If you were told you may lose sight in one of your eyes in the coming years, would anything about your current behavior change? Would anything about your current outlook be different? Would obsession over changing the possibility overtake you?
I have not approached 40 years of age, but have suffered three cerebral brain aneurysms and two brain surgeries in my days. Last Spring (2021) I found out I have another brain aneurysm forming, on my right optic nerve, and that if it continues to grow and requires another brain surgery to correct, the operation will take my sight in that eye due to its location. I am not sure if the news coming within seven months of the most painful, intense craniotomy I could have imagined dulled it, or the fact we hit the world pandemic at that time as well, but even today, it really does not impact me or my decisions. If anything, it gives me more drive and more determination to reach my goals. It also adds a layer of fearlessness to me, because when you continuously get news like that from doctors, not much else phases you.
Welcome to a pinch of my world. As 2022 begins, I have made it a personal goal to become more avid about journaling life, life goals, life upsets, life accomplishments, and the in between, as I start what I am planning to be the biggest year yet for me, and pandemic or not, 2021 was not that bad of a year to follow.
Who am I you ask? I am a determined female trying to make a mark in a still male dominated playing field, and frankly, I do not plan to stop trying. I learned quite a while ago that a girl who makes some noise and has demands is a b*tch, but a guy doing the same, well that my friends is a leader. Today, I can attest that stereotype still stands true, so as a woman trying to make it, my first piece of advice, thick skin for all. I attended Duquesne University for my undergraduate and MBA, and actually worked in public accounting for about ten years after graduation, specifically, taxation. I honestly loved it. The work was challenging, plentiful, and advancing was highly competitive. I was in my playground. I particularly enjoyed reading tax code and writing memos, but that work was a bit scarcer at my level. I will not lie and say being a man was not beneficial in the industry, but when they started making different paths for men and woman to grow and get on partner tracks and obviously pointing that out, that was when I knew my career had to go elsewhere. I ventured for one year to corporate taxation, which was even more sexist, and then I knew, I would need a small firm or my own business to keep my interest.
The entire time I worked in public accounting, my family had a seasonal soft service ice cream stand in Bethel Park, PA. It opened April-September, and I ran it for several seasons. My father bought it to show me what being your own boss really was, as my family is very entrepreneurial. The shop was a love/hate relationship. The freedom was great, the amount of work and dealing with employee and customer issues was not, especially at that age. My personal life was constantly jeopardized, and I therefore decided to focus more on my tax work and try to do the 9-5 career.
Fate had different plans though, and driving to work one day I saw a copycat Dari-Delite building for lease in Shaler, PA. It was close to my accounting office, and had equipment left behind making it almost a turn-key business for someone like me. I had to call, and 2 months later I opened a Kelley’s Dari-Delite on Babcock Blvd., which ran April-October, opposite my busy season in taxes. I kept my full-time job most of the time I ran this, and kept it staffed with high school kids and the help of my aunt during Spring and Fall seasons. I had the business for five years, and I loved it. It became my happy place quickly.
If you read that and immediately thought, small business is for me, I do want to shed light on a few things. Getting money for a small business is not easy, and even harder for a woman. I have personal experience more than once, so no one can tell me that is not true. If you need money, get it all at once, and get more than you think you need, because you need more than you think you need. If you are interested in a turn-key or close to a turn-key, do not take their word for that. Research it, know your business needs, now and if it grows. Getting more space is hard, so if you quickly outgrow your current quarters, rebuilding or moving is not cheap, nor easy. Buildouts are expensive, and if you are leasing those are capital improvements that you are just taking over time on your taxes, so think about that. Remember, every encounter with a landlord, real estate agent, broker…is a negotiation. Do not accept the first number you hear, do not get emotionally attached to anything. Do not sign anything, even an intent to lease, without understanding zoning and building permitting. Are you the only food establishment around for a while, do not assume you have a huge market, question if there is a restriction you are not sure of creating that open market, and sorry, but do not take your real estate agent or landlords’ word. Do your homework, it is your money. Talk to the township, talk to the building inspectors, they are not against you.
As tax season and the running of the Dari-Delite carried on, I went out of town to New York City and happened into a very old-style gelato shop. I had often thought of ways to make the Dari-Delite open all year, and had tried selling Christmas trees and hot chocolate, and even various crafts, but at the end of the day the profits weren’t high enough for all the work, so the walk-in gelato shop grabbed my interest as a new way to open year-round. It gave me the idea of creating a visual ice cream display, and making all the ice cream homemade on site, because at that point I loved variety and options. Upon return to Pittsburgh, I spent a year looking up different spots I could afford and convert to my very scattered drawing I made of my indoor year-round spot. I also knew I wanted to be on site for the entire buildout, as my family is heavily into contracting and I wanted to learn those skills. Eventually, I stumbled upon 5330 William Flynn Highway, made a deal, and started the longest, most intense buildout of my life. The property did not even have a toilet, running water, or an electrical box. Knowing today what I did not know then, I was crazy, but I was young and stubborn. The 8-month buildout, yes, 8-months, made me very smart though, and all those mistakes really grew in my future buildout processes. When churn opened its doors October 30, 2015, I became blessed and have been ever since. It did make 2016 the last season for the Dari-Delite on Babcock, mainly because of churn’s quick success and the fact I couldn’t continue both to the satisfaction I would want them to be. It was the most bittersweet goodbye.
The lesson here is to understand buildouts; at least the basics. What will your business need, how many sinks, where are the bathrooms, what codes do you need to follow, are we ADA accessible, how is your counter laid out, do you have enough plugs for your equipment, is your air conditioner big enough, is your kitchen efficient, is your occupancy enough, do you have handicap parking, what permits do you need, etc..
Today, there are three open churn locations, and a fourth that closed its doors in 2021. I am
planning to start franchising this year, and think I will also put a churn in my hometown in the next year or two. I often stop and think and cannot believe this journey has only been six years so far, but I always tell myself, if it all ends tomorrow, it was the most amazing six years of my life. I try to live every day to its fullest, and in a unique sense, I take that as the gift my health has given me. My chronic migraines and constant battles with doctors to find the right medicines and cocktails to give me days of peace from pain have taught me to enjoy days in ways many do not. It has also given me a unique sense of dealing with stress and trauma, which I would be lying if I did not admit has helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Welcome to a brief tale of some of my days and journey.
Hope you join for the next post.