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“I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”

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Good day Beartarians! Wiscobear here to share a little of my story.

I don’t often sit down and think about how I ended up where I am, but when I did to write this article I couldn’t stop smiling at how obvious it is that God’s been leading this whole journey. In the moment it never really felt like it. I often fought with God and tried on multiple occasions to walk away from this path. Spoiler alert: I eventually gave up and decided to trust him. My life motto that I’ve acquired over these last few years is “I have no idea what I’m doing”. I want to brand that and slap it on business cards and t-shirts…. it’s funny because it’s true. But something I’ve come to discover is that you don’t really need to know because God’s in control anyway. My parents and I own a tea shop in a small Wisconsin college town known as Ripon. We’ve been at it for 4 years. But this story is about my journey to becoming a kombucha brewer and it starts about 2 years ago…

There’s SO MUCH that has happened that I want to share with you all, and maybe in the future I will. But I think for now I don’t need to focus on all of the details and trying to get all the stories in. Because the journey was never about all the things that happened, and all the things I went through to get where I am. It’s about how God has been growing me all along the way. It’s about overcoming self doubt, taking steps of faith, and seeing Him work amazing things.

My story is not about me at all, but about how God can use a regular, small town girl to do something kind of cool.

I started my adventure brewing kombucha as a joke. A friend brought me the supplies to try my hand at it, and I gave it a shot as something to occupy my free time. Obviously I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I quickly found out that the product I was making was wanted by my town. It became popular enough for my little hobby to grow beyond just brewing one gallon every week or so, to having two, 7 gallon batches on constant rotation. So I was blessed with success, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it. Kombucha is just now starting to become popular in Wisconsin. My state has 2 major breweries and a handful of smaller ones, but more importantly there are no other handcrafted brewers close to my town. So being a business woman I saw the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and establish my brand before the inevitable health fad swept our way. If I didn’t, someone else would, and I knew if that happened I would regret not taking my chance.

Life is never that simple though. Even though the business prospect motivated and challenged me, I was wrought with self doubt and insecurity. I’m a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my work. I want to be the best at whatever it is that I’m doing at the moment, so when it came to kombucha I wanted to be the best brewer with the best product and the best business. I wanted to outshine every other brewery in existence, anything short of extraordinary would be failure to me. Now obviously that’s extremely selfish and messed up in many ways, but that’s not how I saw it. I genuinely felt that if I wasn’t doing my absolute best and sinking every last piece of myself into brewing a product that stood out from the rest, then there was no point in trying. This pursuit of perfection and struggle with self doubt led to eventual burnout.

But along the way God used every single thing that happened to grow and strengthen me.

I had people try to steal my recipe and brewing secrets – that taught me how to protect my business and showed me that I must be doing something right if people are trying to copy my ways.

I got involved in a very dysfunctional business partnership – this taught me to never compromise on my beliefs or my family, and to always trust my gut instinct. Ironically it’s also how I acquired the name “Honest & True”.

My business moved locations twice in 4 months – this was just all out tiring but showed me how God’s hand was in control of everything.

The health department shut down my operation for almost 6 months because I didn’t have paperwork I wasn’t aware I needed – this was ultimately what made me face myself and wrestle with why I was on this path. It also taught me not only how to work in, but also around, the beast system that we live in.

These are just a few of many things that led me to finding myself sitting alone in my shop, in March of this year, a day after Wisconsin announced their state wide shutdown for coronu. I had spent my time, energy, savings, and every bit of myself to invest in this business. And suddenly I was here, still shut down by the health department, sitting in a quiet storefront making $0 a day. I was done. Why had I just gone through everything I did to end up here? What’s the point of that? I looked out my windows at the eerily empty streets and asked God for guidance. I can’t explain what happened, but I suddenly understood. I just… got it. My business is, and never was mine. It’s God’s, I’m just the person that’s supposed to take care of it. I didn’t need to worry about losing it because if I did that would be okay, God has the authority to decide if it’s done. But I don’t have the right to complain or worry if I wasn’t going to do what I knew I was supposed to be doing – brewing.

