We Are NOT Planners

I always knew I would eventually own a business. I just always imagined that it would be a one person business and maybe I’d have a studio and some clients, but I never imagined it as a multi-unit business with so much staff. So, it surprised me to realize that we have over thirty employees across the two Macaron Parlours and Meow Parlour and there is always a dozen or so cats under my umbrella as well.

How does a business grow like ours did? I wish there was a handbook out there to explain how to do so. I’m sure we skipped some important steps and bumbled through others, making many mistakes along the way. For the first year, it was just Simon, me, and our family and friends trying to make things work. In year two, we took in some part-time help, took on a few wholesale accounts, and started doing bigger markets. Then we opened a store and we suddenly had full-time staff members for the first time and our entire focus became all about the store. The moment we felt ready to breathe, we were in the midst of opening a second store! Then I became a cat lady and that brought Meow Parlour into existence. While I can say that things did grow organically, we definitely did not have a plan.

Sometimes, people ask me what my future plans are and where I want the business to go. I don’t know! I’d fail on a show like Shark Tank. We never had a clear vision when we started and Simon and I are people who go with the flow or make spontaneous decisions so sitting down to talk about the next year or next five years from now is a concept so wild to me that I don’t even know where to start! Sometimes we talk about six months from now, but the reality of what happens in six months never seems to actually match up with what we had spoken about. I wish I had a clear plan back then and I wish I had one now. Perhaps things would have played out differently, but it also could have turned out much worse. I think not having plans has also allowed Simon and me to be open to so many other opportunities and adventures. If our future weren’t so amenable, we never would have taken home Mr. Socks (our cat!)…or the other 3 that followed…and we would probably have much less colorful personal lives as a result.

I think this is it though. I once envisioned having a Macaron Parlour in every corner of the city and now that we have two on opposite corners of Manhattan, I realize that I’m not ready to open more shops. There’s a certain type of boss that I want to be and I don’t think I am that boss yet, so I don’t want to stretch myself any thinner. I want to know that I am that person and that I have the people I want surrounding me before the next adventure happens. I’ve decided that 2016 has to be the year that we stop going with the flow. Perhaps we’re not ready to be planners, but at least we can stop being people who look at every empty store as a future Macaron Parlour.

Opening another storefront seems like a way to double your revenue, but I don’t think I could confidently give an answer on that. We couldn’t open the second store in the UWS without adapting to the neighborhood. We couldn’t have exactly copied what we did in the EV shop and made it work in a different place. Without being a big company backed by big brand recognition and without the ability to do detailed market research, we had to go with what we believed would be good and make changes as we got to know the neighborhood better. Since the two stores are so different, we just doubled our responsibilities! And doubled our staff and expanded our menu and we are not laughing all the way to the bank. Oh boy!

I talk to our buddies sometimes and when I think that they’ve “made it,” they tell me that they waited 6 hours for a plumber to not arrive to fix the toilet or how someone just decided to not show up to work that day without any notice. And that is what it is to be an owner – every responsibility is ours and every worry is ours. Whether it be a suspicious smell or an employee who needs time off for midterms, it is all ours. I have dealt with people who cry and people who yell and people who lie and all sorts of colorful personalities; I have spackled walls, designed furniture and drawn plans for pipes, cleaned AC units, stripped wires, dealt with leaks, unclogged toilets, tried to clean spray paint (I failed at this one), called 911, cleaned human shit, and so many more things and it is all part of the daily work of a small business owner. There is pretty much nothing that is not on the table and I have to always be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. It’s what we signed up for when we opened a business and no amount of planning would have ever been able to prepare us for this.

The type of person I am involves whining and complaining about everything, but I’m a stronger person now than I was before the stores – both physically and mentally. I am far more capable than I would have imagined and far more prepared to deal with the worst case scenario. I think I’m meant to be a business owner because I am capable of handling all these things as they come.

And all of those are things that don’t even involve the product part. We’re producers. We produce products and memories and hopefully positive experiences. We stood in line at Laduree once and a news reporter interviewed the person standing in front of us, who then said that she is a fan of Macaron Parlour. She had no idea that she was standing next to the owners. Friends will tell us about conversations overheard in other states about Meow Parlour. We are small business owners and it is incredible to me what our reach is. I wonder every time we receive an online order for a West Coast state about how they heard about our macarons and we’ve been a part of so many NY weddings and parties and special memories. I get emails from people all over the world asking for advice and phone calls from people who want me to teach them how to make macarons. We get to have such a tangible part of people’s lives without even ever having to meet them.

The other day, I thought about the 100+ adoptions we’ve had at Meow Parlour. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea. We have in our own way and part affected more than a hundred lives out there in the past 17 months we’ve been open. Over a hundred cats have found their forever homes and over a hundred families have a companion that will shape their lives for the years to come. I don’t think Emilie and I ever truly thought about that when we opened. We were thinking about the cats and our relationships with our personal cats, but perhaps, we glossed over the idea of what the bigger picture is. Some of the cats we’ve had were considered to be harder to adopt cases and they have all found homes and they are flourishing. This is something that I can feel good about and it cancels out all the negatives.

This is why you own a business. We never wanted to be millionaires. We wanted to do something that we could measure with our pride and our gratefulness. We are still so tickled every day by all the things that come and we accept the bad because, more often than not, things are good. The margins in the food industry are razor thin and we would not have made it to this point at all without a little bit of faith because realities can be grim if you don’t believe that things will work out or that your work has value. We’re not planners, but maybe it’s better that way, maybe the little bit of faith is the key to our longevity.

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