My first proper job was with a graphic design recruitment company. The company - which I’ve mentioned before - was called Represent, based in Clerkenwell, a stone’s throw (and I mean a stone throw) from where my sister also worked, conveniently meaning we could have numerous lunches. When I joined the company it was myself - studio assistant and personal assistant - Mike, Director and Founder, and Kate, fellow recruiter. I LOVED working there. It built up my skill sets, I was supported by two “proper adults” as I called them who led me by the hand through the real world in my first real job. In the bathroom, Mike had that poster of Anthony Burrill fame that read “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”. It sat on the cistern (I should stress, this loo was tiny, barely swing a cat sort of tiny but it was part of the Clerkenwell charm). Every time you walked into the toilet it stared at you, screamed at you, reminded you to work hard, and be nice to people, please thank you. That job taught me, reminded me, that that really was the only way to get by in the working world.
Today, Represent has a staff of twelve, and Mike still at the helm. It’s something to aspire to.
Five years after having left that job, I carried that ethos into my little business when I started it from my kitchen table, four years ago. I’ve worked hard. I’ve been nice to people. I’ve treated every enquiry exactly the same whether it be from someone organising a baby shower, someone super fancy, some Instagram celeb, some newspaper, someone hosting a birthday and the biscuits are the table centre piece. Every enquiry is important. Every customer is important. And being nice doesn't cost a thing. Working hard does. Working hard costs you your time, and more often than not, a lot of your own personal money when running your own business. It costs you your sleep, it costs you your decision making skills (I’m pretty sure my ability to make decisions has got worst, not better). It costs you weekends and evenings. It costs you trips to the park with your small human in favour of answering emails or sorting your accounts.
Four years of working hard and being nice to people, and I’m baking away one Tuesday in my kitchen unit and get a direct message via Instagram from someone who had enquired about the LBP range, earlier in the week. This time they were asking me to drop them an email. I was like “okay I mean sure….” I look at the email address and step away from my phone. Oh. Shit. I copy and paste the address into my email. I think about what to write. I text my newest LBP colleague, and wait for her to reply. Her reply: “Oh. Shit. OH SHIT BECKY.”
Every. Enquiry. Matters.
It was the dream come true. MY dream come true, it's what I had always wanted and always hoped one day would happen. The dream had come knocking on my door and I was beyond excited: a retailer wanted LBP, and the dream retailer of dreams, no less. I couldn't quite believe it.
A month later, and we were close to start rolling out the product in time for new year shelving. And then it all went a bit, erm, tits up.
I'm not going to go into the particulars of what happened: I’m not sure it really matters to anyone other than me who keeps going over every detail incessantly, like when you break up with a boy and can’t work out if it was the red jumper that he hated or the fact you liked Dairylea and he didn’t.
Other than this, in the ever wise words of Shaggy: it wasn't me.
I am sad and I am heartbroken. I literally feel like my dream was ripped away from me because of a detail that meant it was absolutely unviable for me; it could have cost me my little business and ruined it from the inside, out, very quickly.
And yet all I did was work hard, and even in the face of the baffling, be nice.
Even more so, I’ve come to realise the absolute fragility of my dreams, which actually never have laid in my control.
My world looked entirely different to me for the past month. With heartbreak, you can't imagine your world any other way, again.
But like every good heartbreak, you eventually come out the other side, a little bruised and with puffier eyes, but ready to love again.
So, it's with that motto that stared at me in Clerkenwell daily, that I carry on with my business. It's got me this far, it's given me the gut feeling to know when I had to make a tough - but right - decision for my business. But sadly, it doesn't mean I'm not totally gutted and disappointed; not just in the fall out of what could have been LBP's big-break, but also such worry that folk who knew what was going down, may well be disappointed in me.
God dammit: I'm feeling like I've lost all spirit, just in time for the festive season too.
If you could just bear with Lady B, for there may be more sweary biscuits than normal, and more angrier lyric biscuits. But I am going to "keep my pukker up" as my Mother Mooncake says: I know I have to pick myself up, dust myself down, and trust the universe, all in the hope that this makes me a much smarter, wiser, and savvier business woman.
To those that helped me reach this decision because they could be objective, and those that have tried their utmost to cheer me in the hours since the news broke: Thank You. I really do appreciate it and can’t tell you how hopeful I am that this time next year, we are laughing at the ridiculousness of these conversations. And I am sorry that I couldn't do it this time. BUT immensely proud of the way LBP conducted herself - big props to Mama Acorn.
And thank you to those that support me and my little business already, since day dot. Thank you.
Here's to the fools that dream. They gotta be onto something. I'VE got to be onto something.
Be good and bake well,