New Year Musings - The Sweet Smell of Success

Posted by Jessica Duncan on

“You really want to start paying yourself,” says yet another man in a suit. My cousin’s now famous book “Men Explain Things to Me” (Yes, I am name dropping Rebecca Solnit here) instantly pops to mind every single time one of these well-meaning dudes tells me the bloody obvious. No kidding! Of course I want to start paying myself. In fact, I’d much rather be paying myself than paying arbitrary bank fees that seem to increase every time I blink. I’d rather be paying myself than paying my steep rent and piles of bills every month. I’d rather be paying myself than coughing up thousands of dollars to accountants who like to tell me that I should be paying myself. However, I would not rather be paying myself if it’s a choice between that and sharing with my community. As I become more deeply entrenched in entrepreneurship, my definition of success becomes clearer, and that definition is based on how much my business can benefit those around me.

So, here’s the inside scoop on artisan granola – it’s no gold mine. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a boo-hoo session to convince you to buy more Singing Bowl Granola (though I definitely think you should buy more Singing Bowl Granola!). This is also not a holier-than-thou spiel suggesting you should do as I do - this whole post is about finding what works for you.  So, through a combination of hard work and good luck, my husband and I have been able to support ourselves mainly with funds raised before Singing Bowl Granola was even a thing. Despite not paying myself as often as the dudes in suits suggest, every morning I wake up in a comfortable house, with food in the fridge, healthy kids who are following their dreams, all of my needs met. I am fortunate enough to not have to worry excessively about the next pay cheque in order to maintain the roof over my head. From this place of privilege where I have enough to live comfortably, I am in the position to ensure that my community benefits as much (or more) from my business as I do. You, my customers support my efforts to make this world a better place.  Every time you buy a package of Singing Bowl Granola you are making a financial contribution towards those who are not so well off. Together, we are improving lives.

Up until recently, every time someone told me that I really should be paying myself now, while a well-intentioned piece of advice, I instantly crumbled. Instead of motivating me to go for broke, it made me feel like a complete and utter failure. After all, isn’t personal wealth the greatest sign of success in our culture? Don’t we measure a person’s position in society by the contents of their bank accounts? How could I possibly call myself a successful businesswoman when I'm not pulling in a healthy wage from the company that consumes my every thought? Yes, despite the fact that we are living quite comfortably, thank you very much, it took just that one sentence “You really want to start paying yourself now,” to reduce me to a whimpering mess of self-doubt. It is only in the past year or two that I have begun to realize that success is what we make it, and I choose to measure my success by how many lives I can improve with good food, cash donations, and general kindness.

Healthy Cookies ready to be delivered to the homeless.

These days I tend to find myself mentoring other start-up food businesses, and, above all, I want these new entrepreneurs to be able to recognize their successes in whatever form they appear. My advice includes old classics like “Don’t compare yourself to others. Celebrate each step forward. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t go according to plans. Be proud of what you’ve achieved so far. Look at the big picture.” Our society paints a very limited picture of what a successful business looks like, when, the truth of the matter is that very few businesses  actually match the standard rigid model. Many enterprises, whether they are grossing millions, or barely balancing the books, end up going under. And, that’s okay. While Singing Bowl Granola is definitely growing, I know that, as with everything else in life, there are no guarantees. I have also come to the conclusion that, should Singing Bowl Granola ever come to the end of its run, it will still have been a successful business because it has allowed me to help others. Every child who gets a bowl of organic porridge through the SBG Porridge Project, is a notch on my belt of success. Every homeless person who gets a couple of my healthy oatmeal cookies to start their day is testimony to the success of my business. Every year when we send cash from the sale of Giving Granola to Fruandes to help two or three of their employees improve their housing situation, I am happy with the success of the Giving Granola program.  

Three Fruandes employees receive a gift of Giving Granola along with approximately a month's wages.

So, while I may not be paying myself very much or very often, there are so many other ways to measure success. How do you measure your wins? Whether it is financial wealth, acts of kindness, falling down and getting back up again, or just getting through each day, we are all successful and must never allow others to make us feel otherwise. For whatever reason, the idea of success has long plagued me, usually leaving me feeling highly inadequate as I have never, ever fit into any stereotype.  My suspicion is that my experiences are the norm. My hope is that we can all remember to identify our personal victories and celebrate them and allow them to help us move forward always. Here's to a successful 2018!

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