I’m back…

Man, you guys came up with some absolutely fabulous stories. I have been laughing my butt off reading them all, and I love every one! But Lauren was the closest to right. A dear friend of mine had an absolutely appalling February (I keep telling her March is bound to be better) that was riddled with illness, death and the emergency room, usually on someone’s birthday to boot. It got to the point that her stories were getting hard to believe, so I had to go up there to check and see if, in fact, Justin Timberlake had showed up to take her dancing, and that was why she was telling me these outlandish stories cancelling our plans to get together.

Sadly, Mr. Timberlake was not there when I arrived, and all of my friend’s stories were totally true. I had actually suspected as much, and this was why I jumped in the car to go make sure she wasn’t working herself to death teaching spinning classes just after leaving the hospital. I figured the odds were decent that she’d let me push her out of the way and take over her classes, and that ultimately, she might even forgive me for doing so, and so might her students.

I did, as is traditional, totally trash her shop. Perhaps someday she’ll forgive me for that too. After all, she is a kind and forgiving friend.

While I’m racking up the things for which I’ll need my pal’s forgiveness, I’ll add one more. See, here’s the thing. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that fiber businesses — all of them — are teeny, tiny microbusinesses. They’re usually a business owner, who wears all of the hats, and an assortment of part-time employees, many of whom are family and friends. Although there are a handful of larger operations in the fiber world, a really big operation might have a total of 20 employees. Dudes, I have waited tables at tiny restaurants with more employees (and bigger earnings and shorter hours for the owners).

Tiny businesses can be fragile things. They depend on one or two people whose lives are entirely consumed by the operation. You don’t get sick days; if you’re sick and can’t work, your business is shut down. Since you’re working round the clock to keep things going and make things grow, you’re usually doing lots of different things. A fiber shop owner has to handle all the standard stuff like customer service and sales, plus inventory, shipping, receiving, order management, product development, marketing, making decisions about what to carry or not carry, scheduling classes, teaching classes, planning and running events, advertising, human resources, taking care of the physical plant, being a janitor and maintenance person, keeping the books, if you can think of it (and probably if you can’t), it has to happen. It’s a helluva workload, and you have to manage all of it while making sure you’ve got an inviting place for folks to come and spend their time. It’s not for the faint of heart.

When you’re the one person constantly in charge of making all of that happen, and you have a bad day, or a day when you can’t work, it could spell disaster. Death in the family? Your only choice may well be to close the shop unexpectedly for a while, and leave, worrying the whole time not only about your bereavement but about what would happen if someone came to the shop for the first time, found it closed, got upset, and then made the rounds of the usual online scenes saying “Man, I went to that shop and it was closed even though the hours on the web site said it should have been open. What a ripoff. Nobody should go there.” As unlikely as that may sound, I have seen that happen. Or what if you have to cancel or reschedule classes? You know you have students who are counting on you being there and making things happen for them. You don’t have the choice to close, cancel, or reschedule.

So the one thing I could think of to do for my friend was to try to take a day or so worth of such worries off her shoulders — something that only a spinning teacher could do. And something she’d be happy to do for a friend who, if the tables were turned, would be the first person here to give me a bit of her time.

Here’s to March. February’s fired. For such a short month, it sure does seem to drag sometimes.

24 thoughts on “I’m back…

  1. Hooray!
    What’s that in the air?
    It’s….SuperSpinnerTeacher to the rescue!

    You are so right about small businesses of any type, from seeing it from the outside (though my husband owns his own business, he’s lucky to be rather sought after and can set his own schedule; he’s a producer/recording engineer). And it seems as though it’s 24/7 being a small business owner despite what it may say on the door. I don’t know how small business owners do it. I’m so glad they do, though, and take time to support my local small businesses. (Especially yarn and fiber, of course. That goes without saying….)

  2. that’s a wonderful thing to do.
    I was just asking my LYS owner about this the other day, as she said she wasn’t feeling well but that no one else would open the shop if she didn’t show up. Things we take for granted…

  3. I also had wretched months of January and February with a death each month and ill health. I decided to start the year over again on March 1st, but I never thought of firing those 2 other months. So January and February your gone–fired and fired. Many good friends came to help me and I’m very thankful and proud of them. I’m proud of you Abbey for going to help a dear friend who needed you so much. Blessings to all good friends everywhere.

  4. if it’s true that what goes around comes around (in a good sense, of course), then something wonderful is certainly coming your way. thanks for making the world a better place!

  5. Cool that you are such a good friend, but I was sooo wanting spinning to be on the National Adgenda….


  6. very well said…I hope people will stop and *think* because of this post before they decide to post a snarky message about a fiber business….it is tough out there!

  7. Welcome back Abby, You are the type of friend every small business needs! I am always amazed when someone trashes a shop for not being open without checking to see what is the reason. Some won’t even get out of their cars to read the note on the door!
    Case in point, my LYS moved and changed its name this past year. Not far from the previous location, actually just around the back of that building. You would not imagine how many people have just assumed that it closed!
    This was with a very nice note on the door of old place. So frustrating.
    Keep up being the great wonderful friend you are!

  8. I, too, had some really bad things happen in February, and I was also lucky enough to have good and devoted friends step in to help. Thank you for being a guardian angel to someone who needed it. 🙂

  9. I don’t think I can fire February until I’ve paid off the ER, the CHP, and the various doctors…

    My wonderful SIL was what got us through last month, meeting the ambulance and sitting with DD at the hospital until we could get there. SIL is a gem like you.

    I hope your friend’s March is filled with joy.

  10. Amen! on what it takes to be a small businessperson. And kudos to you for being there for a dear friend.

  11. Dancing with Justin Timberlake? I saw him get punked… it wasn’t pretty. Certainly not as pretty as him 🙂

  12. So glad you could be there for Beth. I really and truly had a nightmare last night about The Loft struggling with all the economic fallout… It involved grating and liquifying soap to donate to Beth to wash fleeces :-), and purchasing some combs…which I’d really like to pull off IRL. LOL. Not the soap shredding.

  13. You may have trashed Beth’s shop, but in doing so you indoctrinated another group of spinners and future fiber buyers!

    The most important thing is that you were able to help out a friend in her time of need. 🙂

  14. I love what you’ve just said. It is well said, and with heart. May your call for completely reasonable and indicated compassion be heard and soften the rigor of supply and demand over humanity. I too am all for firing February — count me in!

  15. Thanks for your articulate description of what operating a small, independent businesses involves.

    And for heading up to help Beth. Wish I could have been there . . . I was meeting the semi and moving boxes of books and dealing with taxes and broken computers and. . . .

    Hugs to you both.

  16. Your description of the pressures of running a small business were spot on. And those pressures were why, 10 days after my second C-section in three years, I was back at work, answering the phone, typing invoices, doing mailings, and packing and shipping product, with our son strapped to my chest and our 2 yo daughter playing nearby. We couldn’t afford for me to take any more time.

    God bless all small business owners, especially in the world of fiber.

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