A few weeks ago, Habitation Co. turned one. At the risk of sounding cliché, in some ways the past year flew by, but in other ways (and on most days) this has felt like the longest year of my life. In the short time that I have been building my business, several of our friends have had actual babies of their own and as they've shared their stories of sleepless nights and mini-milestones, I've nodded along, picturing my own delirium-inducing-joy-filled-days of keeping my own "baby" alive. But the thing is, a business isn't a baby (it actually drives me crazy when people refer to them as such), and compared to a delicate, darling, awe-inspiring newborn human, a business is a nebulous, illusive, all-consuming, tentacled beast with an appetite for blood, sweat, and tears. Also, no one asks you if your baby is "making any money" or if you "still like it"... that would be weird.
But this beast of a thing? I love it, like really love it, more everyday. Sure, this past year has had its ups and downs, but I feel like a kid on a rollercoaster who was just told I could stay on for another turn- white knuckles, nausea, nervous excitement, and all. A year is hardly enough time to get the hang of anything (marriage taught me that) but I'm starting to feel less and less like an imposter every day. I guess in some ways, this first year felt like getting to know a new friend (again, business: not human), who is also your roommate, or your conjoined twin, or maybe it's mostly like that weird mole you should have looked at. Well, this isn't going as planned, but then again, that's pretty much my point.
More than anything, this past year has been a lesson in letting go of expectations, control, big fluffy dreams, and fear. I've learned to embrace failure just a tiny bit better, and let my guard down when it comes to making a complete fool of myself- if only, as it often is, for myself. And I've had a helluva time doing it- and the "doing" is what it's really all about. Habitation Co., in various manifestations, had been a dream of mine for over a decade, like a little seed that I carried with me through college, cross-country moves, on job interviews, and around the world, and while last year was when I decided to finally plant it, it still has so far to grow. (ok, now it's a plant?)
Today, Habitation Co. is primarily an online shop- a space where I have been able to convey the essence of habitation, "the process of living", through curated products that help tell a part of this story in a tangible way. Throughout the course of sourcing and selecting products made by people I admire, I've been able to blend my love of storytelling, culture, history, style, and design with my interest in taking better care of the earth, and everything on it. Also, a shop was familiar.
My love of shop life goes way back to my first job in high school working for a lovely locally-owned stationery and gift boutique where I made lifelong friends over a few years. In college and beyond I learned everything I could about the ins, outs, and upside-downs of managing a small business from mentors I still deeply admire. I love being a shopgirl- getting in early, staying late, merchandising, customer service, holiday adrenaline rushes- the whole gig. But when it came to opening my own shop, I wasn't in a position, financially or otherwise, to start with a storefront, so I decided to test the waters of online retail.
If you've ever held the palm of your hand over a jacuzzi jet, you have an idea of what it feels like to start an online retail business with little to no prior experience, but I was determined to swim. For a year I swam upstream, working my way backwards through business school by way of books, podcasts, blogs, e-courses, webinars, newsletters, and more, trying to learn all I could about how to run a successful business, expand my reach, refine my brand, and find my purpose. I became a total geek over creative entrepreneurship to the point that I started to pursue a career as a business-branding-lifestyle-all-the-things "consultant". I figured I could put my 2,000+ hours of research into practice, and save someone else some time and money to invest in their own ideas. This lead to me working with a few local design clients and to me starting a local group for creatives that meets monthly to chat small business, creativity, and ideas for collaborations which has been amazing, though I started to wonder if I could do "both" (I saw my shop and my creative services as separate) and worried that I would have to choose between them as a lot of business "advice" recommends. But, I can't choose- not in the way parents say they couldn't possibly pick a favorite child- but because my beast was born with tentacles, lots of them, and they are all essential for its survival. I know that now.
This past year has been spent mostly thinking about the "Habitation" part, but the "Co." really encompasses so much more. Traditionally "Co." stands for company, but in this case, "community" feels like a better fit. My dream for this business is to grow into a vibrant creative community, a space to share ideas and experiences about this "process of living in a particular place" that we're figuring out together. I am so excited to see how Habitation Co. continues to evolve, both in my personal creative journey, and as a platform for sharing inspiring stories about people, places, and things I discover along the way.
So here's where I tell you what to expect from Habitation Co. but I delete and re-type that sentence five times because I'm sonervousexcited to even put it out there... but here goes:
People: stories about or interviews with artists, writers, travelers, chefs, farmers, teachers who are making the world a more beautiful place and exploring "the process of living" in their own ways. I'd really love to explore different mediums to see what makes sense or how that could evolve. A Podcast? Events? Retreats? All of the above? I'm in, if you are!
Places: travel guides or tours of where we travel, work, eat, shop, live. As someone who dreams up imaginary trip itineraries or mentally redesigns houses in the shower, I'm super excited for this one, and I love getting all up in people's spaces, so fingers crossed they'll be cool with it, too.
Things: objects, art, products, books, documentaries, clothes, food, tools, and more that reflect what Habitation Co. is all about. Slow, simple, quality, beauty, natural, ethical and the like.
Ideas: this is a big one that will usually share a space with one or more categories above, but here's where we'll be talking about sustainability, entertaining, creativity, business, and life in a way that feels casual, approachable, non-reproachable, and proactive. We're all learning.
So, I didn't think I wanted to write this post, and halfway in, I knew I didn't want to publish it. A year isn't long enough to know a whole lot about a business or what it means to have one. I mean, at a year old humans are just learning what to do with their teeth and toes, and what gravity feels like, and we start to recognize pieces of their personalities and preferences. Again, I'm not comparing a business to a baby, but I guess I understand the temptation to. I want to say that this year has taught me "so much" because it's true, but then I think, "what do I know"? I'm hoping that in another year, I'll look back on this post and laugh at how little I really knew. In reality, I'm still in entrepreneurship pre-school, so yes, if at the end of a year of doing this, I've learned to not pee my pants in public, occasionally ask for help, and develop my fine-motor skills, then I'll consider it a win.
And speaking of help, I would love any ideas or input for how to make this space better. Do you know of someone who should be featured on Habitation Co., or of a product that could be a good fit for the shop? Do you know how to produce a podcast? Let's chat! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, seriously, for being a part of this process- and for reading this wholllle thing.
Talk to you soon!