I don't need your pity...
About 9 years ago now, I was selling cupcakes at the markets.
That’s me. Bright eyed and enthusiastic. Also a little shy.
That morning, I setup my stall at a food festival. The organisers told me to expect about 3000 people to come through the gates. So I spent 18 hours baking non stop to create 400 cupcakes.
It was a stinking hot day. The festival started filling up with people. They would walk by, peer into the cupcake cabinet and walk off. Occasionally they would comment how pretty the cupcakes looked but nothing more than that.
Being quite shy, I thought people would purchase them if they wanted it. I mean, no one likes pushy salespeople so I wanted to give them their space. I stepped back and watched since I didn’t want to intrude on their day with a simple “Hi! How’s your day going”, afraid it’d just annoy them.
Well, by the end of the day I had sold only 100 out of the 400 cupcakes I baked for the day. I hardly made any money to cover my expenses, I baked all day and night to make a measly $350.
Exhausted, I went home with my aching feet and silently cried into my pillow until I eventually fell asleep.
I felt defeated.
A few days later I asked myself, why did I fail? I knew my product was good. I knew because people who bought them, would come back for more.
Then why didn’t I sell out that day? Why did I make such a loss?
I asked myself over and over, trying to figure out how I could have done better.
So I started to learn how to sell. I really hated it because I was always taught to be humble, to quietly let my talents be uncovered and not brag. I had the mindset “If you build it, they will come”. But it limited me deeply.
It limited my ability to connect with others to show them how much joy our cupcakes would bring into their lives - even if it’s just for a short sugary indulgent moment.
It was then I realised that it was more than just the product but the entire experience that people wanted. They wanted to marvel at the cakes, having a conversation, understanding the story behind them, why Red Velvets were the most delicious and must try flavour. They wanted to feel the passion behind the creation of them. They actually did want to be sold to!
So I started doing small things - like writing up a spiel on why our cupcakes were the best. Identifying the difference between our cupcakes and those from the supermarket or competitors. Sharing my dream and love for baking. I started posting up on my social feeds to encourage friends to visit me, to tell their friends and spread the word.
Sure enough, the next festival we had a stall at was a huge success. We had lines of people waiting and sold out of cupcakes hours before the end of the day. I also learnt from our first festival that with the hot weather, people would want to have cold drinks - so I started making iced teas. That day, we ended up making the most profit I’d ever seen since starting my business at home. It more than made up for the loss I experienced at the first festival.
That experience, is still the one thing I go back to whenever I feel defeated. A loss is only a loss, when we don’t learn from it. Monetary loss, we can absorb. There’s always an opportunity to make it back, even if it will take a little longer than expected. The lessons are always there when we look for them.
I write about this story because earlier this week I felt defeated. I really did. I questioned myself, why am I doing this? Do I even know what I’m doing? Who do I think I am to run a business? Does it even matter?
The thing is, I know even the most successful people out there feel this way at times. And when I hear about their stories of success after tragedies and setbacks, it makes me determined to keep going.
We don’t need other people’s pity. We need others to inspire us to keep going. To remind us that what we're doing, has meaning and makes a difference.
This is why Run The World exists. I know our conferences compared to others, is much more of an investment. Not only in dollar amounts but because it is a full day event that asks for your complete presence to be open to something more.
If you're sitting on the fence about coming along, I'll do my best to convince you one last time. This is a day that will give you what you need, whatever you are seeking. How do I know that? Because the answers are everywhere, when we start looking for them.
And if you need a bit more of a nudge, this is the only chance for a flash sale discount, until midnight tonight you can get 20% off using this secret link here. See you next Sat!
Sheryl Thai, CEO
League of Extraordinary Women