The Last Twelve Months – Clarifying Confusion

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To do list November 2016:

- start a blog for your website

Yeap, that’s’ right. This has been on my ‘to do list’ for the shop BEFORE the shop even opened. Everyone told me I should do it, yes I knew It was the smart choice, yes I knew it would help my business grow. But did I carve out the time to get it started – Nope.

So now, I am sitting here and trying to understand where things are going and where they have come from, and how I got to where I am now. It all seems like a really big tangled piece of string that somehow I have slowly pulled apart. Does that make any sense?

Something about coming through the other side of winter has sparked a little tiny fire and I just knew it was the right time. (Not to mention one of my incredible staff members already has two blog posts ready to go up…) soooo, no time like the present.

I guess I want this first post to be a little bit about the business and a little bit about the past twelve months because – man oh man have they been something else…

Outside The Shape opened on December 1st2016. It was the craziest day of my life. Truth? I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Miraculously, I stumbled through those first few months and the business started to grow.

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Since then Outside The Shape has become a hub for local creatives of all shapes and sizes. We have showcased over 200 different makers work, we have run all types of workshops, shown art in gallery events, thrown parties where I have had to be put to bed (first), cried, laughed, supported and grown into what we are now. There have been a million mistakes, a hundred times I wanted to quit, and countless “oh fuck” moments – but I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

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If you have been following along, If you do know me personally, or the business in itself, (unless I’ve already unloaded my diatribe of what has been happening lately) you probably have some questions.

Like “What happened?”, “Why were you closing?”, “But now you are reopen?”, “Are you staying?

Today I am going to share with you all the ‘coles’ notes version of the last twelve months and where we are now – because I truly and deeply believe that transparency and honesty is the best way to be in business. (Maybe that makes me crazy… the jury is still out on this one)

Rewind to January 2018. I’m sitting in the shop doing my thing, (probably Netflix and knitting because, well - its January) and my landlords husband comes into the shop. He proceeds to tell me that when I asked about if they would ever consider selling the shop to me, years ago (while they laughed and shrugged it off) That they had now in fact decided to sell… and like right now.

OK – so first a little panic, then a little excitement. “Ok this could be great” I thought, I can buy this old house no problem. Fast forward four or five months, countless meetings, all kinds of creative thinking and just like that –


No one would help, no one had answers, no one would give me a mortgage on a commercial property that was over 100 years old with no guarantee that the physical building would be standing in ten years. Plus buying a commercial property is, as I quickly found out, a completely different ball game. We are talking minimum 25% down in cash.

So like any rational human I decided “Ok time to move on”. Fast forward three months – Out of the blue comes an opportunity to work with an investor so to speak. He was interested in buying the property and becoming my landlord – helping me fix it up and in turn grow. So naturally it wasn’t time to move on just yet!

I made the introductions, I did my part… and I waited… and waited… and waited. Four months later I was still waiting. What happened next is almost now comical. I wish I could share all the details and I happily would, but I also would probably get in a lot of trouble so for the sake of keeping it light let’s just say things didn’t exactly work out.

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December rolled around once again and the season blew me away, the success, the customers, the fun. It was amazing! Talk about a boost to the tired old ego. However, there was this niggling little voice in the back of my head that said –

“Hey girl, your lease is up in January and you cannot run a business on an unknown month to month.”

I wrote the emails I needed to, I made the phone calls with the difficult discussions and after going in the same circles I have been walking around for the last year I made a call. The call to close. It was quick, it was probably irrational, it was probably because I was more tired than I had ever been and probably because I felt trapped and sad.

That was the hardest and worst day of my career to date. After pouring my heart and soul into something, watching it flourish and still against all the fucking odds being the one who had to shut it down, my heart literally broke.

This really is the point I have been trying to make – I didn’t close because business is terrible, I didn’t close because I lost the love. I had to close because everyone except for me was in control of my future and I couldn’t handle it.

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Again (last time) fast forward only a week… I got a call and was offered a six month lease. Six months to figure out if this was going to work, six months to figure out who would become the owner of my little shop with the red door, six months of time… 

 At first the thought of signing and throwing myself back into the same turmoil I have experienced over the last year made me want to be physically sick. There still was no set timeline, no answers, no certainty. I actually cried, sad tears. 

But guess what? I did it. I didn’t even think about it for long to be completely honest – I went with my gut. I went with what I felt pulled to. Does it cross my mind today that maybe that decision deserved more thought? Absolutely. Were my reasons for staying out of moral? Out of fear? Out of losing the competitive edge that I have worked so hard to gain?? Maybe… 

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So today we are sitting half way through March, which means I realistically have three and a half months left to get all the ducks in a row before ‘what next’ comes up once again.

Basically, in a nutshell that is where we are. Uncertainty is a real thing. Confusion is my daily struggle. BUT I have to say, I have met some incredible people in the last three months, and I have been given some new opportunities that could just be the next step.

So there it is folks, The true story. The reality behind those pretty pictures I post and the smiling face that greets you when you walk through the shop door. What’s next? I don’t know. What is it going to look like? I also don’t know. But I figure that if you have gotten this far you will be one of the first to know and I can promise you this – it is going to be amazing.

On behalf of myself (Francesca), George (The shop dog), All my incredible vendors, And my amazing family and friends that gets to deal with me first hand ;

We thank you for reading, for supporting, for listening and for being the heart behind my little dream with the red door.

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I hope you have enjoyed this first essay of sorts and my optimism is that our posts bring you joy, laughter, inspiration, an insight into the small business reality, or even just a ten minute break as you head to the washroom.

With all our love.

Outside The Shape