Finding Your Passion by Phillis Meiring
There is much talk about finding a way to monetize what you love doing. It’s not a new concept but it is reappearing with new rhetoric. It is one of those phrases that has always caught my attention. In the past I would ponder it, consider how it might work in my life, and then dismiss it as something that could never happen for me.
Shopowner by Default?
I didn’t open my quilt store in 2002 because it was something I always wanted to do—though as a kid I did love playing checkout girl. I didn’t open a quilt store because I made quilts. Before I opened the shop, I had made only two quilts. I had no classes. At the time there were no online quilting tutorials and there was no YouTube. I did come from a line of quilters and, though I admired them, I never really got the quilting bug.
I did, however, love, love, love fabric! I have sewed for over 41 years. One year for Christmas, my folks bought me and my sister a portable Singer sewing machine. From then on, I sewed nearly all of my clothes. My sewing machine was my constant companion at home. So I was first a garment maker. But that still wasn’t why I opened a store.
I opened my store because I needed a way to support myself financially. I went to college, earned two degrees, and was well on my way to being a “superstar” in my career. Then someone in that environment decided that I was not a good fit, mostly because I failed to turn my head away and keep quiet. They proceeded to damage my career and damage me financially. Not only did I have a huge student loan debt, but I was also blackballed from ever working in that field. This was a field that becomes your identity, so without it, you don’t know who you are, much less where you are going.
I found part-time jobs. At one point I was working part-time as a florist, managing a Bath & Body Works store, and waitressing on Friday nights in a fraternal organization. It was wild, but I was bringing money into my life and managing to pay some bills. I thought for sure I had found what was going to be my next “career,” but even this didn’t turn out well.
Without a job, without money, without any direction, and with a mountain of bills, I had time to think, but not too much, since the reminders and phone calls from collectors kept coming in.
A New Start with Sewing
Well, I finally decided it was time to set aside my experience, career direction, and education and revert to my rudimentary skills. My choice was between cooking and sewing. I learned quickly that the investment in owning a restaurant is enormous. All I had was $5,000 in the part of my retirement that I could take out. So then sewing it was.
I determined that a quilt store was my best option, but don’t ask me what I based this on. Now that I look back at it, there was nothing intelligible about how I made that determination. I, therefore, came into this industry wounded and poor but blissfully determined.
I had no easy start, no Cinderella story. My store opening was still riddled with difficulties. I withdrew my retirement $5K, borrowed $5K from my single mother-in-law, and had the help of my hubby Mitch (who got laid off with only six years before he could retire). I had no guidance and very little support, but I did have big determination since I felt this was the only option I had left. I was going to take responsibility for my own business and do it my way.
I made my preparations list and laid out chronologically what must happen when. I had $10K to budget for everything from fixtures to notions to fabric and even then, in 2002, it didn’t seem that it was enough. But remember I thought this was the only option I had left.
All seemed to be going well. I set up my business as an LLC, found a downtown location, and managed to negotiate an 18-month lease for $450/month. I made an appointment with an RJR sales rep, who came to our humble home. It didn’t take long before I could tell that he felt he was wasting his time. No big commission here. My first order? Flat-folds. I went dumpster diving for put-ups behind Jo-Ann’s so we could fold the fabrics when they arrived and put them in cabinets. Cabinets? Well, Mitch would build them.
A Bump in the Road on the Way to Opening
I projected an open date of July 3. It would be my “Independence Day.” It would be the day for me to begin to build my life and my business my way. Things were moving along well. We worked long, hard hours to get ready and checked things off my list. I had started this process in February. In April I had to take Mitch to the ER. He had chest pains. Keep in mind we were both unemployed and uninsured. It was his gall bladder. Out it went. Total bill: $25K. But we were back at it shortly thereafter.
I am not kidding when I tell you what happened next. On the morning of June 8, I ran 5 miles in preparation for a race coming up. That afternoon Mitch wanted to go bicycling together. It was mile 22 when something happened, and over my handle bars I went, smashing my head with no helmet on the blacktop (explains a lot now, huh?). The ambulance came and took us to the local hospital. I had a subdural hematoma and had to be airlifted immediately to Dayton’s trauma hospital. There I lay in ICU for seven days, just one month before my grand opening.
At my release, my neurologist told me to do nothing for nine months. Total bill: $75K. SSI was not an option, so we went back at it, and I alternated between building shelves and lying down on the shop floor because vertigo made me sick, or folding fabric on put-ups and lying down on the floor. Our grand opening was delayed by only two days! I opened on July 5, 2002.
The Power of Passion
I did not open my shop with the passion that might drive most folks. At that time my only passion was the determination to succeed. And during 15 years of some incredibly rough times, new passions unfolded and eventually I embraced them. Some were temporary while others had a little more staying power.
I find my passion in every day by doing what I love to do. That is the litmus test for what I do next. If I’m not feeling it or it’s not feeling good, I’m not doing it. I’m not going to do it even if everybody else is doing it. It is my business; it is my passion. I still have that drive, that determination to go for it, but I now know that I have other options.
Passion is a strong emotion within you to do something. What is your passion? How does it fit in your world? I would love to share my journey with you. It is my hope that you will find something of worth, some kindred drive that invites you to look within at your own passion and allow it to lead you in making decisions in your business and your life.
We are in the most amazing industry. We are the passionate, creative folks who will inspire, equip, and empower others to live their passion large and out loud. Let’s see what we can do together because surely when one of us shines, we all shine!