Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

I began my business back when I was barely old enough to sign a legal document.
I walked right in and signed a complicated 30 page, five year lease that might as well have been in Greek for all I understood.  
It didn't matter that the rent was more each month than the total I had in the bank.

It didn't matter that this huge, empty storefront was so big that all the inventory I owned or could afford to buy wouldn't fill half the space.

I wanted an antique shop, and I was on my way.

I was excited . . . I was ambitious,
I was eager . . . 
 I made just about every mistake a girl could make.

When I was a child I had a voracious reading habit and read everything I could get my hands on. 
 I was thrilled by independent women and women who took charge of their own destiny.
I was going to be one of those women.

I also had a great talent for memorizing what I read, 
and a penchant for memorizing epic poems and things like 
The Declaration of Independence,
 and so many lines of famous literature.

When I decided to open this antique shop,
 I wanted the emphasis to be
  linens and quilts.
It made perfect sense to me when a line from Robert Louis Stevenson's poem came to mind and stuck in my brain.

'When I was sick and lay abed
I had two pillows at my head 

And all about me dale and plain'
The pleasant land of Counterpane.

Now, in our family, we knew what a counterpane was.  
(Doesn't everyone?)
The word is Old English.
It was the bedspread that topped your bed.  It covered all the blankets and sheets and was purely decorative and was often the "fancywork" showpiece made by a bride to bring to her wedding bed.

I decided to call my shop The Counterpane, and to always have the most beautiful quilts, coverlets and bedspreads among my antique treasures.
It was a lovely, romantic notion.

Remember that I was the oldest daughter, of the oldest daughter, of the oldest daughter, of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter.
Five generations living in the same town, sharing history and stories and vocabulary.  
My great great Grandmother Evans could tell stories of her great great grandmother.
We had words and expressions and memories from more than 150 years of women,
 passed down and cherished.

I was the only living person, (beside my family members), in South Florida who had any idea what the word meant.
I sort of shot myself in the foot before I even opened the shop doors.

"Huh?  What kind of a shop is that?"
People must have been truly baffled. 

Months after I opened, a shop owner in the mall asked me why I had chosen such a dumb name that had no meaning for anyone.
(His shop was called The Artful Framer, a play on words from Dickens' Artful Dodger.)
I blushed and told him he should broaden
his reading skills.

The good news is that the shop flourished and grew and prospered and enabled me to achieve many of my other dreams in life.
But, no thanks to the handicap I had placed upon it from the start.

One of the keys to a healthy business start-up is in the name.
A name tells potential customers who you are and what you do and gives them a reason to walk in your door.

A name shouts out from your signage that you exist and are open for business.

A name defines the business . . . telling the world you have goods and services they desire!

My name sounded like maybe you were going to be injured when you came to the counter!
Not an auspicious beginning Joy!

There was one advantage to this ambiguous name . . . 
I'll never forget the day a line of ladies were checking out at the counter . . . 

One said, "My husband is beginning to wonder why your shop is listed for every other check I write in our checkbook."

The lady behind her remarked, "My husband asked the same question . . . I told him this was the deli where I get his lunch meat."

These husbands were going to be shocked when they found out who I was.

All this to say,
 there are easier ways to succeed in business and
there are harder ways to succeed in business!

I can recommend many tips for success based on my early days of trial and error!

Stay tuned as Joy continues to explore business!

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