Life and dreams don’t always go as you hope or want. That is what I’m going through now. It is with such sadness (unbelievable sadness) that I will be closing the Life After Lemons Candy Store retail location in downtown York, SC. This decision was not made lightly and I am not giving up totally on my dream of a “candy empire.” I am going to revamp and reboot the dream.
This journey started a year ago. It was February 13th 2017 when I turned in my resignation from a Corporate Controller position I was working to follow a dream I’ve had since I was 12 years old. It was February 14th, 2018 at 9:00 PM when I locked the doors for the night that the realization of seeing this particular dream die sunk in and I completely lost it emotionally.
As a candy store, I was expecting a certain amount of sales on Valentine’s Day. I knew sales wouldn’t be huge because I’m still new, but they should have been better than past weeks. I had a feeling that it was not going to be good when I did not get a lot of preorders. I only got about 6 non-chocolate strawberry preorders. That is not good for a candy store for Valentine’s Day.
In looking back at this past year, a lot of lemons were hurled at me from the beginning, but I was blinded by the excitement that I just kept going. Since I like to write, I am considering writing a book on the lemons that can occur in a start-up. There are so many things that I want others to know that I did not know. There were a lot of lemons I encountered that even a seasoned business person would have been blindsided by. I’m a skilled businesswoman, over 25 years helping other company’s grow and prosper, but I was so blinded by my dream that I made stupid decisions along the way. I have only myself to blame for the decisions because it is my company. I may have asked for advice from others, but ultimately, the decisions were mine. I will guarantee you this, when I relaunch my business it will be better and successful because of the lessons learned from lemons that were launched at me. I will also trust my instincts and gut instead of listening to others which made me doubt my abilities.
The final lemon that did me in was the fact that Valentine’s Day fell on the first day of Lent. This has not happened since 1945. Most people give up chocolate/candy/sweets for Lent. Which if my sales were any indication, that still holds true. Should I have checked to see if these two-holiday’s collided and adjusted accordingly, yep. It is possible that after Easter my sales could increase, but there are other variables that have occurred to affect sales that I cannot see this type of business succeeding at this time at this location.
I will be relocating back the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area after I get the retail store closed. I will go back to the corporate world, which is not necessarily a bad thing, I have missed it and was good at what I did in Corporate Finance.
I will be researching all the Pennsylvania regulations for working out of a home or commercial kitchen for my business. I will then start small and do online sales and events on the weekends or evenings. I am not sure at this time when I will have my online sales ready to go, I need to make sure I have somewhere to make the items up in Pennsylvania, then I’ll announce the ability to order online on my social media accounts.
I am trying to prepare myself to hear all the opinions of others who will tell me “you should have done this” or “you should have done that.” I am aware that people will be talking about my failure. They will be gossiping about what I should have done or what I did wrong. I know that is human nature. I get it everyone has an opinion, but only a few have the guts to take the risks like I did. Yes, I failed, but I at least tried and I learned. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
To quote the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Later in the song, “Every Gambler knows the secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep. ‘Cause every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser.” One of my favorite songs since I was a kid and as an adult (since I was a poker player at one time). I’m folding right now and walking away. But I’m only walking away from this part of the dream. I will come back again stronger and smarter. I am still going to research jarring my caramel. I will make sure that those who have come to love my candies will have access to them. I’m not running, I’m walking. I may be folding this hand, I’m still in the game. I’m just going to get more money and come back to the table.
As I sit here in the store and look around at the positivity I have showcased with all the plaques and sayings on the wall, I’m reminded that while I am feeling depressed and sad temporarily. This is just a lemon that I will squeeze and mix with some tequila, have a party and try again.
I want to be a role model to kids for our future. How can I do that? I can show them that even if life does not work out as planned or as you wanted, it’s ok. It is also ok to be sad when it doesn’t work out, but you cannot let that sadness overtake your life. Mourn the loss of the opportunity or whatever happened, then remind yourself how great you are and you have a purpose in life. Set backs are just that, setbacks, not failures. I write this to remind myself of that very thing. When something goes wrong, you still need to believe in yourself, dream big, and never give up.
I have had people ask me why I am not staying in York or even Charlotte, why am I moving back to Pennsylvania. If you do not believe in guardian angels and signs from them, you won’t understand. I was really upset Valentine’s night when I went to my apartment. I cried most of the night slept very little. I called my mom in the morning so upset knowing that the dream had died. That afternoon before I opened, I was sitting at one of the tables in the shop. All of a sudden, the Closed sign fell, it had not fallen before or moved since opening in July. I thought that was odd, but then the next thing was my pink sign that has my hours on it, fell. Ok so that does not sound odd or goosebumps worthy. What I didn’t mention was that the sign is a pink piece of paper hung with tape on each of the four corners. The paper was not ripped AND the tape did not come off the door. It was not even peeled away from the door or paper. I had to physically peel the tape back to reattach the piece of paper to the door. I had been “talking” to my dad (my guardian angel) that morning. I did not know that my mom had also been “talking” to him telling him to watch me closely. But these two things were signs from him saying it was time to close up and head back to Pennsylvania. In that moment after the goosebumps I felt this peace come over me about my decision.
Finally, I have been asked if I have any regrets from this particular part of my journey. The answer is and always will be, NO. Everything happens for a reason. I know that my time in York, SC was for a purpose. I made some good connections, good friends, and I have a family here that will forever be a part of me. The family that has become my surrogate family will always be in my heart and we will see each other often. We will make sure of it. I love to write and I will probably write a book about my 3-year journey to find myself. I would not change a thing about my life or decisions.