Once I got back on track, I tried tackling the 50,000 feet questions again, like, “Why does my business exist?” Though you’d think it would be the most fundamental thought driving your business forward, I had actually forgotten all about it. I got so caught up in the lower-level questions of, “Will I be able to roll out a new design in time for the holidays?” that I completely lost sight of my company’s purpose.
My company’s purpose is/was to be a springboard for bigger and better things. Sweet Meats are a trendy product, currently riding the ebbing wave of the meat zeitgeist. They were never meant to last, or to expand very far (maybe to the pet boutique market, or the barbecue circuit). My plan was flood the market while they were hot and then take my winnings and apply them to more meaningful business pursuits. I didn’t feel particularly good about just putting more stuff into the world, but it made more sense to me to try to turn an already-running side venture into a full-time business, than to try to start a new one from scratch.
In hindsight, that was a mistake. I should not have started a business that I was not totally comfortable with from an ideological standpoint. Yes, I made sure I was using sustainable materials and fair labor practices, but that still doesn’t change the fact that my products don’t really change anything in the world for the better. I also should not have started a business that requires a huge volume of stored inventory. I also should have narrowed my focus, to something like designer toys, or just the pet market. But those mistakes have already been made and are now in the past. I can’t do anything about them.
What I can do now is cut my losses and learn from my mistakes. I can stop working on prototypes for new Sweet Meats designs. I can sell what I have left and call Sweet Meats limited-editions, which they now are. I can stop being so worried about the perfect new web design and just put up the one that I have. I can promote the hell out of that web site and my now limited editions, and in the meantime start work on a business plan for something I’m actually passionate about. I’m finally excited to work on Sweet Meats again, just so I can finish with it and move on.
As a new entrepreneur, you always hear the statistic that nine out of every ten new businesses fail. I was determined not to be one of the nine, despite the odds, but I’ve made peace with that now. Most successful entrepreneurs have at least one failed business behind them. You can fail at your first business and make it out with your shirt still on — so long as you catch and address your problems soon enough.
The new purpose of Sweet Meats now is as a learning experience. In the end I think I was lucky to have made my mistakes with a company I wasn’t 100% passionate about. It means I can make the sound financial decision to cut out early and move on, rather than hold on for dear life because I’m too emotionally attached. I’m a firm believer in the notion that you can never tell whether an event is fortunate or unfortunate at the moment it occurs. It’s only with context and distance (say, 50,000 feet) that you can see the role it played in your greater path. I’ll let you know when I get there.