 years ago, it would have saved us time, money, and for me in particular, 15 lbs.
Last year, I signed up for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. It was an intensive program to teach you how to really blow up your business. While it taught me a lot, it also taught me that I really need to clean some things up before we could even get to that next level so the past year or so has been dedicated to making those changes.
For one, if I could go back and start my business again, I probably would have signed up for a basic accounting class. I’m not bad with numbers, I just didn’t know the basics of accounting so I didn’t know the terminology and I just trusted whatever the bookkeeper and CPA told me, even though it just didn’t feel quite right. We’ve been around since 2010 so something that was small and seemed off in 2010 could blow up into a much bigger thing 8 years down the line (thankfully it wasn’t the case, but things did need to be organized better). I spent the entire summer re-doing our books so that I could have a better grasp of those finances. I wanted to do it myself and have that experience because handing it off really didn’t do us any favors. The project took months (to be fair, I redid it for 3 or 4 different companies) and I still have moments of complete confusion. I think we’re 90% back on track and the way that I reorganized everything puts things into a clearer financial picture than ever before.
So what’s next? The holidays! I know that it’s still like 3 months before Christmas, but you have to think about these things in advance. However, we never really have. One of the odd things about owning a business is that time doesn’t seem to move like how you expect it to. I swear that it was burning hot 2 weeks ago and now it’s full fall weather. Last year, I told myself that we were more prepared than ever, and yet it still felt chaotic. I wonder if this year will be the same. We’re certainly doing a lot more in the months leading up to the holidays, but it’s probably still going to creep up on me. Tomorrow is probably going to be November 15th according to how I keep track of time.
I know that this post is just me throwing out a lot of different thoughts out there. All that being said, we’re still changing. We have to be prepared to make compromises, to accept change, and to be prepared to make changes. If we didn’t, we’d still be on St. Marks Place, renting out 2 storage units and with a separate Meow Parlour bakery location. It was a big pivot, but I walk to work now, our staff is more self sufficient since we have a basement, and our business is more morning focused than late night. I love the new kitchen and wonder how I ever survived the other place. All of this, just because we decided to take a leap of faith. Even so, it’s been a busy 18 months and I never seem to sleep enough. So I’m going to go to bed now.