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Being A Small Business Owner…

Timothy Sullivan - Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I used to be an executive on Madison Avenue working in the advertising industry. I suppose you could say I was one of the original Mad Men! While I loved the work I did there and it was an exciting time, the large companies I worked for were huge bureaucracies. Nowadays life is very different and I like to think of myself not as an executive or a CEO but as an artisan and a small business owner. There is very little time for bureaucracy when you are running a shop and a business like mine. I do a lot of things myself. I sweep the floors. I answer the phones. I glue the wicks. I pour the candles. I do it all. One time a customer called and asked to speak to the President of the company. I said, "Hold on one second. Let me put my broom down and I'll be right with you!"

However, the rewards are huge though. I love making the products we make and I enjoy that I now consider myself an artisan. I am proud of the happiness we can bring to people by creating a beautiful and well-constructed product. I love the staff who work with me and the community we work in. I always enjoy it when regular or new customers stop by and we can have a chat about the world and candles. I love that the little shop on Harper is a place where friends feel free to pop in and say hello. All in all, it makes for a very different life from Madison Avenue but one which I am very happy with.

Creating and lovingly producing a product brings a great deal of satisfaction. Rather than selling ideas, I sell a product. We put thought and care into making that product so it becomes less about coming up with creative ways of selling it and more about letting the product speak for itself. When people call the shop to say they have just burned one of our candles, loved it and would like to order more, it makes the hard work worthwhile. And the best thing is those phone calls always come on the days when I am worried about business. I like to think of that as the Universe reminding me that I am on the right track.

One of the great pleasures (and responsibilities) of running any small business is employing people. To offer others employment is a great calling and one I take very seriously. I love all my employees and they have all been with me a long time. I hope, as you read this blog, you will get to know some of the characters who help make Timothy Jay a success such as Anil, Anita and Stephen. I have been very lucky that I have also been able to offer a lot of part-time employment to people who are getting themselves on their feet again in early recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. To see how getting and holding down a job in a caring environment can help transform someone and give them a new start in life is truly a miracle and one that through this shop I have been able to witness time and time again. It really is a privilege.

To run any small business, you have to work hard and stick with it through the ups and downs. However, I have found that if you make a worthwhile product and put the work in, you always seem to pull through in the end. And, though Harper Avenue is a long way from Madison Avenue, I couldn't be happier with where I have ended up.

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