November 10, 2016
This is the story of how Couldi Beyou began her journey of being self-employed.
Couldi Beyou's head was spinning.
She'd had her first taste of business success over the last few weekends. Now she wanted more.
She struggled to concentrate on her boring day job as she imagined how popular she'd be once word of her delicious and healthy zucchini flambé really got out. This was going to be such an exciting adventure!
Couldi was worried though. She couldn't just quit her job and try to sell zucchinis on the weekend. She had bills to pay, and needed to keep making ends meet. She'd just have to roll up her sleeves and spend her weekends building things up further, save some money, and see where things went.
If she was going to get serious about taking the zucchini operation fulltime, she'd have to sort a few things out soon.
She needed a proper covered trailer to transport her equipment, and she needed to make sure she'd have a steady supply of good quality zucchinis. Going and buying boxes of them all the time just wasn't going to cut it any more.
To convert her trailer into a mobile zucchini flambé equipment transporter, Couldi needed to buy the materials, so she saved up her zucchini profits for the next four weekends. On the following Monday she took a day's leave from work to go out and buy the materials. Then each evening after work for the next two weeks, she was back in the garage, getting to work on her trailer conversion.
Meanwhile, she was spending her mornings in the garden before work, getting up early to sow zucchini seeds and tend to them as they grew. Soon her whole backyard was a zucchini farm!
Couldi was tired, but it was worth the effort because on the next weekend, she was able to simply drive her converted trailer to the market, park it, open up the back and get straight on with the cooking. At the end of the day, she quickly cleaned up on site, then drove home, job done. This was by far a much more convenient method.
But Couldi was still buying her zucchinis at the market. She couldn't wait to be able to pick her own! Sure enough, by the time she'd been selling zucchinis every weekend for six months, Couldi was into a good routine. She was onto her third zucchini crop, and had made some good tweaks to her system. But she hadn't had a day off for six months and she was getting really grumpy at work. Something had to give!
Couldi knew that the next step was to see if she could make some money selling her zucchini flambé somewhere other than the weekend market. If she was going to go fulltime, she needed to be able to sell her product on weekdays as well.
Luckily, a florist at her local shopping centre was closing down after ten years of being the go-to florist in the community. The premises faced out to the car park and the street beyond - a good location. The shop was small but she could keep her supplies inside and then cook and sell from the trailer out the front.
Couldi spoke to centre management at the shopping centre to see how much the rent would be to use the premises. They discussed numbers, but Couldi didn't have enough money to pay just yet. She needed to try out her concept and make sure she'd be able to make enough money to pay the rent AND pay herself a full time wage.
After a bit of back and forth, they negotiated a deal. In a month, Couldi would move in. She wouldn't have to pay her rent for the first three months while she proved her concept . At the four-month mark, if she stayed, she would begin to pay $2,500 a month in rent on a 12 month contract. Either way, at that point she would also have to start paying back the first three months of rent that she owed. Ouch. But this was the moment of truth, to see if she could make this work. If it didn't work, she would be back to her day job, exhausted and burnt out, with a $7,500 rent debt to repay. It was now or never.
On Monday, Couldi took a deep breath as she walked into her boss' office. Like everyone else in her workplace, her boss knew all about her zucchini flambé, so there was no hiding what she was up to. She told her boss her plan, explained that she needed to take three months’ leave (she’d been saving it for a while now!), and that she may or may not be back after that. If her business worked, she would resign, but if her business failed, she would have to return to work. Her boss agreed to her taking the leave. If she came back three months later, then it was business as usual. If she didn't, then he would be happy her flambé business had worked out for her.
They shook hands, then Couldi swallowed hard and returned to her desk.
Couldi kept working weekends at the market and continued to save up as much as she could. On the final weekend she skipped the market and excitedly got stuck into setting up her new shop. On Monday morning, she opened her doors and did what she did best: cook zucchini!
