I was watching, on Sunday morning, an episode of a À la di Stasio (a Quebec tv cooking show that I like, but that I don’t watch religiously) in which there was an interview with Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, a restaurant in Manhattan (East Village).
I listened with interest, without necessarily being over excited about the discussion, until she talked about being small (30 places in her very popular restaurant), and staying small. By choice. Gabrielle listed a couple of very legit reasons why she intended her business to stay that way (mostly to not be diluting the spirit of her business). She then concluded on the subject by simply saying “I also don’t want it.”
Hearing that sentence, in the midst of wanting to make my blog more personal once in a while, sparked the flame for this blog post.
I have said this before (on staying small, which doesn’t necessarily mean being the only employee forever and ever, by the way) on numerous occasions – to friends and family. I have pondered on this fact quite a lot by myself as well, especially after being asked “Where do you see your business in 5/10 years?” If I answer something along the lines of “Nothing very different. What’s wrong with it now?”, I sometimes encounter a face that I usually interpret as being “You’re not very ambitious.” I’ve also noticed that most of the time, people also associate ambition with success…
Truthfully, I already know that I’m not be the most ambitious person in the whole wide world. Well, not in a stereotypical “supersize your business/have plenty of employees/make tons of money/buy a mansion and fill it with a shitload of expensive objects” way anyway. If you have seen my work just a bit, you already know that this kind of thinking does not translate in my products either, creating mostly jewelry and objects for your everyday affordable life. In the 6.5 years of Nea, I have never listed a single item at over $150. Doesn’t mean I won’t ever, but if it ever happens, it’s going to be on a very time consuming piece, and that number will be about valuing my work/time right, not about the big bucks.
Back to (lack of) ambition. Well, that is a pretty subjective thing. Ambition might be about money and company growth for some, but for me it’s more about growing with the actual products, learning new skills, diversifying what I offer, finding promotions that work, evolving what I’m passionate about making.
Would I like to make a more decent salary? Sure. But truthfully, my answer to that is VERY far from “at all costs”. Not if it’s going to make me unhappy or feel crappy. For example, I kinda have a low acceptance threshold for brick&mortar stores who treat the consignors/designers badly (such as not paying them in decent delay, or asking for exclusivity for an unusually large area, or taking off the designer’s name tags on the items they sell). When that happens, if a talk or email doesn’t work, I don’t think twice about pulling my stock out of there. The quicker the better. I have decided to do it a couple of times, and never regretted it even for a second. I will not work with those kinds of businesses – it hurts all brick&mortar stores, it hurts all artists, it hurts my own brand, and it hurts my soul.
For the way I am built, going big would be: being stressed WAY too much, spending excessive amounts of time on organization rather than creating and making, saying “see you sometime, perhaps” to most of my social life, not having time to notice one of many beautiful architecture details Montreal has to offer while walking to a business meeting in a hurry, having to be “the boss” rather than just “Janick” (plus, I would suck at that, big time. Pun intended.) Going big would be like turning the lights off, in my life as well as on my creativity.
For the way I am built, staying small is: doing what I love, the possibility to create (and offer easily and quickly) new items whenever inspiration takes over, having the freedom to go out to lunch with friends at (almost) any time, learning and exploring new skills, keeping stress levels usually low, making mistakes (no one can get out of that one) but that don’t have negative domino repercussions on other people’s lives, growing at a slow but steady pace (which totally fits my overall personality in the personal life too), noticing how a morning fog or a airy snowfall can beautify a concrete city. For me, staying small in business is happiness, which is how I personally define success. To recap, my ambitions are to stay happy. A tiny non-ambitious thing, really. lol ;)
And, what is wrong with staying small anyway?
For the customer, it means dealing with a person rather than a machine. It means the possibility of customization. It means you can actually feel the personality of someone thru their work. It means you are directly supporting a person in doing what they are passionate about. It means you can express your excitement towards an item and actually make someone’s day at the same time.
For the business (and the person behind it), it means every single story shared by your customers are actually heard, and cherished. It means you can make someone happy by the simple gesture of switching a blue bead for red bead. It means doing yearly taxes reports just takes a day or two (lol!). It means you know with precision what’s going on with every aspect of your business. It means that every time someone buys something you made, you feel honored. Staying small is big on the rewards.
Don’t the best ointments come in small packages? ;)
Yeah… Going big… I also don’t want it.