Have you ever had a dream so outrageous you couldn’t even bring it up in conversation? The dream that sometimes gets you out of bed and literally moves you through your day? The kind of dream that makes the crowded subways, the cold coffee, the frigid cold, and the broken photocopier, bearable? But this is a dream, right? And you’re a pragmatic, logical person who needs to pay off credit cards bills, mortgages,and put food on your table. Sometimes dreams are just that – terrific fiction best kept close. Best kept secret.
I’ve been out of sorts lately. Stuck in the betweens. Although I’m happy with the choice I’ve made to try the live the life I want to lead (translation: dedicating time to pursue creative projects, but space for the income-generating work) and the life I’ve been dreaming of, I’m not quite there yet. The novel is slow-going (to be expected), explaining to people that consulting means something markedly different than full-time corporate employment has been exhausting, and I haven’t quite settled on what is exactly that I want to do. And this irks me because I like black and white. I like the definitive. I’m a type A project-manager who doesn’t enjoy indecision. Shifts uncomfortably in the discomfort. But I’m making myself sit in this place, and walk steadily through the unknown – how cliche this may be. What comforts me are the constants: my wonderful, supportive family & friends, my health & sobriety, a film adaptation of my memoir that’s progressing surprisingly well and rather quickly, and the kind of clarity one achieves when they finally decide to get off the proverbial hamster wheel.
Simply put, I know I can’t go back to 401ks, stability, office gossip, and corporate memos. Because since 1997 I’ve went along with the plan, wore the suits, sipped the morning coffee, lead unnecessary conference calls, but the plan wasn’t mine and it never made me happy. So the unknown, while frightening, suddenly becomes attractive. Last week I had an interview for a consulting project, and it was if we spoke two different languages when it came time to discuss a potential offer. Even though I kept saying the words “consultant,” “freelance,” and “part-time,” all this person heard was “full-time.” And when I said that I couldn’t work more than four days a week and he replied that wouldn’t we all want to work four days a week, I shook my head, angry, because this isn’t my problem. I’m not living my life for what others want, because if that were the case I’d still be at my corporate job, numb.
And then I realized I’d have to face another obstacle: people who project their issues and life choices onto you. Not fun. But my friends tell me that this is the reality, the life I’ve chosen for myself, and this is all par for the course.
So I found myself a little lost this weekend, and I returned to this two-year daydream I keep having. I keep picturing a miniature, simple baked shop with rows of muffins, cookies, baked loaves, and steaming pies. It’s a dream I return to often, and I can spend hours in this sweet place. And up until now, it’s been only that: a lovely, unrealistic dream. Because who has $100K+ to build a business? To conduct the market research, competitive analysis, real estate projections, location scouting, etc, etc, and more etc? When 50% of all new food ventures fail within the first year? And all the negatives spewed forth and I kept my dream to myself, quiet.
Until last night. Until I practically coughed it out during dinner. And my friend, a lawyer, equally pragmatic, simply said: Then why don’t you launch a store online? Start small, like an Etsy shop. See if works, then you can scale. And she said this all matter-of-factly, and something stirred. I had launched a successful (and profitable) online LLC in 1999 when everyone laughed at the idea, I created an online literary journal when everyone said that print is the only thing that mattered, so why try this? Why not at least try it? If it doesn’t work, the risk is minimal and I move on. And then dream stays that – a dream. But at least I had the guts to pursue it.
So here’s the idea. I’d open a small store on an Etsy-type site. Offer ten organic products (which would change seasonally): chocolate chip pumpkin loaf, triple-apple pie, banana coconut loaf, the oh-snap ginger snaps, chocolate chip chunk almond cookies, raspberry rugelach, chocolate chip cookies, orange loaf, blueberry crumble, for example. I’d research eco-friendly packaging (although that would be phase two), the market, and pricing, and I’d keep it small. Play it as it lays.
But I wanted to conduct a little informal, friendly pricing (not product) poll. How much would you pay for a homemade, organic cake loaf that serves 4-6, a dozen homemade cookies (similar to this size), and a 9inch pie? This would be the cost before S&H. Do let me know what you would honestly invest to purchase baked goods online. And I’m offering some incentives! Free books, hair products, and new perfume. Leave your comments, and I’ll award five prizes, at random, on Friday morning. Thanks in advance for your input!
Update! Congrats to the five winners: Liz, Amanda, Caryn, Nina, and Lisa W.