I remember looking back to the windows of my brewing room and realizing how long it had been since I brewed a batch. I let the struggles and the stresses take the joy out of my craft. I saw it as a burden instead of a blessing. A fire was lit in me. That day I brewed my first batch in months, and a week later when I advertised it on social media it sold out by the end of the day. Ever since then I no longer struggle with that nagging feeling of self doubt. Because I’m not doing this to make a name for myself, I’m just here to make a good product for as long as God allows. The name “Honest & True” adorns my windows and business cards as a reminder to be just that, in all areas of life. I want people to see those words and know that they are getting a product made with integrity. And in times such as these, nothing is more valuable and cherished than that. I’m not the greatest brewer and I genuinely never really know what I’m doing. I’m not that successful, most months I don’t even know how I’ll pay rent. But somehow I always do.

All I know is, when you give up control, let God lead, and stand for truth; he can lead you down some amazing paths.

So bears, for me it was kombucha. What is it for you?

*You can find Honest and True at:
Address: 211 Watson St. Ripon, Wi. 54971
Email: honestandtrue.wi@gmail.com
Facebook: Honest & True Tea
Instagram: Business page: @honestandtruewi Kombucha page: @honestandtruekombucha
Website: currently unavailable (Looking for a bear web designer!)

Business

Scale Or Fail

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When we start a business we do so with the intent of earning an income. I doubt anyone in their right mind doesn’t want that income to be as high as possible. We all have bills, dreams, and many have debt they’d like to get out from underneath of. We work harder than your typical 9-5 employee in order to earn that income. We put everything we have into doing a dozen people’s jobs by ourselves. And, if God wills it, we eventually start to see the fruit of our labor. And that is when you can potentially experience the complete opposite outcome you’d envisioned.

In business there is a term used from time to time, which is “the hug of death”. Picture being hugged by someone you love so tightly that you can’t take in a breath. That person may be so happy to see you that they squeeze you as hard as they can to show their love and excitement, but it ultimately can lead to your death if you’re unable to breathe. The same concept can be found in the business sense of this term. Sometimes businesses focus entirely too much on marketing, without first having built the proper infrastructure to be able to handle a massive influx of orders or business. This can, and often does, lead to the downfall of otherwise great business ventures. People can quite literally get so much business that they go out of business. I’ll explain how this works, with personal examples, even though it seems entirely counterintuitive.

About 1.5 years ago I wrote a letter to our favorite comedian and bard Owen Benjamin, and included some items I’d made as a thank you for all of the revelatory changes he had helped bring forth in my life. At the time I thought my business had failed before it had even gotten off the ground. I was en route to sell all season long at our local farmers market, and had been working for months to stock inventory. In March of 2020 I had that invitation revoked due to new state guidelines with everything that was unfolding. I sent my items to Owen, and said if he happened to open it on a stream and I got a couple orders that would be a blessing, but if I didn’t then God had other plans for me. 10 minutes after he opened my box/letter on stream I had over $2,000 in orders. Within 24 hours I had another $2,000 in orders. Needless to say I was elated. But, that feeling also came with a huge amount of stress. It took me nearly 3 weeks to get the orders made and shipped, and I was beginning to worry that the long shipping times would result in unhappy customers. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, so I used the profit I had earned to invest in new tools to speed up production.