The smell was so good that the word spread around the shopping centre pretty quickly. Couldi used social media to let all the local business owners and staff know what she was up to, so quite a few of them came in at lunch time to try her product. They loved it, and soon she had a small regular lunchtime clientele. As the weeks rolled by, other people driving by on their lunch break popped in to try her wares, and she started to see another wave of customers around 3pm as tradespeople finished work, and parents started popping in for a treat after picking their kids up from school.
Couldi was working hard. Generally, it wasn't anywhere near as busy as the weekend market, but then she really struggled to keep up with the two big rush hours when they happened. Sometimes, clients would wait for 15 minutes in line. This meant customers would sometimes even leave if they had to wait too long. But after all of that, the business was consistent and reliable. Couldi hadn't had a day off for nine months, so she decided to start taking Sundays off to give herself some sustainability .
Three months after opening the shop, she was averaging $200 of profit each weekday, and another $500 on the Saturday. That was $1,500 for the week. Couldi was tempted to multiply this amount by 4 to figure out what the monthly average was, but she knew that this would give her $6,000, which simply isn't correct. So instead she multiplied the $1,500 weekly figure by 52 weeks in a year, and divided by 12, to get $6,500 a month. "You have to do these things properly when you're in business," she thought.
And so it was that at the start of the fourth month, Couldi proudly calculated that if she started paying the $2,500 monthly rent, she on average she should still have $4,000 left over for herself. That was about the same as she'd made in her old job, but here she was her own boss! She called the landlord to announce she could pay the rent, and then called her old boss to quit her boring job!
In the meantime, her backyard zucchini farm wasn't even remotely keeping up with the shop's demand, so Couldi decided life would be simpler and more streamlined if she simply set up an order with a local market gardener, who started doing zucchini deliveries to her shop on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Couldi had done it! She was now genuinely self-employed, in control of her destiny, and her own boss! Wow. She had made it in business.
The months rolled on, and they began to turn into years.
Couldi kept working six and a half days a week. She was getting really tired, but she couldn't get away, because she had to be there to cook and sell the zucchini. If she went on a break, sales would suffer. So she kept going.
She missed having some of her old work colleagues around, and didn't have the energy to do her weekend cooking experiments in her front yard any more. It started to seem like the only time she ever saw her friends was when they came and bought her food. When she was honest with herself, Couldi had to admit that she was just exhausted, and she wasn't enjoying this any more . It was just the same thing every day.
Couldi slowly came to the realisation that even though it looked to other people like she had made it in business, what she had really made for herself was a trap. She was in a situation where if she didn't work six and a half days every week doing the same things over and over, all by herself, she didn't earn enough. In addition, if her business failed to turn over at least $6,500 per month reventue , she wouldn't be able to pay her rent. It was getting monotonous and stressful.
Couldi's landlord had owned the shopping centre for many, many years, and had seen plenty of small businesses like Couldi’s come and go. So it was no surprise to the landlord that on the fourth anniversary of opening the shop, Couldi announced that she didn't have the passion for it any more, and would be closing down.
"Fair enough," said the landlord. "You had a good go at it. I'm glad you aren't finishing with mountains of debt. I'll start looking for another tenant, and I'll give you a month to shut down and move out".
It was over.
Couldi worked another three weeks, then shut down and spent the fourth week cleaning up and emptying the shop.
In the end, Couldi shut the doors on a great idea, exhausted and confused as to how she'd got herself into this situation. After all the blood, sweat and tears, what did she have to show for it? A disused mobile zucchini cooker that nobody wanted, and a few grey hairs.
"Well," said Couldi to herself, "At least they can't say I didn't give it a red hot try. I guess I'm just not cut out for business."
Couldi went and found another boring job, began earning a better wage, with less stress, working only five days a week, and started thoroughly enjoying her weekends again. She even got the mobile zucchini cooker out every now and then for old time's sake. Life returned to normal.
Couldi went back to cooking for the fun of it and lived happily ever after.