It’s coming up on four months, or a third of a year, that Garden State Kitchen has been open. It's been quite a rollercoaster ride since then, and I’ve really learned some of the realities and joys of entrepreneurship. I will be writing a retrospective on our experience of running a business about three times a year. This first one describes some of the hardships I’ve encountered, how I worked through them, and how I'm feeling moving forward.
It was back around Thanksgiving, shortly after opening for business, that I decided we needed to upgrade our door locks. We had given away countless keys to contractors, members, and supporters, all of whom were needed to help us get through to the opening. While that worked for the construction phase, we were now in operations mode, and growing by the day. The system of giving out keys was not sustainable or particularly secure.
I had known for some time that we needed some type of keyless entry system for the space, and had been researching various systems over the years. I needed a system that would facilitate safe and unencumbered access to the space for our entrepreneurs who are there all hours, day and night. Sounds simple, right? Find a door lock online from a reputable dealer, order the lock, install the lock, and assign codes to the users. Done! But not so fast…
I won’t bore you with the barrage of issues we had with the this new door lock installation, everything from the physical install to the software set up, but it did take us nearly THREE MONTHS to complete the new set up. Three months!
I frankly thought I was never going to be able to program this thing. The tedious challenges seemed like they would never end. But step by step we made progress and then one day in February, viola! The system was in and I was able to program the door codes for all of our members and staff. I literally jumped for joy.
This may sound like a small feat but, my friends, this experience encapsulates so much of what I have learned about entrepreneurship. It is a long and winding road filled with a relentless daily grind of mundane details. I realized that this door lock issue was just a metaphor for what its like being an entrepreneur. Small victories = big joy.
While I knew I was going to have to work hard, I’m realizing that while it is extremely fulfilling, being an entrepreneur is one of the toughest jobs out there. If you want to be a baker, you’d better love standing in a kitchen for 10 hours a day. If you want to be a chef, you’d better love endlessly prepping vegetables. If you want to be a writer, you’d better love the sight of a blank piece of paper starting back at you, with all of its possibilities.
My mentor, Brad Finkel from Hoboken Farms, often reminds me that he has been standing under tents for over twenty years selling his delicious curated food. Now his marinara sauce is in stores all over the region and his brand is growing by the day, but there no such thing as an overnight success. Don’t let yourself be fooled by those stories.
Four months have now passed since we opened Garden State Kitchen. I find myself finally being able to take a moment to step back and breathe, and truly start to appreciate what we have brought to life. I am proud to be the owner of GSK, and am finding great joy in being surrounded by so many entrepreneurs who bring their skills, time, and talent to the kitchen. They cook, bake, sweat, and toil everyday for their businesses. It is legitimately and truly inspiring to be among this crowd of go-getters.
As you may have read in our recent blog post, and see in the graphic below, it has been over five years since we started this journey. To say there have been “ups and downs” would be a massive understatement, but I suppose that too, is just part of the journey.
Even though I’ve heard pretty much every entrepreneur say, “I just never realized how much work it would be!”, I still find myself in shock at how much work it is! The lists are never-ending, the anxiety is constant, and the challenges are seemingly insurmountable. And meanwhile, it is great! I love the simultaneous obstacles and opportunities that present themselves daily. I love how I empowered I am to shape my work and to shape the future of my business.
Now that I am taking the time to appreciate what we have built and are growing, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my thoughts about it with you. It has brought a deeper joy than I expected, and comes from a place of extreme gratitude.
So in conclusion, maybe I don’t sleep as well as I did before I was an entrepreneur. I might be scared to spend money now and sometimes the to-do lists are more daunting than ever, but I have also never, ever, been so happy!