My story about the struggles of the good and the bad of starting a group activity business in Jackson Hole
In February of 2017 I finally got off my rump and did something I had been talking (and talking and talking) about for years; I started a business. Just a small little entertainment business by the name of Exitus Escape Room in downtown Jackson Hole, WY. And for the first time in years I felt proud to answer when people asked me what I did for a living. Yes, I am a business owner. In Jackson Hole, nonetheless. Doesn't that sound dreamy?
Well, let me tell you. It is. Until it isn't. Sure, there are certain perks to being your own boss. But there are also pitfalls. I am going to share my experience of the first 6 months of being a business owner and doing it all myself.
First, the good about starting a Group Activity "Exitus Escape Room" in Jackson Hole
- I get to bring my dog to work. This, my friends, is indeed a dream come true. After spending a lifetime working in bars and restaurants (where 4 legged furry creatures are not embraced, or sanitary) all I wanted was to have my pal, my partner, my snuggle buddy and confidant at my side (or under my desk) while I toiled to earn a buck. Done and done. Kipper, the aged and blind muttling I love so much, spends most days at the shop with me, ping-ponging around because she can't see a lick, and stinking up the joint with her old-dog farts. She greets the guests and offers me a great excuse to procrastinate because, surely, she needs more kisses. It's a beautiful thing, really. And I have yet to have one single person not want to love on her. So we are making friends together, and it. Is. Awesome.
- I can have a glass of wine whenever I want to. Now, I say this at the risk of you thinking I must be a drunk. I am not, I assure you. But it is oh-so nice to be able to crack a beer or have a glass of wine and say, write a blog about the trials and tribulations of owning a business. I can drink a glass of wine, sit in one of my escape rooms and brainstorm ideas for the next iteration. I can crack a beer and do my game master duties while a group of Escapologists test their wits and try to escape a locked room. After years of working with business owners and managers that could do whatever the hell they wanted, whenever they wanted, all the while enforcing the "do as I say and not as I do" rule, having this autonomy is refreshing and makes me feel like an adult. Not a luxury to be abused, mind you, but still really an awesome privilege.
- I don't have anyone telling me what to do. Well, outside of financial and governmental institutions that is. But for the first time in my life I have no one breathing down my neck, making sure I am doing my job correctly. Or that I did all my side work or rolled enough silverware. Or that I didn't accidentally give someone a bitch face (admittedly, I have some serious RBF, but what can I do, IT'S MY FACE). I make my own rules. If I don't show up until 3pm that's okay--I'm the boss! I can wear what I want, which means no more unflattering uniforms or ugly (albeit comfortable) kitchen-friendly shoes. If it's slow, I can knock off early. Certain things I can even do from the comfort of my own couch (though, sadly, this is not a particularly productive locale).
And then the parts nobody tells you about....
Now for some of the down sides of business ownership. I am not writing this to bring people down or try to discourage anyone from following their dreams. I am simply trying to bring about a well-rounded version of what it's like to be your own boss. Or at least my experience. So please take this with a grain of salt. Everyone will have their own, unique experience.
- I don't have anyone telling me what to do. Yes, while I have this listed as a perk it can also be a pitfall. There are days when I actually miss having a set list of tasks to do, created for me by someone else. There are days when I actually miss being managed. Because, let's face it--some days I am so overwhelmed that I do not know where to start or how to begin and if I just had someone to point me in the right direction or tell me what to do I could at least start to get something accomplished. And if I am to be completely honest, I am not a great self-starter and am horrible with time management. Now that I have to move under my own steam and there isn't anybody to pick up my slack there is a lot more pressure to stay on point. The fate of my business is in my hands alone and I don't have anybody to blame but myself when things go wrong or don't get done.
- I never have a day off. I mean never. Even if I am not physically at the shop it is always on my mind. It creeps (more like charges) into my dreams When I am at the shop I want to be somewhere else. When I am not at the shop I get stressed out feeling like I should be at the shop. I am constantly checking my email. I am more attached to my phone than I ever cared to be. Since I am doing this on my own and do not have any employees I do literally everything. Bookkeeping, marketing, office inventory, cleaning, customer service, planning new rooms....all this while running the day to day operations. And most of this stuff I have zero experience in so I am having to teach myself along the way. It literally takes me 3 hours to get a simple MailChimp campaign out. This blog? I am on day 2. Creating an ad on social media is much more complex than it looks when you take into consideration content, target audience, duration, budget, cost per click yadda, yadda. I am getting better, but this marketing thing could be a full time job. I feel like I have no idea what I am doing and the success of advertising is never a guarantee, not to mention it is staggeringly expensive.
- I really have to mind my P's and Q's now. I an not a wild party animal or anything (um, anymore), but I do have to be on my best behavior in public and on social media. I have a propensity to speak my mind when it comes to things like local and national politics and when you run a business in a small town it's really not a good idea to go spouting off in a public manner. You just never know who you're going to offend, and trust me, someone will get offended. And they will tell their friends. While part of me would like to say "I don't need his business anyways", that is a big, fat lie. I do. I absolutely cannot afford to alienate anyone at this point. So I have to learn to keep my big, opinionated mouth shut when I am in mixed company and have to stay (mostly) out of social media arguments that I feel passionate about. As the one and only face of my business I have to put my best self forward every time. That takes a lot of energy.
So there you have it. One girl's experience in the first 6 months of business ownership. Did I touch on everything? Absolutely not. Do I regret quitting a job that I didn't love but where I made money at to start a business that I have not been able to pay myself as of yet? Nah, it's cool. I will get there. Fail is a 4 letter word, and I am not allowed to swear in public anymore.