Since this blog is supposed to be a real, intimate look inside Lunapads, I’m going to share with you some of the ups and downs of what it takes to run a small business. I appreciate that it’s hard to know what things look like to folks on the outside, but sometimes we get emails from women who think that we are a very large, profitable company (must be our awesome website and super-professional customer service! :) While we’re certainly successful enough to keep going, I’d like to talk a bit about some of the challenges that we have faced and are currently facing, in order to let our readers know a little more about the realities and sacrifices that have gone into bringing Lunapads to where we are today.
Any of you out there who currently run or have tried to start and bring a small (or large) business to profitability will already be well aware of just what a struggle it can be. I started developing Lunapads in 1993, and opened a retail fashion store in 1995. I was 25, had a university degree and was from a fairly well-off family – in other words, had the wolrd at my feet and the optimism and naivete to “just go for it” without any business experience. I got way in over my head within a fairly short period of time, and wound up learning some hard lessons about money, responsibility, humility and business.
It was either extreme good fortune or straight-up divine intervention that brought Suzanne into my life at that point, because I honestly believe that I would have been toast had she not come along. Not that her arrival magically made everything perfect. In the early days, we travelled a lot, pounding on doors to get our products in health food stores. That might have worked if we had had more money and experience and better timing, but it didn’t play out very well and we almost ran out of money. Fortunately, at that time the world of e-commerce was starting to come of age, and our good friends and brilliant webmistresses Emira and Lauren of Raised Eyebrow Web Studios were able to take us on as clients and get us organized to sell online, which saved us.
So that was our first little trial by fire. As you can imagine, neither of us were taking any kind of salary, and were relying on savings and our investors and partner/husbands for financial support, not to mention negotiating generous terms from suppliers. Things finally started to stabilize a couple of years ago, which allowed us to hire 3 staff as well as to pay ourselves modest salaries, which has been a massive relief. Growth has a price in business, however, because without a healthy and reliable cash flow to finance your operations, you will not make it. Cash flow crunches always force you to make tough decisions and hold your breath hoping that you’ve made the right ones. Are we freaked out? Sure, a bit. But there is no doubt in our minds about the long-term success of the business, and it’s these kinds of challenges that can bring out a little bit of extra creativity and new ideas. This point also brings me to a bit of business advice that I often share with people: if you genuinely care about what you do, this has huge value, because when things get tough (and they probably will), it’s what keeps you going. We have a big dream here at Lunapads, which we all care passionately about and are grateful to have the opportunity to bring into our working lives.
A final note is that one of the greatest rewards in running an intimate business like ours is when customers take the time to let us know how much they appreciate what we’re doing and pass along their positive thoughts about our products to the women in their lives. It makes a massive difference to us, as there is no amount of advertising (that we couldn’t afford regardless) that could bring about a better result than happy customers telling the women in their lives about us. So if it feels right, the next time you’re blogging or talking to some women friends, please talk about Lunapads – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Stay tuned for another post about how we want to thank women for getting the word out about Lunapads.