How does a small food company survive a global pandemic that dramatically alters it's primary source of revenue? Among my colleagues in the industry, I can say that most do not, and for the month of March, I was one heartbeat away from throwing in the towel.
I've come to realize that "survival" is not the right term to describe the plight of small business owners. It's really "persistence" but there has to be a fuel that keeps that fire burning...
The Bald Baker train was rolling along smoothly on its track and Covid just came out of left field, laid down tracks to take us off our path and towards an unpaved cliff. March saw the company steamrolling right towards that precipice and I felt helpless and honestly, embarrassed and ashamed that my company, that I, couldn't overcome that type of pressure.
Something funny happened around the third week of March. I started to see resiliency in the market place. I started to see people all around me destroy their comfort zone and get creative to stay alive. Fine dining establishments pivot to delivery of paper towel and toilet paper, ketchup and batteries.
I started floating the idea of refocusing on eCommerce and I woke up one morning to this message from my brother:
just wanted to wish you all the best on your online BB opening. We're all super proud of you for following your dream and sticking with it and i hope the online sales and opportunities bring you another step closer."
His words allowed me to find a motivation that I had lost and realize a complacency that I had found.
His words were my fuel and I began listening to that inner voice that refuses to be dictated to; the one that refuses to allow Covid to win. F**k Covid.
So we got to work. I'm blessed to be surrounded by smarter people than me who had the experience to properly launch an online store. It's ridiculously difficult to just go into eCommerce. It doesn't just happen. Never mind the creative challenges associated with using Wix or Shopify to create the consumer-facing side of it, but identifying, vetting and on-boarding a fulfillment center and then testing it to ensure it meets your standards, which you had to make up on the spot because you've never done this before. Then aligning the front-end store with the back end fulfillment and then ensuring that your perishable inventory is managed properly. Too many things to go wrong, hiccups, challenges, personalities and other totally reasonable elements to persuade me not to do this. It was basically starting the business all over.
I thank my mother for my stubbornness, my wife for her support and inspiration and Glen Scotia 15 Year Old Scotch for keeping me company at night as I worked through the details with the team. And now, on the night before it's launch, I couldn't be any prouder of those efforts. In the spirit of spring's rejuvenation, of finding hope in the despair this pandemic has caused so many and of following the advice I'd give my children, I am overjoyed to relaunch Bald Baker as an eCommerce company.
This episode in my life has taught me, or perhaps reminded me, of a few critical lessons:
Find your fuel - it's so easy to lose sight of your motivation, and indeed, your original source of it may no longer be relevant. What's lighting that fire for you right now? If nothing, then it's a good time to move on.
Moving on from something is not failing, it's living your life. Whether you closed up shop entirely, pushed pause, pivoted or found yourself at the right place in the right time to actually thrive, the decisions you make about moving forward with your life cannot be seen in the framework of success or failure, only living. The rest is all noise.
Covid was many terrible things, but it was also a chance to pause and reflect on the things you've been doing right up to the moment it sent you into isolation and I think more importantly, to start planning your next steps. It's a natural opportunity to "get out of the weeds" and to think about transitioning into the next stage in your life: what that looks like and how you might get there. Embrace this moment as an opportunity to look forward.
In the meantime, if you're reading this, please go see our new website at baldbaker.ca and let us know what you think. I won't ask you to buy anything (although I won't stop you!), but perhaps share our journey with your network.
Lastly, if you take nothing else from this post and our continuing adventures, its that whenever you get the opportunity, don't forget to treat yourself. With all the stressful things that you're going through, you deserve it.