Back in May our theme for the month was The F Word: Failure. In our community forums we explored the topic of The Perfect Fail-- essentially the idea that you can do everything *right* and still come out with a bummer result. Maker Lynn Quire got vulnerable and shared the time that she new she literally had to close up shop. I think we all can relate to a lot of the things in this, especially making hard decisions despite what people will think.
My name is Lynn Quire. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and have lived in the Metropolitan area all my life. I am a self taught sewer and began selling items like diaper bags and upcycled purses and bags in 2008. Mostly I found interesting fabrics in dresses, shirts, skirts, skorts, etc., and turned them into purses and totes using as much as I could from the piece including buttons, zippers, linings, etc. That was short lived as it was mostly before handmade prices were acceptable.
Five years later I stumbled across creative reuse centers (stores that sell used and unwanted craft and art supplies, imagine Goodwill for Arts & Crafts). Louisville didn’t have one, so I started one. After four years of running that business I was burned out. In September 2016, I decided to close the creative reuse (which was a not for profit organization) retail store and dissolve the NPO.
My vision with the store was not only to save tons from our landfills (375 tons upon closing, that’s 75,000 pounds), but to provide teachers, artists and children with a place to get materials really cheap, or free. I wanted to educate everyone on how to upcycle and reuse, why it was important, how it could be used in classrooms, and so much more! Eventually I wanted it to become a true maker friendly space and help re skill people so they too could become entrepreneurs. Man, I had really big hopes and dreams!
It was rough. I put everything into that project; my own money, my heart, my sweat, and so, so many tears. It was heartbreaking to see it come to an end because I just couldn't make it happen on my own, but found no one who wanted to put the same efforts into it (my husband doesn't count) as I did. It was a much-needed resource for so many other organizations, teachers and kids, but I just didn't have any more to give.
What did I learn from experiencing this failure? With time, I learned I am not a failure for the organization not continuing past four incredible years. At the time, I truly thought that everyone would be so disappointed in me and would never give me a second chance. I imagined people snickering behind my back, saying things like, “she couldn’t make that work, she will never make anything work” and so many other awful things.
But recently, I realized there are many entrepreneurs who have not been successful in their first endeavors. Honestly nearly all have failed at some point.
Read any book about entrepreneurship. Did I believe it? Not a chance. No way Bill Gates ever failed at anything; Richard Branson, Harland Sanders, Henry Ford (twice). You only see success stories, you have to dig a little deeper for the failures.
I’m not sure where I got the idea that successful people never failed, but things had come so easily to me throughout my life that I had never thought of failure as being a thing. I’d experienced minor failures, lots, but never failure at this level and to this degree, never in the limelight. I was featured on CNN Money and voted Best of Louisville Creative Business Person. What would everyone think?
I am the first entrepreneur in my family. All worked service jobs. I was the first to really make it into the corporate world even though I later settled into a general office job so I could be more flexible for my kids. I had no realistic examples of what entrepreneurship looked like. I knew it took hard work, but no idea how much. I learned quickly how lonely being a struggling entrepreneur with crazy, wild ideas can be.
But I didn't give up. I started a new for-profit business, which is still in it's infancy. Reuse & BabyLou was created to help me divert some of my energy away from Good Garbage. I wanted to get back to sewing and I began making reusables, notably Not-Paper Towels and reusable coffee filters. Both were received well and my side hustle began.
I was going to make reusables and upcycled items. The reusables were taking off and a small baby line was born of it as well. I began working it harder. In the fall, a store came to me wanting to sell my items. I couldn’t run Good Garbage and the side business at once; burn out was real. That’s when I decided to say goodbye to Good Garbage.
It’s still an emotional rollercoaster. I fall off the tracks feeling like a failure often. Just the past few weeks I’ve been moping instead of producing because shows and online orders haven't been as successful as I'd hoped or planned. I'm not fully recovered from the last failure honestly, but fellow members of the Academy of Handmade, through our Friday coffee chats, have helped me.
I know I will come out of it. I know that this is not the end of the world and people honestly don’t care a month later that you failed, they don’t even care the day after. So wrapped in their own worlds, it just doesn’t matter to them. And that is how it should be.
Through it all, I know everything takes time and I will find my niche. I have to remember that it is one step at a time. If I could go back to last September with words of wisdom, I wouldn’t have believed myself. I’m hard headed and stubborn; It takes going through it and learning to understand sometimes.
My advice to all my fellow makers scared of failure: Take a look around you, look at every entrepreneur you know and have heard of. Nearly every one of them has experienced failure, usually a major one. Know that you are in good company. If they weren’t able to take the good away from their failures, and be persistent, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs today.
Failure is just a stumbling block. You trip, you scrape your knee, you bleed, you get up and you do it again. I know, you think the world will end, but it doesn’t.
My personal mantra which is posted on the wall in front of me everyday... "To make it work, you have to work hard. Sacrifice, Consistency, Confidence Dedication. Give it your all every day! You have to do the work to succeed. There is NO other way! -me
You can find Lynn Quire and her work at www.reuseandbabylou.com, in stores in Frankfort, Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, on Amazon Handmade and in homes in at least 24 states and Japan.