Closing Up Shop
This is a story of expectation versus reality. And also on social media versus what’s actually happening behind the camera that no one will ever see and is really hard to talk about. That’s a big push I have for sharing this because I had a realization a month or so back when I was in the thick of this. I kept having people come up to me in real life and be like wow you’re doing so great, you have the studio, your instagram is killing it. And it crushed me to hear those things because in real life I was depressed and having a hard time getting out of bed because I felt like such a failure.
So let’s go back and let me explain why these last 5 months have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Let’s start with some context as to what is happening in my life. My current work situation is that I’m a barista. That is my day job, it's what pays the bills and buys groceries and allows me to put gas in my car and bring my dog to the vet. La Lune Studios is my side business where I spend a lot of time but I don’t calculate how much time because I work from the front room of my house and I love the work so much that I don’t charge enough for my products or services and any money I do make I put back into the business. Let me repeat that because it’s important. La Lune Studios makes me $0. I do not pay myself. The classes that I teach make me decent money but I still put that back into the business. But regardless, they’re about the only thing I do that actually gives me a profit and I’ve been telling myself all year I wish I had a permanent place to teach classes so that I could start to pay myself. This is where the idea of moving out of my house and getting a real studio is born.
The real kick in the butt to get a studio is this next piece of information which also happens to be pretty important for my final decision about my business. And that thing is that we’re moving away from Louisiana! Probably, hopefully, but we also aren’t 100% sure. And you might be thinking that’s pretty important life information how do you not know?? Well this is how, Andy got a job at Air Wisconsin but he’s not qualified for the job yet. The way it works is that they prematurely hire, so he’s not at the full number of flight hours he needs to be a commercial pilot but when he reaches them he can go to their school to start training for the job right away since he’s already interviewed and done paperwork and gone through all those things. So technically he’s an employee for them but he’s not flying for them just yet. And a lot can happen in between now and him reaching the hours so we’re not getting our hopes up that is going to completely happen. We’ve had a lot of plans in the past of moving away that never ended up panning out how we thought and we’re still in Nola years later so it’s kind of hard to trust this one is actually happening. But at the same time we’re both preparing as if it is and that we’ll be moving by the summer of 2020. THIS was the big kick I needed, because if I’m going to have a studio in New Orleans now is the freaking time to do it!
Fast forward to mid July, I found a studio and I’m going to move in. The landlord is great, it’s an amazing price, it’s pretty much the same size room I was in before but it’s uptown and right on Magazine Street. There’s a retail shop downstairs and my studio is up the staircase and the landlord is totally fine with putting a sidewalk sign out so that customers can come through and I can have open studio days. I can also host classes whenever I want! My plan on how I’m going to afford rent is by teaching at least 1-2 classes a month and that should cover it for me. I’m also thinking this will be really great to teach me home/work life separation (working out of the front room of my house was starting to get extremely messy). I’m excited and nervous! Another great thing about this space is that the landlord was super flexible and I was able to sign a 6 month lease, I honestly had no idea if I would like being in a studio so I’m going into this thinking it’s kind of trial run because we’re moving in a year or less so I’ll definitely be out in that time frame if not before and I might as well just see how it feels to have a space. I worked so hard to grow my business and gain the following and contacts I have in New Orleans, let’s see what having a physical location would be like.
Naturally after moving into the studio I was so freaking excited about it that I couldn’t wait to have an open studio day so I plan it for 3 weeks after I get the key and move into the space. Which was a reaaally tight time frame. I had a lot of big projects done but mostly it felt like a sad first apartment for my opening. You know, before you put up curtains or art on the walls or get plants and it just looks kind of white and naked? I had friends come by throughout the day but really not a lot of people showed up. I wasn’t alone though, my best friends were there pretty much the whole day and brought champagne and reminded me it was a celebration and that this was an exciting day no matter who showed up. This is what I actually wrote in the notes of my phone after. “Social media can make it seem like everything is awesome and perfect all of the time but the reality of today is that I feel like a failure. I felt like I hadn’t done enough. Like I was unprepared and directionless and the studio still felt unfinished and messy to me. Of course no one said those things. All of my friends that came were supportive and amazing and we popped champagne. But mentally when I got home I felt like I didn’t have what it takes to own a business. Like I was wasting everyone’s time because I have no idea what I’m doing so I should just give up. I just have to feel these feelings and move on. Wake up the next day and try to keep going.” These feelings were really hard to face because I thought I should feel better. This was a big move and accomplishment for me! So why did I feel like a fraud?? And so shitty in the pit of my stomach and like wtf am I even doing. And then I felt worse telling my friends that I felt shitty because then it made me feel ungrateful for what I had.
