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On Starting a Business...and Thriving in a Pandemic

This topic has been written about ad nauseum over the last several months, but writing has always been a love of mine and I am trying to embrace and harness my strengths these days.

On starting a business. Firstly, I must give credit where credit is due and that is with Mike, my husband and partner for the last 23 years. We both have a bit of wanderlust, passion and restlessness in our blood and have always talked about starting our own business, dating back to our honeymoon when I distinctly remember talking about how to invent a bikini razor. Needless to say, we didn’t invent a bikini razor. Then there was the “let’s open a breakfast café” phase (which thankfully we were talked out of), the “let’s buy an existing, local small business” phase, the “let’s buy an apple orchard” phase (the apple orchard is now owned by Tabitha and Stephen King and frankly, I was right, this would have been a great idea!), and finallythere was the natural transition into fencing.

It all started in a 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan, of which I swore endlessly that I would never own such a vehicle. But 3 months into motherhood had me jumping at the opportunity to own a minivan. I digress. Mike loaded all of his tools into the back of our minivan in 2016 and set out to install fences in our neighbors and friend’s backyards. He worked constantly, almost literally 24/7. Over the course of a few years, he began to build a reputation of being fair, honest, hardworking and producing a quality product. Once Mike purchased a truck and moved out of the minivan, we knew this “had legs” as our good friend Erin would say. And MOhawk Fence was born.

Jumping ahead to 2019 to keep this story moving, we incorporated MOhawk Fence as a woman owned business as part of our big picture strategy and Mike left his very well paid, full time job. It was a scary time, but we knew we had to take this leap. So armed with a lot of inspirational quotes, tequila, and well wishes, we leapt. And we didn’t look back, not even once.

And then life stopped. It came to a grinding halt. It was quiet, there was no traffic going by our home, we watched the magnolia tree bloom, planted a garden, and watched the birds. We cried, a lot, and by we, I mean I. And we worried, and by we, I mean I. We bought toilet paper, so much ice cream, and a lot of canned food. We prepared for the worst, bolstered by whispers that we wouldn’t be able to leave our home, not even for food. We thought of executing Plan B, which involves a move to New Hampshire and living off the land. But life continued, with a “new normal” and “unprecedented times” (if I never have to utter those phrases again I will be a happy woman).

We hear so many stories of businesses that just couldn’t survive the pandemic, and we truly feel awful that small businesses were decimated as a result of poor governing and government overreach, but again, I digress. We are among the lucky businesses that have absolutely thrived in the face of the storm. We celebrated our 1-year anniversary as an incorporated business, I left my very well-paid job with health benefits to work for MOhawk, and we saw a nearly 40% increase in sales. We’ve grown our crew from a one-man show to seven, are placing our first material bulk order, increased our rental space from a 10’ x 10’ stall to an additional stall, 2 garage bays and 1000 square feet of open space, and are collaborating with a creative designer to launch a new service next summer. Life is good as they say.

I've struggled with wasted opportunities of our youth as we grow this business and turn another year older, and hopefully wiser. But as Mike reminded me, if we hadn't gone through the struggles we wouldn't be here. Here's to starting a business...and thriving in a pandemic!

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