This Is The Story I'm Not Supposed To Tell You

September 24, 2013

I’ve been told I shouldn’t tell you this story. I’ve been told that this story makes me look bad. I dreaded getting out of bed this morning. More accurately, I dreaded waking up. But it was the thought of finally telling this story that made me swing my legs over the edge and rise to my feet. It was January first, 2013. I unloaded the contents of my now former cupcake bakery and returned the building keys to my landlord the afternoon before. It was the first day of a new year. I was ready. Ready for something big. I had finished creating forty of the forty-five recipes for The Dollop Book of Frosting and I was readying to start the photography phase. At the same time I was running around like a crazy woman making buckets of frosting, gathering labels and jars, and creating a table display to ship to San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show on January 19th. The decision to exhibit at the Fancy Food Show was a hasty one. Rash, some called it. Upon closing the cupcake bakery my intentions were to take my gluten-free all natural packaged gourmet frosting line to the masses. With vivid dreams of jars of Dollop Gourmet Frosting lining grocery store shelves and being prominently displayed in the likes of Williams Sonoma and Target, I was primed with a whatever-it-takes attitude and a goal of world frosting domination. It would’ve been cheaper and more convenient to wait until June to exhibit at the Fancy Food Show in NYC versus flying across the country to the West Coast but I was so eager for success, I didn’t want to wait. Besides, I reasoned, if I could get Dollop Gourmet Frosting in stores by September, coinciding with the book launch, I could take advantage of what seemed to be the perfect branding opportunity, packaging frosting and cookbook gift bundles for the holiday season. The exhibition sang. For three days Dan and I handed out frosting samples while garnering interest from buyers representing all of my dream retail outlets. The frosting was a major hit. Tasters fell in love. Meeting successful entrepreneurs such as Sheila from Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle and Justin of Justin’s Nut Butter was just the icing on the proverbial cake. While passing out frosting on little taster spoons, two middle-aged men approached my booth expressing extreme interest in consulting on the Dollop Gourmet Frosting line, insisting they could help me take my business to the next level—grocery stores. God knew I needed help. I had been a solo traveler for much too long on this journey and I was ready to accept help to get to that next level. After returning home, calling my attorney, researching the duo’s backgrounds, speaking with their other clients, and negotiating terms, we struck a deal. The deal stated that I would pay them $2500 a month plus a percentage of my company and they would in turn help me restructure my products and packaging, locate manufacturing, and work with distributors to place four frosting flavors in stores by June 1st. Using my life savings. Not a penny more. Not a penny less. Fast-forward three months. On a Monday in early May, as my mouse hovered over the “order” button on my laptop for $2,150.83 worth of coconut oil, my phone rang. “Heather, let’s go over these numbers,” the logistics guy of the duo said. “Ok…” I waited. “I know we said that you would be able to launch this product line and grow the business with the money you have, but it’s looking like come October, you’ll be out of money.” “How out of money?” I asked with panic in my voice. “You’ll need a $75,000 infusion in October and another $75,000 infusion around April,” he said, adding, “Some people go to family and friends to ask for investments… or to the bank—maybe you could get a loan.” My voice shrilled. My face grew hot. My living room started swirling around me. With rapid-fire I questioned him as to how he just figured this out after three months of me paying him $2500 a month plus investing in jars, labels, UPC’s and a myriad of other costs totaling upwards of $10,000. How exactly, did he not figure this out before I was in so deep? Specifically, before he assured my attorney and I that we could launch and grow this product line with my life savings—not a penny more and not a penny less. His response was that he’d be happy to help me continue on, launch the product line, and get it in stores with the hope that I could “come up with” the cash in October to continue on. I’m a risky person. I take risks to make shit happen. Calculated risks. Risks that in my gut feel good. Risks that my intuition is not screaming at me to avoid. This was not one of those risks. And so I pulled the plug on the Dollop Gourmet Frosting Line. Part of me wanted to blame the consultants for leading me astray. I felt misled. I was angry. Viscerally angry. But at the end of the day, I was angrier with myself than I could ever be at them. That day they approached my booth in San Francisco I immediately felt my intuition warning me to stay away. I even expressed to Dan that my intuition was raising red flags at every intersection of them and I. Each subsequent phone conference with the duo and meeting with my attorney about the contract raised the same red flags. My intuition was shouting at me. And it’s a voice that’s all too familiar. But I wanted this so bad. I envisioned that Dollop frosting line in every store. I envisioned my life as a successful entrepreneur. I envisioned myself on the Today Show doing a frosting demo with Matt Lauer, using recipes from The Dollop Book of Frosting, ending with a gift to each cohost of a beautifully packaged jar of all-natural Dollop Gourmet Frosting. I envisioned being able to buy a house and finally eat at a kitchen table. I envisioned bringing the first delicious all-natural packaged frosting to the world. I wanted it so bad that I ignored my intuition. Never. Ever. Ever. Do this. It’s taken me the rest of this year to forgive myself. I still haven’t forgiven myself. Not for ignoring my intuition. And not for letting my dream of the Dollop Gourmet Frosting line die. I’ve wasted many months beating myself up. I’ve fallen into a rut that I’ve found it excruciatingly difficult to climb out of. And nothing good as occurred because of it. I’ve been quoted in articles saying that the frosting line is “on hold for now” knowing in my heart that without an investor it’s already dead. I’ve been ashamed to tell this story. And I’ve hidden the shame and taken it to bed with me every night. And although I’ve learned a lot from this experience, I believe I’m learning one of the most important lessons today: When you reach that moment when crawling out of bed feels beyond dreadful, it’s time to wonder, really wonder, what it is that you’re hiding under the covers with you. Because not until you pull them back and step your naked feet on the ground, will you ever be able to fully move on.

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