A little history! I retired from a 30 year career sometime ago and followed that with a 5 year similar work/different setting career. I felt passion for the work I did and enjoyed both the challenges and the colleagues/friends made over the years. I traveled, felt my contributions made a difference, and was proud of my achievements. I was paid decently and was able to build a nice, but not lavious lifestyle.
About 11 years ago, I made a decision to try my hand at something very different - this business of mine buying fabrics, refurbish-able upholstered furniture, transforming the pieces, and selling to local and on-line buyers. I was clueless about the challenges, costs, income-potential - any of it. I just knew that each element of the process made my heart sing.
Growing up in a working class neighborhood and home, I had always loved "interior design" - pouring over the Sears Catalog with my sisters. I put together settings - curtains, furniture, accessories and could spend enormous amounts of time pretending they were mine. I have had recurring dreams ever since I can remember of wandering down a street with houses large and small and entering them to see what they looked like - how they were organized - how the interior reflected the lives of the owners/occupants. I still have that dream every now and then.
I have now been doing this work - and conservatively spend 40-60 hours on average a week - for over ten years. It is not terribly profitable - I squeak by with modest profits. But, I love it!
- I love buying fabrics and planning how to use those fabrics.
- I love going to estate sales, garage sales, and antique markets scouring for the right pieces at the right price.
- I love the actual transformation process and continue to be amazed by the "before" and "after" differences.
- I even like (love might be too strong of a word here) the wood refinishing that I do if needed (the actual upholstery work is left to true experts - I would not like or love that work).
I find I have enormous patience waiting for sales. Some pieces sell almost immediately - many take a lot longer. I do not get anxious about it. I love hearing from buyers/clients when a piece just thrills them and am always a little disappointed if I hear nothing. I love meeting and getting to know my clients and have developed some long-term relationships with some.
So, what is this bad experience and why has it caused me to do all this reflection. I bought a set of leather chairs from an estate sale that were in "perfect condition". I planned to sell as is - something I almost never do - but these were just beautiful. I paid about 3 time my normal price for the chairs since I was not planning to add considerable fabric and upholstery labor expenses. Between buying and getting them home, the estate sale company owner and her son caused irreparable damage to both the leather and the woodwork. I was heartbroken and reached out to her to discuss and see if any adjustments could be made - I reached out three times and received no response whatsoever.
I thought about all the things I have done in my business to make things right for my customers who had been disappointed in some element of the purchasing process that was totally outside of my control. Usually, this involved shipping delays or damage. While the problems were limited, my actions included providing substantial discounts and even allowing a return to make a customer less unhappy. My husband and I recently traveled for four days to Texas and back to deliver some pieces after a shipping company that the customers had engaged dropped the ball. I did these things because I want everyone I deal with to be happy with my work/business. It is more than hoping for more sales - it is a matter of pride and passion for the work. I just hate it if someone is unhappy with any element of my business.
While I did not necessarily expect a refund or even a sizable pay adjustment from this estate sale problem, I did expect the owner to respond to my messages and express some understanding and sympathy for the dilemma, Ignoring it all together suggests she is not passionate about her work and not too concerned about her customers. I just wouldn't want to feel that way about the work that I do!