What is the view from my upstairs office?
In the past seven years, I have moved my “office” so many times, I think people are confused about where to find me. I started at the “Yellow Room” at Urban Bru, a small nook in our storage area. The space got the job done, but I was always distracted by the bustle of the kitchen and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. So, when I renovated another building, I moved to our new business, Harana Medspa. It was a very nice corner office, but I could not make any noise. Spas are definitely not for staying awake. Can you imagine working on QuickBooks with relaxing spa music playing in the background? Yeah, you get the picture.
My next venture was to set up a sleep lab and I found a really nice, large office suite there. It was an isolated office though, as we did most of our testing at night. I got things done, but it got a bit lonely. When I purchased Golden Crown in 2015, I decided to move here, since it was closer to my other business locations. It is the office upstairs, which nobody realizes exists. From my office, I can see people walk into and out of our retail floor, but they cannot see me. I can hear their giggles and laughter, but I am unable to share in those joyous moments.
People have asked, “Has it always been your dream to open a restaurant?” “Did you ever imagine running a coffee shop?” “Did you always love design and floral arrangements?” In those moments, I usually don’t know how to respond. Did I dream about owning a restaurant? No. Did I always love to bake? No. Did I always dream about being a barista? Not at all. Did I consider myself creative? No. I totally thought I was left-brained.
My mom once said (not sure if this is her original quote): “If life were easy, you might as well crawl up to your bed and die.” To paraphrase it in a less morose way: If we get too comfortable in life, we will cease to grow. All of us should be able to redefine ourselves and to explore a multiplicity of passions.
Did I dream of becoming a serial entrepreneur? Not necessarily. I am an economist by training and, most of my life, I have worked in nonprofits: doing research, analyzing national policies, evaluating community status, and implementing funding strategies for change. But none of that compares to my job today. I must say, of all the roles I have played, ENTREPRENEUR is the most challenging.
In a nonprofit, you worry about the lives of people with the least resources and how to create programs that might help them, in an abstract way. In a self-owned business, you deal with people’s lives on a regular basis, in an immediate and concrete manner. I believe that by providing meaningful work, in a safe and positive environment, I am creating social change as well. I take my role seriously because, if I fail, all my employees will as well.
Lots of things keep me awake at night: Are people going to like our products and services? How are we going to maintain their quality? How will my decisions affect my enterprises as well as my community? There are no volunteers and community boards to help with fundraising or to make those big decisions for me. I make them on my own and can only hope they are the right ones. Also, most often, I do not have the luxury of time. I have to redirect and retool, while the engines are running. These are the matters I am confronted with daily.
Yes, from upstairs, the view is interesting, challenging, and sometimes, isolating and daunting. But, in the end, always illuminating and fulfilling.