Ever since I create the Facebook event to celebrate the shop turning two years old, I have been doing a lot of reflection of everything that has happened the last two years…bad idea!
Instead of the expected excitement of the celebrations ahead, I have gone down a spiral of sadness. When you follow your dreams, you have these stupid expectations at the beginning that it’s going to be the best thing ever and that you are going to wake up every day, stupidly happy with birds singing outside your window just like the Disney movies. You know there’s going to be a lot of work involved but that’s okay because you get to “follow your dreams”.
The First Year
Before the shop even opened, I encountered issues with our first landlord. I was naïve and wanted to sort things out. I tried to be civilised for over a year until I felt like we had no choice but to leave the premises. The first year of a new business is, as everyone knows, the hardest, and boy did we have it rough. Thanks to the support of our regulars,family and friends, we made it through and we got out to our current shop location.
Great things did happen during our first year, we introduced the free baking classes for those with lifetime illnesses and a work experience program with Active Youth to help them get experience in the real world. The free baking classes gave me something I didn’t think I would even experience as a business owner. To be able to share and teach others to find their own “Sweet Release” through baking has filled me with so much joy, enough to counteract all the bad stuff that was happening. There were days when I had these baking classes booked and I felt so shit about what was happening that I didn’t want to continue. I often contemplated cancelling them just so they wouldn’t see my red eyes from crying that day. Alas, the feeling of letting them down overpowered my own sadness and I went through with them. It was always the best decision, I always felt better as soon as I saw their faces. A month ago, I found out that one of the first students I taught in these classes has now started her own baking company selling dog treats. I literally cried with joy.
The Second Year
The shop is now doing so much better in our new location. Without the added stress that had become our norm, I was able to see the full potential of what we were capable of. We also made a major change to the way we did things. I recently went vegan and found myself hungry if I didn’t bring in my own lunch because there were hardly any vegan options in the city! Probably lots of hungry vegans walking around too I thought to myself. So with the help of the Wellington Vegan community, I created a fully vegan lunch menu, introduced vegan milkshakes and spent a while veganising most of our treats and cakes. Sweet Release became a fully vegetarian/vegan shop.
So much exciting stuff happened in our second year:
-Our first monster treat “Dough My Goodness” went viral and we were mentioned in a lot of magazines and articles...we even made international news representing New Zealand as the second country to be on board the doughnut ice cream cones craze. Not bad for a treat we only created 14 of as an experiment I wanted to try.
-I was offered to teach at a local intermediate school once a week. When I asked them what they wanted me to teach the students, they said I could choose and they fully supported my decision in teaching 11/12 year old kids vegan baking. Teaching them vegan baking on top of their food tech classes has opened their minds to the possibility that you don’t have to use traditional ingredients. It’s been a pretty amazing journey with the students and Wednesdays are now my favourite part of the week. No doubt, I will be doing a full blog post about this soon.
-We got asked to team up with a GIANT company to help them promote their services…NZ Post!! Everyone knows NZ Post! Blew my mind that a wee business like ours would even be considered to be part of such a big part of a well known NZ company. We have a radio ad that plays on all local stations and we’re also featured in their home page for Bring IT.
Our wholesale customer base is starting to grow and we have many exciting things in the works.
So why have I felt so sad lately? Even though we are now doing well, we are still recovering from our first year. We lost a lot of money and the move cost a lot. The bills still continue to pile on from the flow on effect from our first year.
A lot of people assume that because I own my own business that I’m rolling in money. That is not the case at all. I’m still working 7 days a week with really long hours. I’ve only been back to ChCh to see my family once during the two years and sometimes I ask myself, if this is all worth not seeing my family, not spending time with my boyfriend (even though we live together!) or having a social life. I know it’s up to me to make those times available but with your whole company, as well as your staff member’s livelihoods on the line, you better get that apron on and do the work.
Yes, I’ve been featured in newspapers and magazines to share my Sweet Release stories and oh look, everything looks like sunshine and rainbows in the article. Of course it does. Why would they share the struggles of actually running a business, it’s all part of the package. Sometimes I feel like I have imposter syndrome when people compliment me on how well the business is doing. They don’t realise that we are still paying off lawyer fees all because I stood up against corporate giants. To this day, I am still working on having unreliable companies and people investigated. Oh yes, there is still some shit going down. No, this is not just the main guys, these are places you know and trust with your money and information. I don’t have the energy, time and money to keep fighting this. Do I just give up? I could just go back to the world of IT and leave this all behind me but why give up my dream just because some people are too greedy? It’s a lot of conflicting feelings as we reach our two year anniversary mark. I should be grateful we’ve made it this far and I am.
I look through photos of our customers with their cakes and I know that in years to come, they’re going to be looking back at their photos. There will be photos of the cake I created for their weddings, birthdays, all the celebrations we got to help them celebrate. It makes me realise that following my dream also creates all these amazing memories for people I would have never met without the company.
We have a lot to plan for our busy week ahead. Sweet Release turns 2 on the 7th of August 2016 and we have celebrations to be had. We created the event because we wanted to celebrate with you, the people who continue to help us along this crazy journey.
I will leave with this, my favourite most heartfelt cake where I nearly cried with the customer when I showed her the gender reveal cake for a baby she and her husband had been trying to have for years.