Regardless, I kept going. I listed a class or event once a week for the entire month of September and I had one class that survived. I had to cancel everything else because no one signed up. Then my second studio opening came for Art for Art’s Sake, literally the biggest event on Magazine Street. There’s always new business that use it as their grand opening and I made one sale. ONE SALE. and it was items from my sale bucket. The thing about this event that was the most soul crushing was that I was obsessing over this event for weeks. Everyday of the week leading up to it I was at the studio making stuff and pricing things and decorating the studio so that it looked more magical and fabulous and inspiring. There were nights where Andy was like can we just eat dinner together and I said no and went to the studio to make things. I chose going there over spending time with him night after night and then for there to be no reward to show for it felt terrible. I felt like I chose this thing that was making me miserable over my sweet partner and for what? $10? Are you freaking kidding me? It was a total breaking point. The next day I had a panic attack at work and then by the time I closed down the coffee shop I was listening to Adele and crying as I mopped the floors. That whole next week I was a wreck and having an existential crisis. Was any of this worth it? Suddenly now that I had the pressure of paying rent and constantly cancelling classes because no one was interested and then no one was buying products at events made me question everything. Was I even good? Did people want my stuff? Clearly they didn’t because they weren’t buying it. And I wasn’t even pricing things at a fair price to myself so wtf does that mean for the future? Is this sustainable because right now I can’t even bring myself to get out of bed. Rejection after rejection. Was this what I even wanted? How did I end up here again? Do I seriously care that much about making pom poms? This is what I wrote in the notes of my phone the day after Art for Art’s Sake. “Second Studio Opening. I want to remember these feelings. During the event I was feeling good and wasn't feeling a ton of pressure and I think a big reason for that was because it wasn't just about me. For my first studio opening I felt like I let everyone down and didn't deliver but for this event I felt like ok this is an event someone else is putting on that I'm participating in and so are so many other people including my studio neighbors and the shop downstairs. It felt like we're all in this together, we're all trying to make some sales and get our name out there so I didn't feel this big immense pressure to entertain my friends and family who were there to help and support. I did get a decent amount of traffic coming through but I only made one sale. So the next day I felt AWFUL. I woke up feeling like I could vomit at any minute. This could have been dehydration but I feel like my nerves did not help. I got to work 20 minutes later than I should have because it took me so long to be able to move my body without fear that I would projectile vomit. I had a full body anxiety attack at work where I could feel my breaking was off and I could feel the spiral about to take place. Andy came to visit me because I had been texting him that I was completely panicking and once I saw him I couldn't hold the tears in any longer. He left for me to close and finish up at work. I put on Adele at full volume and cried while I mopped the floors at which point my boss came in to drop off bagels for the next day. For me, being around another woman is instantly comforting because they innately understand the emotional struggle you're going through. Between Andy and Renee stopping by I was able to sort through some of the emotions I was feeling. These are the things that stuck out. I prepared alll week for this event. I stayed late at the studio and stressed and cleaned and made new things and spent so much time and energy trying to promote and get people to show up and support my business and also all of the makers I love and respect that were vending at this event. I chose to spend my time working over spending time with Andy, over hanging out with my friends, over relaxing and caring for myself, over spending time with my dog and bringing her to the park or on a long walk. I didn't cook at home, I've barely cleaned the house this week and it's all because all the time I wasn't at my day job I was at the studio obsessing over this event. And I understand balance is something that needs to happen but I wanted to give this event my all and show my best work and my studio looking it's best because I desperately needed to make sales. I'm getting incredibly tired of hearing"I love your stuff, it's so unique" "you have great style" "wow you made all of this, that's so cool" and then walk away without doing jack squat to actually help support my business or let it thrive. If this thing is going to continue then I need to make money and right now I'm losing money and that has me scrambling and sent me into a literal panic attack. Instead of feeling like I fell short I feel like I did my best and I want to scream at everyone to support local artists from the top of my lungs. I want to shake them and say THIS, this right here is why small businesses close. When people are like oh that's cool but then don't buy the things and instead go get a version of it from amazon or target. And don't get me wrong I love both of those places but I'm not shopping there INSTEAD of small businesses. In fact I feel like I try my hardest to shop small before ever looking at a larger corporation because I want them to stay open. And the way they stay open is by having the money to pay rent and employees and heck maybe even themselves and support their family. Right now this business isn't financially supporting me in any way. I'm choosing to do these things because I love them and hopefully this can allow me to quit my day job but right now I'm seriously considering closing down shop. Because right now, at this moment, the anxiety is not worth it. I can still be creative and put my best foot forward in a different industry that doesn't rely on a consumer to buy a product. After I cried and mopped and sang Adele loudly at my day job I went home and watched queer eye and had the biggest cry. And then I watched Lizzo talk about how it took her 10 years to get where she is today. And then I watched thrifting videos that inspire me. It's now the day after my meltdown and I feel better. I picked up myself up and I'm going to keep going with this for as long as I have the studio and I live in New Orleans with the contacts I have but I have a very good feeling that by the time I'm ready to move I'll also be shutting down the product portion of La Lune Studios."
