Finally back with part two. I want to start by saying that I am sharing this piece for the sole purpose of giving an honest account about what the experience of building this from the ground up has been for me. How I got here. What I struggled with. What worked. What didn't. I found a real shortage of "real talk" in terms of starting a business. It was all sugar coated. So much "follow your bliss", "dream big" and inspiration meme's. Great. Now what? I felt the lack of reality was palpable. That you somehow jump seamlessly from dream to reality and document it with pretty pictures with beachy, waved hair and perfectly matched clothes. This may be reality for some, but not for most small business owners I know and certainly not for me.
I digress. Back to the story. Part one left off at the actual vision. So what did I do armed with this new vision? Well, I took a hard look at my life. I was 31 years old. I had 3 kids 5 and under. A load of debt. Little savings. A husband worked long hours and travelled internationally. A baby that didn't sleep. A 4 year old we had just signed up for pre k because we wanted him to have the experience despite not being able to afford it. A 3 year old that still preferred to hang with mom most the time. Yeeeeeaaaaaah. Perfect time to find my purpose. I guess life is funny that way. Dreaming is great but what I needed, was more money.
I knew a traditional job was not an option for me. For starters, the only ones I was offered came with a $20k pay cut from my former accounting position. I would have to work 40-50 hours a week, all during the day and spend over 50% of my take home in daycare. Not to mention additional help when Neil travelled. It just was not practical. So, I reluctantly went back to my serving/bartending roots. Being able to work nights would save us the daycare cost, allow me to be with my kids most of the day and still bring home an income that would actual impact our finances. I began applying online do every restaurant I could find. I had over 10 years in experience as a server/bartender. I put myself through school that way. I now had a college degree PLUS experience. Should have been a piece of cake right? Wrong. Nowhere would hire me. NO.WHERE. Nowhere.
I remember feeling SO DOWN on myself. I told myself my squishy postpartum body probably wasn't doing me any favors. Was that it? Was I TOO qualified?? I just needed some income. I am a hard worker. No drama. Didn't they see that?! I began to panic. After a few more weeks, I got an email from a golf club right up the street from my house. I applied a month before and not heard so I had brushed it off as another rejection. Neil was traveling at the time so I begged a friend to come over and sit with the kids so I could go to the interview. I needed it. It was literally THE ONLY place to call me back. I interviewed and was hired on the spot. Huzzah. Self esteem saved. I began figuring out the logistics. Between driving to Porter to pre k, nursing (Ainsleigh was only 4 months at the time), Neil's travel schedule and now my work schedule, I went from busy to BUSY in one day.
I have worked at probably 10 different restaurants and bars in my day. I had been around the block and know how the restaurant business typically go. But this place. This place was VERY different. The shifts were long and brutal. It was not a place you made your money and went home. It was wait on people, make your money and then stay for HOURS. It was set up or tear down various events almost every night in busy season. It was schlepping tables across a huge property. Wheeling giant stacks of chairs on your back, folding napkins in fancy folds, polishing hundreds of pieces of flatware. It was like NOTHING I had ever experienced before. But again, I needed it. Being 1.5 miles from my home and knowing the position we were in, I needed to make it work.
I remember being embarrassed going back to serving for some reason. I didn't tell anyone but close friends and family. I never posted about it on social media. I sold it in conversation as me "needing to get out", when really, I needed to build Gypsy Cup. Ainsleigh still nursed so I pumped inconspicuously in the bathroom (my manager was NOT super keen on being flexible to nursing). I didn't want her to not schedule me or give me the good shifts so I hid it. The weekend nights I would go in at 4 and some nights leave at 1-2 am. Go home to my baby that woke every 1-2 hours, then the big kids up at 6-6:30 am. Rinse. Repeat. My body ached from the heavy lifting. Ainsleigh had a really hard time adjusting. I felt so guilty leaving. I became even more sleep deprived. On top of it, it was the holiday season of 2014 and all the stress holidays bring. It was a dark time but a sowing time. We just didn't know it while we were in it. We adjusted for what it was. What I thought was going to be a couple nights a week for 5-6 hours, was not. But I knew the was what needed to be done to get where we needed to be.
Neil was not absent in all of this, mind you. No, no. He was in the thick of it too. His life also went to double time. He worked 50 hours a week and then handled all three kids alone 30+hours a week and dealt with me being a basket case. He never met up with friends, socialized or golfed. We rarely went out. We said no to almost everything we were invited to because one of us was almost always working. I worked Thanksgiving's and Easter's (mandatory for the club employees) and he would schlep them to wherever alone or bring them to see me so I could spend some part of Easter morning with my kids.
Initially, I said we needed 6 months of this. We could do anything for six months. We lived on a strict budget. We made HUGE debt payments and slowly gained traction financially. 6 months came and went and we began to find a groove. I got to know members, Ainsleigh started sleeping, Porter started kindergarten. Things fell into a better pattern that was hard but manageable. I worked my way up to bartending weddings and began to make great money. We socked it away and plugged through. Light began shining through cracks and we knew that someday, we would be fully in the light.
