Facing Failure (and Moving Past It)


It’s been a while since I wrote about Papoose and my desire to support Nantucket families, so I thought I’d take a moment to update everyone on how it’s going:

Through the generosity of friends and family, I received $2,715 to put towards opening the store.  I am incredibly grateful for the support I received, often from completely unexpected places!

You’ll remember that when I finished the business plan in November, my original goal was to be open by late spring, in time for the 2011 season on Nantucket.  I thought I would put together a stellar business plan and documentation to show that Chris is supporting us financially (and that we didn’t need to make money off of the store for a few years if necessary), then walk into a bank and get a loan.  With all the talk for the ARRA and SBA backing for new businesses, I thought that getting a loan would be simple.  Chris and I were willing to take on the additional debt because we knew that my plan was sound, that we would be making a huge difference in our community, and that it would eventually allow us the best of both worlds: me earning income without having to put our children in the care of strangers.

It turns out that things are not so simple.  Only one bank on island is willing to loan money to businesses that are less than three years old.  And that bank requires not only is a minimum 10% down payment, but also collateral.  Since we are not homeowners, we can’t provide the collateral, which means it is impossible for me to get a loan, even an SBA-backed loan.  I had projected a comfortable opening would require just under $80,000, but it could have been managed for $60,000.  I had hopes that a few of our family members would be interested in partnering with us on the idea and providing financial support, but our parents don’t have the savings required and the other family member who had hoped to help had a change of life situation.  And so summer 2011 started without me.

I was and am really, really bummed about not being able to get the money together to open for this season (and at this rate, it’s unlikely I could even open in the next few years since I don’t have the possibility of a loan).  As spring came to a close I started to feel more and more like a failure, especially because I had made my goal so incredibly public.  I spent a long time talking to Chris about the public nature of my failure.  Of course, I had to set up a website and tell people what I was doing in order to try to raise funds, but part of me wishes I hadn’t because it would have been so much easier to just let it go if know one knew what I wanted to do.

Not only is it embarrassing to have said I was going to do something and then not be able to follow through, but it also is frustrating that I couldn’t garner greater support here on island.  Out of the donations I received, only two came form Nantucket families, the rest came from my wonderful family, friends from high school or college, and professional acquaintances off-island.  I spent a lot of time talking up my business plan both in groups and one-on-one.  I purchased a few online ads with dismal results.  I had a great number of friends here on island telling others what I wanted to do.  From all those efforts I had many, many mothers telling me how needed Papoose is on Nantucket and how excited they were about it, but I didn’t receive the financial support for which I had hoped  — not even small individual donations of $5 or $10.  Clearly, I wasn’t successful in helping islanders to see how giving their money now would help them in the future; that they weren’t just gifting me money, they were investing in our community.

I have thought a lot about this failure and why it may or may not have happened, a lot about why I want to open Papoose and what I want it to do for Nantucket.  The thing is, I’m not ready to give up. I have a great vision, and I want to change our community!  I love all this pregnancy, birth, and infant care business; I feel like it’s what I’m meant to be doing and it’s not just about making money, so I’ve formulated a new plan for a second attempt at Papoose.

Over this summer, I am applying for 501c3 status, which will allow me to be grant funded and also seek larger private donations which would be tax-deductible for the givers.

Going non-profit will mean that the initial focus will be on the education and community aspects rather than retail. I’m not sure yet how much I can sell and still maintain non-profit status, so for now I will have to put that aside. I’m disappointed that I can’t bring the products here that are so sorely needed, but I’m incredibly excited about moving forward with class and support group offerings in the fall. I have confirmed a partnership with the Nantucket Community School and Community Network For Children. Through this partnership, I will have assistance with initial funding for some classes and a guaranteed location for classes/groups which, though not ideal, is better than no location. I know for sure that some class offerings will go live in the fall, but everything else will move forward at a slower pace.

That’s where I stand right now. I’m still going to do something (arguably the most important thing), but the plan has morphed to fit the reality of finances.  I have a lot to learn about starting and running a not-for-profit, but I know I can do it.  (And the first step is finding a good accountant!)  Wish me luck…

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3 responses

  1. Lovelorn Poets Avatar
    Lovelorn Poets

    Amber, The last thing you are is a failure! I think this is simply a matter of taking an idea and then refining to the point where you can make it happen independently – and then having it unfold incrementally. Yes, it’s always a bummer when you don’t get more input or support from groups or individuals you expected it from – but you are not alone in feeling that frustration or disappointment – it think everyone who has ever tried to launch a creative endeavor or business has experienced that. The key point is that you stay true to your ideals, your idea, and what you want to have – and not think so much about what the other folks are doing. When the time is right it’ll all come to be – and in the meantime, try to enjoy and learn from the process – each exciting or uncomfortable step of the way. 🙂

  2. sarah Avatar

    find matt an it job and we’ll be there, teaching birth classes!!! I’m so ready to move out of the bible belt…. these people make me sad. They talk about Jesus all the time, but they refuse to help people. I don’t get it and I’m tired of it! plus, I like snow…

  3. Amber,
    I love your blog but for some reason never caught this post. I am a lawyer and have worked for a nonprofit forming new 501c3s and helping existing nonprofits with corporate governance and other transactional legal issues. I am not in any way offering legal advice, but I do know of a lot of resources for new nonprofits and for those thinking of starting one. Send me an email of you are still in need of resources, I can pass along websites, publications, webinars, etc.

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