I feel like this specific moment where I went from being so grateful when I make a sale to resenting everyone who said they like my stuff but then don't buy anything was the point of no return. That could have a lot to do with the fact that this was no longer "just for fun" and I needed money to pay studio rent. Every time I looked at the bank account for my business I would spiral. I ended up doing a 50% sale at the end of the month just so that I could get some cash flow. And that only intensified my frustration when the only time I made sales was when I drastically reduced my prices. Since that moment this inner dialog has been running back in my head over and over again. It’s been this back and forth of getting angry with people following my business for not actually buying anything and then feeling so deeply guilty about being upset because they didn’t owe me anything and I’m such a hypocrite because I follow tons of artist on social media who I’ve never purchased their items before but then I think if I had the money I would buy their stuff and get upset again and the cycle continues of me trying to sympathize with why people are choosing not to buy my stuff and then upset at myself for blaming them and then feeling like ultimately I’m just not good enough. And the thing is, this business is just me and I’m so intertwined with every part of it that when people don’t buy or support it feels like I direct hit. Like they're not just rejecting what I'm making but me as a person. It’s exhausting and I’m tired and confused and a little hungry.
Ultimately I’m grateful all of this has come up. Don’t get me wrong, it has been fucking mental torture to consistently ask myself if I’m a failure and if everything I’m doing is actually just garbage all the while bringing in no sales and losing money because now I’m paying rent somewhere. But asking myself difficult questions is making me realize a lot of things. And in the end it’s made me take a step away from La Lune and focus a lot more on spending time with Andy. We went to freaking Paris y’all!! That was amazing and way more importantly than doing holiday prep (it’s really freeing to not give a shit about the outcome of your business anymore.) I decided my relationships are more important than my business so I basically didn’t do any holiday markets and spent most of November and December with Andy and I have zero freaking regrets about it. I know that my heart hasn’t been in La Lune and it’s kind of because I already know it’s time for it to come to an end. I keep asking myself if we move to Wisconsin am I going to pack this up and continue this over there? And right now, I’m not planning on it. I’m going to continue doing products and a round of classes for the Mardi Gras season and then I’m packing it up and closing up the Etsy shop and the website sales. To be clear though, La Lune has never been the ultimate dream for me. I started this kind of half assed in 2013 as I way to make extra cash and then just kept doing it for years and years and now I’ve made it this far and when I look around I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished but I didn’t plan for any of this to happen. It took me a while to come to terms with the idea that just because I started this doesn’t mean I have to do it forever. I learned the lessons from this, believe me it was valuable in so many ways and I learned a lot about my creative voice but just because I built this doesn’t mean I have to keep it. Don’t beat a dead horse, ya know what I’m saying? My love of creating goes beyond just making products. I have dreams of working for a Magazine and actually getting paid to creative direct for photoshoots or do props for theater and be a part of making the magic of performance come to life. Or shit maybe I’ll decide I want to make gardening my career and save my creativity as a hobby for myself. Heck, maybe after we go to Wisconsin I’ll realize this IS the dream and I’ll start making products again. There are no rules!! Life is a beautiful shitstorm and you never know what’s coming or what you want until you try things out. So in conclusion, I’m not a failure but I still have no idea what I’m doing and this season of self evaluation is both extremely frustrating and very rewarding. Thank you for coming to my ted talk.
*****To clarify! I am closing PRODUCT SALES sometime in the new year (most likely March or April). Right now, I’m planning to still keep the website beyond that time so I can continue to blog. Who knows, maybe even more blog posts will happen when I’m not constantly having an existential crisis.
*****ALSO ALSO, I have to sincerely thank my friends who are probably not reading this because holy crap they’ve heard me talk about all of this so many times. BUT they have dealt with many a panic attack from me and countless freak outs and meltdowns and dear lord doing whole 30 in the middle of all of that was a terrible idea because I am not a pleasant person without bread and they dealt with all of that too.