Fast forward 8 months to December of 2020. Once again, the potential hug of death hit, but much larger this time. The Christmas season was upon us, and I got hit with a wave of orders like I never could have imagined. In total, over 240 orders were placed over the course of 3 weeks, with nearly 1,000 individual items ordered. Once again, I realized how unprepared I was for this rush, and I can’t put into words how hard I worked that month. 12 to 14 hour days, every single day, for a month straight. My days consisted of working in the shop all day, packaging orders, dropping orders at UPS and USPS, making 2-3 shops runs a week, not being able to breathe in my shop because there was so much sawdust in the air but I didn’t have time to deep clean, and not being able to breathe at night when the panic set in and I thought about the 30 products I had to make the next day. All of this while we had 2 teething children under the age of 2, getting no sleep, and exhausted. There were times at the end of the night when I’d finish in the shop, come inside, put my daughter to sleep, and nearly cry from exhaustion. And, as many business owners have done before me, that level of both physical and emotional exhaustion led to the one and only time I’ve ever thought about closing my business.

Those who know me might think that’s a crazy thing to think. I’m Woodshop Bear. All I do is crush. But in that moment, I crushed too hard. I was in over my head in a way I’d never experienced in my life. While it was wonderful to do $10k in business in 3 weeks, I had to make every single one of those products by hand, package and ship them, and try to be as present as possible to help my wife with the children. The thought of closing my business was not due to a lost desire to do what I love, but rather the sheer weight of doing it all by myself. Obviously I crushed those 240+ orders, got everything out in time, and continued crushing. But I also crashed afterwards, which caused a whole new set of challenges for a couple of months. After that rush, I temporarily got nervous every time I saw an order pop up on my phone. Again, this sounds ridiculous, but this is the nature of business sometimes. When you experience the hug of death, and make it through, it can take time to come back down from the constant adrenaline rush.

I don’t tell you this to deter you from starting a business whatsoever. This might sound scary, but the reason I experienced those times (especially December), is because I had not scaled accordingly. That was a mistake on my part. I got so wrapped up in the excitement of having steady business and being able to support my family that I lost track of scaling my business, my tools, my storage, my shop supplies I had on hand, etc. My lack of planning resulted in loads of unnecessary stress and worry. I was taking 4 times longer to sand things than I needed to because I had not yet invested in a proper bench top sander. I had no room to move because I had put off moving my inventory storage up into my office. This slowed down production heavily. I had not taken the steps I needed to in order to speed up production, and it came back to bite me hard.

If you’re starting a business, or have a small business, may you learn from my mistakes. Getting more business is always a blessing, but be sure that your business infrastructure is at a level which can handle the increase in orders before they arrive. Have extra shipping supplies on hand, so you’re not waiting on boxes to arrive with orders that needed to go out days ago like I was. Make sure you have extra supplies on hand before potential business rushes like holidays. Make up extra inventory and have it on hand (if possible), so you’re not caught with more orders than you can process in a day. And most importantly, grow your business at a pace which allows you to comfortably acclimate to the increased pressures that come along with more orders. That time of growth may seem like a burden, as you’d like to be making as much as possible at all times, but that time is when you learn and are able to make the necessary adjustments so you can succeed.

Until next time, Onward

-Woodshop Bear

https://www.littlebearwoodshop.com

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Business

Rebel Joe Coffee, It will give you legs…

“I think about her every day and I hope she is proud of what I’m doing.” says Max. 

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They said this coffee can really stand up for itself, that it would make your beard grow overnight, a coffee so legendary it will have you crushing in your sleep. So logically, We had to try it. We have never been crazy about where we buy our coffee from, our go to blend is the wholesale club’s own organic medium roast. Once in a while we would splurge for a more local Vermont whole bean organic coffee but it was never a priority to have “great tasting” coffee. We honestly couldn’t tell much of a difference between our past purchases. Then we bought Rebel Joe.

 

We got the 5 lb Uprising Breakfast Blend and the monthly special of Pecan or Pecan’t. You can get yours here. First of all the shipping was quick from order to delivery and the cost is comparable to the coffee we had been purchasing. We immediately took note of the roasting date, it was roasted just five days prior to the day we received it. The fresh roasted smell of the whole bean coffee tickles our nostrils as soon as we opened the bag. The flavored coffee smelled like a delicious cone of butter pecan ice cream on a hot summer’s day. We knew we were going to like this coffee. 

