On November 30th, I participated in the second annual San Francisco Holiday Bazaar Bizarre. I asked many of my fellow vendors how they were doing and I got the same response from all of them: “It’s going well, but not as well as last year.” Many of them acted apologetic for having said this, abruptly adding qualifiers like, “But last year was crazy,” as if they didn’t deserve such a singular event to repeat itself.
I admit, I felt similarly. I felt guilty for the moderate success I was having during one of the worst holiday shopping seasons on record. I felt guilty at the Mission Bazaar the following weekend, and guilty at the Unique Los Angeles fair the weekend after that. Even if sales were slightly down from previous years, it didn’t seem right to be turning a healthy profit when other vendors were slashing their prices to wholesale or cost. Three-color letterpress cards were 6 for $10 at at least two different stationery booths! You can’t even buy cards at the drugstore that cheaply.
Now this may not be p.c., or even totally true, but I’m going to say it: I think we’re feeling undeserving because we’re women. Generally speaking, I believe that a man would be more likely to attribute his success to talent and intelligence than to good fortune. Why? Because as women, we can’t abide the opposite. I don’t want to believe that my fellow Biz Misses are having trouble because they are being naive, inert, or unsavvy. They are my sisters-in-arms, and it seems mean to imply that they are responsible for their own troubles. It’s much easier to attribute my success to random factors like booth location.
Of course, luck has something to do with the success or failure of every business, but I guess the lesson is to make your business hardy and flexible enough to withstand unanticipated events. Start slowly, build slowly, and have a diverse set of products, markets or sources of incoWhen sales are slow, use the extra time to focus on marketing strategies, product development and setting up infrastructure, so that when the market turns around (and it always does), you’ll be ready to take off.