This adjustment came with some unexpected ego blows. As many people in the service industry will tell you, people can be nasty. I encountered rude members at work. I got (literally) snapped at, called to from across the room, talked down to. People were shocked to find that I had a college degree and that working there was a calculated choice for our family. My ego would flare and I would be rolling a 60" round table across property at 11:30 at night and think to myself " I am college educated and THIS is what I am doing?" I felt like I made a LOT of wrong turns in my life professionally speaking. I didn't follow my heart in college, I got a job to keep the lights on not because it was my purpose. Corporate life never fulfilled me. Now here I was, 31 with 3 kids doing manual labor I hadn't EVER done, my husband had a great job, I should be doing anything but this. Not worth it. I was better than this. It was an ugly state of mind.
Gypsy Cup was around but lived mostly in my head, my journal and occasional conversations with close friends during this time. Over time, I began speaking about it. I would tell everyone that building a coffee truck was my goal and I was always met with the "bless your heart". "That is a cute dream, honey" looks and sentiments. But I kept pictures of my dream truck on my phone, wrote things down, daydreamed on my breaks. I didn't lose hope but I didn't have the bandwidth to do anything specific with my dream during this time.
I began really working more on my head game. I changed my perspective on my job. I realized I was being a snob. I was ungrateful and entitled. I slowly chose to become grateful. Sure, the hours were long. The job was brutal. I missed some soccer games and holidays. I could focus on that. But, in reality nobody forced me to work there. I knew what it was. A short term, means to an end. I made great money some weeks. I just needed to change how I looked at my situation. It would be even harder if I let me ego sit in the drivers seat. So, I checked it at the door, or at least, I tried to. Some days, it snuck back in but I really worked on reprogramming these thoughts. I no longer called myself a bartender. I told myself I networked with high net worth individuals, many of them successful business owners. If my goal was to be a business owner, then it was a pretty big advantage to have lots of successful ones belly up to my bar every night.
So, I began talking. Asking. Networking. I listened to their start up stories. One guy sold his truck and went without a vehicle to start his business. He left a 6 figure job to for a business that he got literally dirty in. He used to tell me he would laugh when people would give him judgmental looks at the grocery store because of his "red neck" accent and dirty finger nails but he was a one many show that invoiced what he used to make in a year, in a month. People thought he was crazy for leaving such a cush job but now he plays golf in the middle of the day on a Tuesday.
Another confessed to me that his business went through such hard times that he thought he wouldn't be able to pay his people and he was too embarrassed to tell his wife. He slept in his office some nights. The real estate crash was very devastating for him. But he said it was also good. He had to get creative to survive it. Now he averages $50k a month in net income.
One of the original members told me over a poker game about how he was an accountant like I was and he would have been happy to climb the ranks in a safe job. His wife the risk taker he said and convinced him to buy a duplex in CA. He told me it was cheap and in a bad area. He went from suit and tie accountant to handy man and shaking people down for cheap rent. He sold the duplex, bought a 4 plex and so on and when they had the opportunity to move to AZ, they bought a couple 100+ unit apartment complexes and ran them. He said he would switch on and off with his wife, he did all the handy work with the maintenance man, his wife did the office stuff. He said he LOVED it and worked in cargo shorts and tee shirts most days. He was approached by an investor and sold it and retired. When the real estate crash happened, he got rich. He bought 10 houses for cash with his apartment investments and now has a pretty sweet retirement.
So, I got great business advice. Over beers, card games and golf scoring. I began to look at it like a real life MBA program. I listened up. Most eagerly shared with me and would check up on my own plans and see where I was at. I began to enjoy work. People would pop in just to ask how it was going and offer words of encouragement. Tell me something that they thought was relevant to my idea. I began to notice common threads. Every single one of them started before they were ready, took major (calculated) risks, most had a mentor, all failed in some way and most of all worked their fool heads off. All of them told me some version of this. " You gotta work honey. Work even after you excitement fades. It isn't glamorous. Especially at first." I heard this over and over. Work, work, work. That is what a dream requires. Nothing fancy. Just work. See it through. Get pushed to your max. Take a break. Then work some more. Work when it isn't pretty. Work when nobody is looking. Work while others sleep. Work for free. Lose. Fail. Then work some more.
So I guess what I am trying to say is, there are no accidents. There was a reason no other place would call me back. I needed that 18 months. I needed the gut check. I needed the ego check. I needed to be brought to my knees. I needed to be close to home. I needed to hear these stories night after night. I began to feel less crazy and more let's go for it. I needed to be an event bartender for a bit. I needed to learn to set events. I needed to network with event vendors. Now I network with them for my own company. I established critical relationships in this time frame. I just couldn't fathom that as the squishy, desperate, post partum mama 18 months prior. I didn't know when I started, but working countless weddings is how cold brew wedding favors came to me. I noticed the lack of creative favors and went hmmmmmmmm. Light bulb moment. That is why they are so special to me. They came out of that place in my life.
I learned to never discount an experience. I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing at the time. It didn't look pretty or feel good so I assumed it wasn't right. It was me that was wrong. As soon as I changed my perception, I changed my trajectory. It was the most brutal job I have worked, filled with such randomness and strange stories that I will never repeat, but I am grateful. It was opportunity dressed in overalls and looked like work. It was getting me ready for the next move. My wise friend Sarah always tells me life only gives you two things. Gifts and lessons. And this part of the climb, was a little bit of both.