When we got our gravity filter, we thought our coffee game had changed but like a true legend Rebel Joe upped the game even more. The smooth rich taste of the coffee is notable with or without cream. There is no bitterness of over roasting or neglect that comes with store bought coffee. Delicious hot or iced this coffee is highly recommended. 

Max, better known as Board Game Bear, has really brought new life to the coffee world. The branding and creative genius behind Rebel Joe really makes him stand out as an entrepreneur. But he couldn’t have done it without his mother. The love a son has for his mother is never better expressed then when she needs it most. He helped his sister care for their mother who was suffering from ALS the last years of her life. In doing so brought her back to God and made sure she was baptized 3 months before her passing. He was also baptized on Mother’s Day the same year and hasn’t looked back. While the task at hand was heartbreaking and nearly unbearable at times he wouldn’t have chosen any other path. Rebel Joe wouldn’t have come to fruition with out his mother. The modest inheritance he received after her passing allowed this venture to come to life and her memory lives on through his hard work and dedication.

“I think about her every day and I hope she is proud of what I’m doing.” says Max.

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Business

Morality Over Money

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    There are many reasons why someone takes the scary leap into starting their own business. Maybe they aren’t happy with their salary. Perhaps they think they can build a better business than where they currently are. Could it be that they feel there’s no future in their position and they’re just outright bored? Whatever the cause is, more often than not the underlying reason revolves around the acquisition of more fiat currency. People will sacrifice paid health care, paid time off, sick days, vacation days, and job stability and security for the unpromised dream of more cash in their bank account. And this is where many people make their first mistake.

    When you operate from a place of fear (in this case the fear of not having enough money), both in your personal life and the decisions you make in your business, you are led down a road which will ultimately result in the sacrificing of your own morality in the never ending pursuit of more cash. And that cash will never bring you true happiness.

    The alternative to this soul sucking pursuit of material gain is to operate your business in a way where you are spreading good into the world. While this may seem counter-intuitive to every piece of business advice you’ve ever heard, it’s the absolute truth. When you use your business power to bring others honest, selfless joy, you not only gain a customer who’s emotionally invested in the future well-being of your business, but you also get to lay your head down at night knowing that you used your power to do good. Unlike paper rectangles or 1’s and 0’s in a computer, this will actually bring you happiness, and give you purpose going forward.

    A personal example of this from my own business is as follows. Around Christmas time of 2020, I had a customer reach out to me saying her family had experienced a very brutal year and she had only a very small amount of money to buy something for her husband, but if she was going spend it anywhere she wanted to support a small family business. She wanted to purchase one of my Deer Hunter pens, as her husband was a hunter and she thought he’d really like it. I could have very easily made the pen, sent it out, and never thought about it again. What I chose to do instead was make the pen, make an additional pen valued at $40, and send them both out with a hand written note to her husband wishing him good fortune in his future hunts. I did this in the middle of working 14hr days trying to keep up with a holiday business rush the likes of which I never could have anticipated. She received the package and was both shocked and elated, and she is now a top follower on my social media and shares my posts all of the time, giving my business tons of promotion. I lost money from my own pocket to do this small act of kindness, but if we measure good deeds in dollars, we’ve already lost everything that makes us good.

    Is my ego forever inflated because I did something good? Not at all. But my heart is full knowing that I have reached a point in my business where I can do small acts like this from time to time that bring joy to others. You’d be hard pressed to find an employee at any big box store who would use money from their own pocket to bring you joy when you’re in a trying time. And this is the fundamental difference between operating a business from a position of money acquisition compared to spreading kindness. Both the big box store and the small family business are profiting, but when the dollar collapses the store will be left with nothing, while the family business will be left knowing they did good in this world. The question you must ask yourself when running a business is where do you want to be when that day comes? Do you want your legacy to be worthless paper, or changed lives?

    Until next time my friends, Onwards.

-Woodshop Bear

Website: www.littlebearwoodshop.com

 

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