There have been a million reasons we haven't written anything since Spring of 2018. It has, indeed, been over a year since my last BLOG post and for that, I apologize- not that I expect many of you have been waiting with bated breath for the musings of a middle-aged, sometimes cranky and overbearing husband, father, and doggy-dad. For whatever reason, this felt like the right time to put pen to paper…it’s time to get y’all back in the fold. I give you my word I will share words (and Rhonda, too- along with maybe some guest input along the way) once or twice a week going forward. There’s a lot to talk about, some of it may even be interesting- but whatever it is, it will be honest. Our goal here is to give insight into what we do, how we do it, and let you join us for the ride. We have a ton of plans for where we want to take rusted fence and many of the thoughts behind our strategy will be very public. Laugh, cry, criticize- we will take it all in stride. So, for the returning diatribe, I’ve decided to chop this “WHERE HAVE WE BEEN” recap into 2 or 3 parts, depending on how wordy I get…enjoy.
LET FREEDOM RING - Today is July 4th, 2019- Independence Day and the first full week of my retirement is ending…Yes, retirement- not retirement in the true sense of the word, because clearly at the age of 49, a full 6-months short of the dreaded “50”, we would have some significant pain from the IRS if I took early payout on stock and my 401. No, this retirement is just a walk-away from the corporate world, in this case Publix Super Markets, a privately held (employee-owned) super market chain of just less than 1200 stores in the Southeastern U.S. Walking away from one’s ‘Big Boy’ job is not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re 10-years short of anywhere near proper timing…but walk away is what I did. We’ve all had that moment where we step back and assess what really makes us happy and how we can best pivot to make the most of where we are at in life. That moment for me was in February of this year and I can almost give you the exact day and hour, at our annual meetings in Lakeland. I kept hearing the shrill sound of her voice as it moaned like a rusty hinge, droning on about checking boxes. It was clearly time to say good bye to this closing door, time to check out the opening door over here…
WE’RE NOT HERE TO STEAL YOUR MAGNOLIAS - Rhonda and I were the original Chip and Joanna… (how many times have we heard that from some young super-home-decoratey-type couple?) No, but really, WE were them before THEY were them. They were just smarter and faster to the starting line, crushed us and everyone else out of the gate, got into a huge, comfortable, and ludicrously cash producing stride, and crossed the finish line before the ink even dried on our business plan. Now we are playing catch up, trying to go to school on the path they have forged for us and a million would be copycats. You’ll remember (at least some of you, I hope) the very first blog I wrote back in February of 2018. If you want a quick refresher, you can find it here. I talked a little about Rhonda and I, who we were and the roots of decor and what would eventually morph into the inspiration for rusted fence. I am very proud to say, not much from that opening salvo has changed. We are still very much committed to Simple. Inspired. Style. That was actually the name of the blog in the beginning, and that too, is due for a facelift- but we’ll talk more about that later. Our goal was and always will be, to give people a place to talk and shop all things home-related but at a price that could be affordable yet not cheap.
THOSE WHO IGNORE HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT - By all accounts, it has been a crazy last couple of years. Let me timeline this for you… We launched the company in Q3 of 2017 which is to say, all of the legal stuff was handled, we put the business plan and all of the great ideas that had been scribbled over late evenings and Pinot Grigio, into actual action. I taught myself just how much I didn’t know about WordPress and building websites, set up all of the merchant and “back-of-house” operations, and learned that wholesalers don’t really like you unless you can meet their exorbitant minimum purchase requirements. All of this while putting in the required 10-hour days on the full-time gig. Those of you that really know me, know that I like my 4:00 AM emails and texts. I know none of you are up (except you Annie), but when you do finally crawl out of bed, I need an answer to whatever problem I was having- all before the rooster’s even cleared his throat. The funny thing was, my schedule was nothing compared to Rhonda’s. She was up and answering emails by 7:00 AM, out the door by 8:00 AM, and if she walked in the door by 7:00 PM that night, we called it a win. I would be crashed out by 9:00 PM with Rhonda in bed next to me mapping Christmas floor sets and doing schedule review for her primary employer, with a little side work on product planning for rusted fence. All in all, the last 4 months of 2017 pretty much sucked.
NEW YEAR / NEW HOPE - With the New Year, 2018 brought renewed energy, and a confidence that would careen our business into the stratosphere of the uber-successful somewhere between Pottery Barn and WayFair. After all, we had a combined 50+ years of business experience- how could we fail, right? Okay, this is where you think I’m going to tell you we fell on our face…and you would be correct, because we did- a lot. We fell on our face almost daily, just not such a hard fall that we couldn’t get up and recover…to fall (and fail) again. Lots of little trips and miss-steps. The saving grace, besides lots of prayer and divine intervention at times, was our absolute determination to make this work- and that experience I referred to, was a great fall back when we were just too exhausted to think.
TIME TO SHOP! - Our first “Mart” experience was in January and it did not disappoint. Atlanta’s Americas Mart is a twice-yearly event that lasts 8 or 9 days and is a continual review of wholesalers and the newest and greatest products for all things home, furnishings, and fashion. Rhonda had been to one of the shows last year with a friend and that event was the building block for our white-wine induced strategy sessions in the Summer of 2017. We met with our first suppliers and some (Mud Pie) that we will never, ever, buy a thing from…ever! It is super easy to get seduced by the parties and freebies, all in the name of placing “show-special” orders. It was a quick orientation into working for yourself and realizing the money you spend is truly your own. No Kickstarter campaigns or venture capitalists were beating down our door to invest- this would fall on me, Rhonda, and American Express. We survived our first “Mart” and would live to tell about it. We were a business, had a website to prove it, and now we would actually have product to sell on said website. Look out Amazon, we’re coming for you!
THE IDES OF MARCH- We launched our online presence via FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram in March, while sending out emails to everyone in our “Friends & Family” network, including discount coupons and shipping incentives. Product from January “Mart” began to arrive as the UPS driver quickly realized that we were now going to make his daily route into our subdivision much more labor intensive. I swear I heard him mutter on more than one occasion “damn entrepreneurs!” as he drove the bulbous brown blob away from our home. Our product was heavy and we quickly realized that while pricing was wholesale, the shipping and residential delivery was not. Time to pivot again…GOOGLE to the rescue. Quick searches found that using the local UPS Store qualified as a commercial address and a little research into USPS and services that provide shipping volume discounts, could lower rates considerably. Good to know…not that we were shipping anything yet…but still good to know when and if we ever had actual online sale to someone other than a family member or friend that lived in the next subdivision.
APRIL SHOWERS- God decided it was time for Rhonda to quit killing herself for someone else’s dime and after much consternation, she walked away from her 30-year career in April of 2018. 30+ years working in and around shopping malls could demoralize anyone, but not Rhonda- she loved it. Save for the HELL that is November and December each year, the business of soft-lines retail can be somewhat rewarding…and Rhonda had it down to a science. With that, hanging up her keys was no easy task for someone who’s very genetic code was seemingly cast somewhere between former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and legendary interior designer Dorothy Draper. Anyone that would let her go was a fool, but as I’ve always said, Rhonda needed to be running her own show. I am confident that it’s now time to prove me right- (whispers silent prayer that we can actually make money at some point).