It’s interesting how often I hear the word “solid” when small business owners talk about their companies, and how things are going. Here are a few examples:
- I have a pretty SOLID business plan.
- We had a SOLID first quarter.
- Our work has been really SOLID this month.
It’s such a strong and confident word—one that creates images of firm pillars set in concrete or ancient mountain peaks rising out of a stormy sea. And, oh, how I wish I could tell you that in the ten years that I’ve owned Plank & Pearl, I’ve had SOLID reasons to sprinkle the word masterfully into every conversation.
A Fluid Business
But that would be a lie. The truth is that my small, niche business has always been FLUID and subject to change. It’s been built on my single, unchanging passion—but has morphed and shape-shifted significantly several times. I’m much more likely to say:
- The financial health of my business is, well—FLUID at the moment!
- My ideas are FLUID and sometimes they spill over and make a mess!
- My favorite FLUID is coffee!
History of Plank & Pearl
But jokes aside, I actually believe that feeling/being fluid can be a strength when changes happen in the market, in your niche, and in your personal life. I started my business selling vintage treasures online through an Etsy shop and on eBay, while I still had children at home. It worked perfectly because I could photograph, list, and ship from home, while cooking dinner and having weird conversations with teenagers. When the college years came along, I had more time to hunt for inventory and create collections. When the collections took over our basement and garage like fast-growing mold, I moved on to vintage markets and pop-up shops—which required me to rent several storage units on a scary, busy road (because it was cheaper). Each time I tried to leave the parking lot and make a left turn toward home, I was taking a gamble the size of a Las Vegas card shark.
And then came the fateful moment when I had enough cool things in dangerous storage units that my oldest daughter decided to incorporate a few into her small, intimate wedding. The second fateful moment occurred at the wedding itself, when a guest in a very tiny dress (I think it was a dress) asked if I rented out my cool things for other weddings. Hmmmm. Other weddings? Is that even a thing?
Turns out it is, indeed, a thing. And I did that thing quite happily for nearly four years, part of those with the help of my gifted friend and business partner, Julie Gordon. We delivered velvet settees to mountain meadows, and chandeliers hanging from antique birdcage stands to remote and rustic barns near the Wyoming border. We polished brass candle holders and hand-washed hundreds of vintage china plates. We had the pleasure of being part of happy, giddy, loving celebrations with wonderful clients, working alongside vendors and colleagues with more creativity and work ethic than any group of professionals I’ve ever known.
Sounds pretty perfect, right? The slow progression and then sudden growth of a business that began in my kitchen. Pretty solid, right? A nice “here’s how I started my business” story to share over frozen rosé cocktails? Well, yes, I guess. Except for the FLUID principal—or pattern, or whatever it is that made me suddenly aware of some little voices in my head whispering, “Change is coming again, so you better get ready!”
And the changes have arrived, no surprise—for both Julie and for me. We’re both in the very specific chapter of our lives when we take care of elderly parents, are close with our adult children, and have begun to experience small dings to our health like messed up backs from lifting those velvet settees, crabby knee joints, and maybe even the odd kidney stone (yes, it happened to me and it’s a SOLID truth that it hurts more than childbirth!). And on the sunny side of the street, I have a daughter getting married this summer and another pregnant with our very first grandchild!
Julie and her husband are planning more travel and beginning to explore the volunteer work they want to accomplish when retirement gets closer.
Plank & Pearl Business Changes
Time and energy are truly the hottest commodities around and so Plank & Pearl is evolving one more time. In March, I closed the rental side of the business to return to the foundation of it all, which is retail. I have our wonderful building in Lakewood for one more year, so we’re taking advantage of the large space to hold monthly pop-up shopping events, creative workshops, and new collaborations. It’s still about vintage: finding it, appreciating it, decorating with it, taking care of it, and being part of the necessary movement to reuse, recycle, upcycle, and repair. You’ll still find us at 8800 W. 14th Street, on social media, and through our website (which is currently undergoing changes to reflect our most current business model). We’d love to have you visit, attend an event, or meet us for your favorite FLUID!