Since the day I brought Adorabelles into this world, I’ve taken every step possible to exude professionalism. Industry leaders said, “fake it ‘til you make it” and I did my best to make a very small operation look like a well-oiled, smooth-running machine. Although the main cog inside was wore down and on the verge of breaking, the outside of this thriving boutique business machine was always bright, colorful and pristine to the social media eye.
The fact that I’ve hustled to create such a beautiful image of success and “girl-boss-ism” for 5 years makes it HARD to now break that mindset and let you behind the scenes to see the not-so-prettiness. Today, I have to tear down those walls and be something I haven’t ever truly let myself be in a public way. I have to be REAL with you.
My momma always told me not to air my dirty laundry. However, she also told me that if I had to hide something, then I wasn’t doing the right thing. I always come to a fork in the road when my deeply ingrained “Joyce-isms” start battling against each other on the moral battlefield inside my mind. The winner of that month-long mental war I’ve had regarding how I’d deliver this news is that here in 2019, transparency is best. Also, my laundry isn’t dirty. It’s perfectly clean; it’s just been sitting in the dryer needing folded for a really, REALLY long time.
“It’s okay to not be okay.” That’s a saying we’ve been hearing more and more as the negative stigma around mental health has begun dissolving and people are becoming more comfortable being more transparent with each other about their feelings. But you know what isn’t “okay”? It isn’t “okay” to not be okay and continue to not do anything about it year after year. It isn’t okay to be downright miserable and feel like you’re not in control. It isn’t okay to work 90 hours a week. It isn’t okay to not have time to go visit my family. It isn’t okay to have to cancel on plans with my friends. It isn’t okay to use the excuse that “I’m drowning at work” to not be able to attend events I’m invited to. It isn’t okay to not be able to go on a vacation. It isn’t okay to not be able to walk my puppy because I don’t get home from work until midnight. It isn’t okay that my husband waits until 1 a.m. to eat dinner every night so that he can eat with me. It isn’t okay that I’m immensely blessed to have all four of my grandparents still alive and I don’t even have time to go visit with them, let alone call them on the phone. It isn’t okay that my mom had a stroke last year and I couldn’t take time off to go spend time with her during her recovery, nor the few years before that when she had breast cancer (Yeah, we’re putting Joyce in a bubble). I can go on and on with an entire novel’s worth of all the things that aren’t okay in my life right now but that wouldn’t be okay either. What I’m trying to explain is that things haven’t been okay for far too long and it isn’t okay that I haven’t been doing anything to change that until now.
In my nearly 30 years of being me, I’ve experienced no worse feeling than that of being “stuck”. I’ve prided myself on being someone who was independent, strong-willed and perseverant through any situation that came my way. I’ve claimed that I don’t take “no” for an answer and that I find a way to do the things I want to do. For 2 years now, that’s not who I’ve been or what I’ve been doing.
When I decided to start a clothing company, it was truly on a whim. If you’ve read the “Our Story” section on our website, you know that Adorabelles stemmed from the effort to make some extra money while planning my wedding. What happened was I accidentally loved it. I started out selling clothing, jewelry and shoes directly on Facebook for the first year and a half and then designed my own website. I loved everything about that hustle from taking photos of the clothes, making orders for people, going to the post office with my mound of pink packages and watching all of it grow. Once I completed grad school, I was really encouraged by the customer base to open a store. It was never my original goal or intention, but it felt like what the people wanted. Truly, I was terrified to do that. It’s a huge risk to move from operating online/having next to absolutely no overhead costs to paying a commercial lease, employees and maintaining a storefront. I felt like I had been playing catch out in the back yard with my dad and then the major leagues were calling me up. Those are two different worlds and I wasn’t sure I was ready.
If you’ve ever had a conversation with me in person, you know that I’m not good at it. I struggle to make eye contact. I often close my eyes altogether to avoid having to look the person I’m talking to (what even is that about?!). I blurt out things that don’t make sense. I trip over my words. Often times, I end up saying something that I never meant to say and either confuse people or sometimes even make them mad. I have a couple of strong suits, but I promise you that interpersonal communication is NOT one of them. How in the world was I going to open a store and TALK to people one-on-one every day?! How was I going to manage employees and have them respect me if I didn’t even know how to properly communicate? Opening a store was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life, but you know what? I did it and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never regretted it for one moment. This story isn’t about my decision to open that boutique. This story is about my decision to open another one.
