This will be the toughest blog post for me to write. Why, well, I am a very private person and don’t share a lot with many. On the other hand, I do feel like it is something I can offer to others. I promised myself I would write my story as a retail entrepreneur and business owner, truth, transparency and all. The path has not always been easy and may look like things are all butterflies and rainbows, but you know what? Business ownership is a hard road, It’s the only job you will work 80+ hours to avoid working 40 for someone else. It’s a career where you are not one, but all of these combined: The finance dept, the board of directors, the CEO, the human resource dept, the sales staff, the buyer, the marketing dept, the janitorial staff, the handyman, the shipping/ receiving, department and the IT department, not to mention, mom and/or wife, for some. But you know what? I love it and I would do it all over again if I was younger. My wish is that someone will benefit from my mistakes and experience and have an easier road if they choose this career path.
February 2013, Once I broke the news to my husband that I wanted to open another store, I had to decide exactly what I was going to sell and start the business plan, decide on the name, legalities and licenses, merchandise, fixtures etc. He understands my whims and my emotional decisions and has supported me from Day one in each and every one of these adventures.
What to name the newest adventure? I wanted a corporate name that was meaningful to us…..the last corporate name we had was Dancin’ Feet and it locked us in and needed an explanation anytime we went anywhere, lol. I preferred ab abbreviation this time around with meaning to us. LTD7 was our choice = Living the Dream with God . The seven is a symbolic reference to God for me…..A reminder to keep God first in my business. (Did you know the number 7 is referenced 735 times in the bible and is the foundation for God’s word? Do you know that it is the number for completeness and perfection, both physical and spiritual?)
My first choice was a type of store that I had not done before. I always wanted to try a gift and home decor store. My love for vintage was also brewing in my heart. I had visited many shops and loved the look……maybe it’s because I grew up with the things I was seeing……Or that my dad is an avid antique collector. I loved Pinterest when it was introduced and was inspired by so many pins that mixed the vintage with the new for decorating, Shabby chic, chipped paint, vintage colors, I loved it all.
Once I spotted this space for rent……my retail blood started flowing and LTD 7 was born. I really wanted to provide an avenue to help others just starting out, for cottage industries to make the next step in their business. I was amazed at the talent of people with a business in their home. Why not share my retail experience with them and help them move onto the next step. We were one of the firsts in Staunton and people seemed to love the items we brought in from yesteryear combined with some newer items as well. Pickin’ and junkin’. I decided to limit it to 7 vendors in the shop with me. (ltd 7, the dual meaning) I am proud to say that we were there to see a few branch off on their own after having them in our market or in our shop. SweetNanaCakes, a second was FanZone, Demetra went to part-time at her current job to work more hours on her art, The Harvest Widow did her first show at one of our markets and is now a successful mompreneur and vendor of LTD7, with a great business, Gail also first exhibited at our market and now has a successful bakery, The Briarpatch Bakery. There is nothing that brings me more happiness than seeing other women-owned business being successful and growing.
After opening, I realized that we were onto something. We were honored with numerous awards which always makes one feel good. I was awarded the Entrepreneur of the year from the Chamber of Commerce and won Best Independent Gift shop from Virginia Living Magazine. This fueled my passion even more. Fast forward to 2015….things were going well, more awards were awarded, and I saw an opportunity for growth. We were a bit isolated from the tourist population in the North end versus those on the main street downtown. Afterall, I was in business for a reason…..to make a living and provide jobs for others. We wanted to reach more people. I decided to open a second location to cater to more tourists coming off I-81 and the Fishersville Waynesboro area. In 2015 Rowe road was opened.
In 2016 a second opportunity arose to purchase a beloved Staunton icon…..Grandmas Bait. The well-known children’s shop that most locals all shopped at for generations., open and run by one owner for 36 years. Early in my career, I had always dreamed of owning this store one day. It was so exciting to have the opportunity now. I felt I was ready and my expertise would lend itself to the legacy which would take it into the next decade. I had big plans for this store and felt we were on a good road. People would jokingly say I was building the LTD 7 empire. It was truly my passion and I felt Like God was leading me the whole way. This my gift to others.
What I did not know was my world was about to drastically change………Without getting into the details, “life happened”. I now owned three stores, my father in law had Alzheimer’s and needed my care, my daughter was in her senior year, my husband was living in Miami full time, my elderly dog was not well and I was living in an apartment while our house was being built. With just these few things, life was challenging to say the least. The clincher was a personal family situation that just about took me over the edge. Personally, it threw me off track which caused me to lose my focus, made me numb, I could no longer think straight, I could no longer be creative, my passion was exchanged for a survival mode with long days of prayer, many tearful days and relying on a team to keep the stores going while I tried to keep my head above water. It’s amazing how “Life happens” out of left field and your whole world changes. You start to question everything. I did not understand any of it at the time, but I knew I had to continue praying and trusting God as well as my team to make decisions.
