Having your own business

Not being entirely as technologically literate as I’d like (or like to think I am!) I’m not sure how to disable some of the facebook notifications I get inundated with, and at the moment the pace is hotting up as my 10 year Insead MBA reunion approaches next weekend.

Sadly I’m not going, what with cost, distance, time, etc. having got in the way this time around. But all the furore has reminded me of the application process and a lot of my naieve thoughts about “having my own business”.

When I was interviewed for the MBA programme, by two MBA alums, I was working for Bain & Co. in London as a strategy consultant in the middle of the .com boom, or was that bust? Both interviewers asked me where I saw myself professionally 10 years later. I answered quite glibly, as I had in my application essays, that ideally I’d “have my own business”, but if that didn’t work out then probably I’d still be a consultant, hopefully having reached the lofty echelons of partnership.

It all seemed very glamourous, and so easily attainable. Little did I know! It has reminded me that I may need to be careful what I wish for. Because now I do “have my own business” and Friday was an unglamourous reminder of what that means.

I had promised a customer a product, which she was coming to collect on Friday morning – a birthday present for a friend whose party she was going to the same day. And on Thursday afternoon I discovered that I wasn’t going to be able to deliver on my promise, because the product wasn’t ready! Disappointing new customers is not the best place to be when you’re starting a business.

Because I had promised it, and I like to deliver, and I needed to resolve the production issues associated with this particular item anyway, customer promise or not, Friday turned into the most bizarre day of running around trying to solve the problem and hopefully be able to make my customer happy on Monday morning. So I made three trips to the seamstress who makes the bag linings, who couldn’t attach the leather handles as she’d thought she could when my other maker let me down. These were interspersed with three trips to the leather shop to source more assembly components for the handles, get a quote for an ongoing supply of handles to avoid these issues in the future now that other supplier has turned out to be unreliable, and expensive, and finally at the end of the day to close the rivets on the bag straps. At least the cost reduction aspect wasn’t bad news. I also made several back and forth trips home to my studio to collect additional components, and finally I ended up on a Friday afternoon expedition through Woodstock and Salt River, first to a shoe maker who referred me to a car upholstery workshop where at 4 0’clock on Friday afternoon a complete stranger very kindly helped me out, completing the stitching on the sample product so that it will be ready for my customer on Monday morning.

Not a glamourous day in the life of “having my own business”. But it was surprisingly satisfying anyway, and I felt great to return home, mission accomplished, with a product that will hopefully make it’s new owner as happy as it made me to complete it.