When you’re young and you find unimaginable success that you never dreamed you’d find, you get (in my most southern voice possible) “too big for your britches.” Around year 2 of operating the Richmond store, I noticed people began to ask me where our second location was going to be. I had my hands full running the store I already had and had never even thought about opening another one. It was a thought that hadn’t entered my mind but with each encounter where someone asked me about it, it stayed with me more. Should we open another store? Where would we open another store? Who would run the second store? You know what question I didn’t take enough time to ask myself? Can I HANDLE having another store?
From the ages of 24 – 27, my husband and I went through an era of our lives that we reflect on quite often. We made a collection of hasty decisions that we’d probably go back and change if we could in both our personal lives and with the business. We didn’t think a lot of things through and much like anyone else in their 20’s, we learned A LOT.
One of the most important lessons my late 20’s brought me was that you CANNOT pour from an empty cup. You probably gathered that my cup has been bone-dry for quite some time. All the non-okayness I described a few paragraphs back is the epitome of an “empty cup.” I am spread as thin as a human can possibly be spread to the point that I’ve become numb towards something that use to be my PASSION. I use to wake up every day excited to go to work; now I can barely wake up because I was up until 3 a.m. preparing for the next day. I could write another sob story of a section about how unhappy I am with my current state-of-being but let’s face it, nobody is RSVP-ing to my pity party (not even me).
I always, ALWAYS tell everyone around me to stop complaining about problems and start finding solutions. If I hear someone going on with negativity, I stop them and ask them how they’re going to fix it. Let’s be honest, I have been talking the talk but not walking the walk. I’ve known what I needed to do for over a year, but I’ve been stuck in a situation where I was worried about how both my incredible customers and amazingly loyal employees would think. I’ve been paralyzed by a mixture of the fear of breaking their hearts and the fear of a negative public perception. What will people say? Will people think I’m a failure? Will people stop shopping at my other store? Will the girls who work for me hate me? Will they think I don’t care about them? The worries that run through my mind all day and all night could fill an entire book. At some point, you have to worry about yourself the most. At some point, you have to put yourself first. I feel a chaotic combination of selfishness, disappointment, apologetic, worry, appreciative, terror and bravery, but above all else, I feel relieved.
Our decision to close our Georgetown store has been a very long soul-searching journey but, in the end, was the necessary choice for both the business, my family and myself. The Georgetown location opened its doors for the last time this past Thursday and will not be re-opening this coming week. We wanted to end on a subtle note and make this transition in the most professional way possible. After all, remaining professional has and will always be extraordinarily important to me.
I want to take a second to thank a LOT of people. I want to thank the amazing group of women who worked there and who will belong to the Adorabelles family, forever. I want to thank Kaye Hunt, who managed this store for 2 ½ years and undoubtedly made it her entire world. Most of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who loved and supported the Georgetown store. I understand that you’re probably upset, and I don’t blame you. I simply hope you can forgive me and hope that you can you understand why this is what I had to do.
The store in itself was not a failure. The store had its own amazing group of loyal customers that it’s killing me to disappoint. The store was a success. The store was profitable. A few days ago, this interesting thing was said to me and it’s probably true: “People will ask ‘if you were making money, why are you closing?’” To the people who may be thinking that same question, I think everything I’ve just told you will answer your question. What good is money if you have no time to spend it? What good is financial stability if you don’t have mental stability? Call me “crazy”, but money means nothing to me if it comes at the sacrifice of my happiness. That’s my answer to that question and I truly hope you all will pass it along for me.
So, what comes next? I PROMISE this story has a happy ending, or honestly, a happy beginning. In the midst of my empty cup and non-okayness, I have been keeping my head barely above water in the hustle to GROW Adorabelles and it’s definitely blooming. My first love for Adorabelles grew from my love of operating an online business and shopadorabelles.com has skyrocketed this past year! The world is going full-speed in the direction of e-commerce and it’s going to take a strong team to maintain the rising success we’re currently experiencing. It’s a ride that I’m excited to be on and excited to finally have Kaye be a part of.
In regard to the Richmond store, it’s not going anywhere. The Richmond store is my actual child. I have put my soul into making it a success and it’s truly the only place in the world that feels like home. Running a store use to feel like an impossible feat that I’d never be able to do, but now I know it was what I was MEANT to do. We will continue to serve you all with the absolute best customer service, affordable clothing and all-around great atmosphere to shop in, because I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you took the time to read this until the end, you’re exact the kind of person I wrote this for, and I appreciate you with all my heart. I always end my ramblings with the salutation “Colorfully Yours, Devin” but I haven’t felt “colorfully” anything at all in quite some time.
Here’s to taking control of my life, refilling my cup, spending more time with my family, having more hours to love on my puppy, making traveling a priority, maybe having time for hobbies (gasp!) and hopefully being on the road to being “Colorfully Yours” once again, very soon.