I was thinking to myself the other day about how wonderful social media, blogs, vlogs and the like are for celebrating success. Everywhere you look, there are people who have achieved in both big and small ways, in business, academically, in their creative and personal lives, and a whole bunch of people helping to celebrate that success.
Which is, of course, ace.
But what you don’t hear about so much are people’s failures.
Things that didn’t work out, with both positive and not-so-positive consequences.
And what they don’t mention is that it’s okay to fail sometimes, and that many successful people have ‘failed’ a great many times before getting to where they wanted to be.
I’m going to tell you a short story about my vintage online crockery store, and why it didn’t turn out to be quite what I hoped for, but that I’m SO glad I had a go anyway….
In 2011 my Nan passed away. After clearing out her house, we came across a whole load of beautiful vintage crockery, and it gave me the idea (that was very much on-trend at the time) to set up vintage crockery hire in my local area, as well as buying and selling vintage and mid-century crockery and homeware via my Etsy store. I called it ‘What Would Irene Do?’ after my Nan, and excitedly got setting up a website (despite then having zero experience in doing so!) and my Etsy site. I had (and still have) a passion for interiors, and thought running these two would give me a creative outlet whilst being at home with my then two toddlers, and also earn me a bit of extra cash.
Initially my business took off quite well, especially on the Etsy side of things, with a surprising number of people wanting to buy my UK mid-century homewares from the US and South-East Asia. I bought in a load of packaging material, and spent evenings wrapping and labeling parcels, and booking couriers, or popping down the post office. Which is when I realised that being a small business retailer perhaps wasn’t for me…
My business was on a bit of an uphill struggle, especially when items arrived in pieces having broken, despite me thinking I’d packaged them up well and labelling them clearly with ‘FRAGILE’ written all over them, and then having to rightly refund customers (clearly wrapping is not my forte!). I had endless calls with couriers who mislaid parcels (an annoying fact of life sometimes I came to discover), and realised that after paying for packaging, postage etc that I wasn’t making that much money, at least not enough money for me to sit around each evening packaging crockery up for hours (something I discovered I loathed).
But I didn’t want to give up.
I loved sourcing the items to sell (always the fun bit right?!), and of course I knew that there would be tedious ‘admin’ work involved when running a small business. After all, that behind the scenes work is how they become a success.
But I knew I didn’t want to do it enough to want to make it work. And to admit that to myself after spending time and money working on it and shouting about it somehow felt like a failure.
But I’m glad I stopped, because it freed me up time to try other things.
I felt relieved!
I then had more time to put into this blog in the evenings, more time to learn blog-related tools, more time for photography, and that in turn has made my blog more successful and has (touch wood) made me earn a good living from it.
I’ve also had time to persue new mini side-projects that may-or-may not come to fruition, including writing a children’s picture book.
I’ve recently submitted the book to a couple of children’s publishers, and whilst it might not get picked up, it might ‘fail’ too, but I’ve had fun doing it and at least I can say I’ve tried.
I’m happy that I had that period running my online crockery store, and I’m also now equally happy that I ‘failed’ as it’s weirdly given me confidence to not fear failure and to throw myself into new things.
One of my favourite phrases is “you’ve got to be in it to win it”, and if you don’t ‘have a go’, you’ll just never know.
Never be afraid to fail- it could be the start of something wonderful.
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I love this post, social media does paint the picture at times, that everyone else is living a ‘perfect’ life and so often it really isn’t the truth. Failure is part of life and it’s how you deal with it that counts I reckon.
I completely agree! — and good on you for sharing this 🙂 I am reading a book at the moment and she is a successful business woman but tried a few ventures and jobs first that didn’t work out for her. I thought that was interesting because people don’t really ever say that. In fact, no-one gets it right first time. I always believe that if you learn from these ideas and experiences it sets you up for other things to come. Good luck with the book. Jess xx