Letting go of “your dream” is hard…….very hard. I had two choices….shut it all down and tend to my life or turn it over to the managers. This is what I did while I walked under a black cloud and kept a smile on my face for outsiders. This staff in my life, at the time, know exactly who they are and I am forever grateful to each and every one of them. They prayed, they worked hard and they were my hands and feet. LTD 7 is still in existence because of them.
2017 was still hard but as I write this I can say that God does not leave you in times of trouble. He never left me and I am actually grateful to have gone through it all, a lot of lessons were learned. Times were not back to normal yet and s changes were still going through my world. My husband lost his job, I had a manager moving out of state, another one resigned and my family decided to move to Florida where my husband started a new job. Living under these conditions with me was hard on my team, I was not myself and I lost a lot of people in my life because of it, this I do regret.
Time to grab the bull by the horns, learn from the experience, make some decisions and climb out of the black hole that consumed me. To the surprise of many, I made the decision to close The Augusta street store, and unfortunately sell the Children’s store so I could focus on one store 100%. Many would say that I grew too fast….I can see how it truly looked that way but in truth, “Life happened”. One of the hardest decisions to make in my life was to sell my dream business( Grandmas Bait) when in my heart, I was not ready to let go…..I had to let go…. for my family. I know change is hard, for so many. It was hard on me too but I had to get my priorities straight, God First, Family second, Business third.
Letting go of my store’s daily operations during this time period prepared me to trust others with “my business”. My role as manager/owner now became an owner. During 2016-2017, one of the biggest lessons I learned was that God was preparing me to allow others to manage the store. To let go and Let God. Most small business owners have problem with delegating, as I did. I figured it was easier to do it myself. That was me before.
It’s taken me a while to get back my standards of operation but I can honestly say I am 100% back, I have a great team and I am LOVING every minute of growing my business, leading my managers & caring for our customers. The passion to succeed is flowing strong. Behind the scenes, it was heartbreaking……hard decisions had to be made and a lot of change to the infrastructure and dynamics of the store. There has been a lot of loss and hardship personally and professionally but LTD 7 is back on the road to success for its customers. Business ownership is a lonely road and it is hard to articulate to non-business owners, the sacrifice and dedication needed to make a dream a reality. There is loss, there is sacrifice and there is hardship.
2019, we are a thriving Fashion & Gift Boutique……very different from the start of our vintage, home décor roots. I remember with the adoption of our daughter, I was told, “Adoption will pick you, keep your mind open “……I also remember when we were picking out our golden retriever puppy…….we were 100% sure we wanted a dark rusty colored golden retriever and the breeders looked at us and said, “Trust us, the puppy will pick you…..keep your mind open” He was so right, we were smitten by a beautiful light golden and he became our beloved Bo. Same with our daughter’s adoption, we thought we wanted a closed adoption through a Christian agency and we ended up being blessed with a beautiful baby girl through a private, open adoption.
I say this because, the same has happened to my business….It has evolved into this fun, faith-based, fashion, gift & home Boutique, Not at all what I originally planned. What we carry is determined by the demand of our customers, our customers vote with their dollars, which in turn sets the direction of our store’s inventory. I do realize many people miss the old store’s style and the store downtown but sometimes, God has different ideas than our own. I had to be open to his plans, even though I miss the old store. God continues to guide me, my dream and my store. As long as he is saying keep going…..I will keep going…….I listen to him for all decisions and Thank him on a daily basis for our customers and our store. I pray that LTD 7 will serve as a happy place to all of you, full of friendships for many years to come.
Advice to my younger self
- If you are going through hell…..just keep going
- Trust your gut
- Business ownership is a lonely road
- Don’t ask God why he’s allowing something to happen, ask him what he wants you to learn
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help………It’s ok to rely on others
- Learn to delegate
- Not everyone can be trusted
- Be kind but find your voice
- Don’t hire friends unless you are willing to lose the friendship.
- Keep God first, Family second. Hold them close and love them deeply
- You are the only one who will ever feel the level of passion for your business….Don’t expect anyone to have the same level.
- Stop feeling bad for outgrowing people who had the chance to grow with you
Keep living the dream friends, ❤️
Until next time…..