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We take a breath. Sort of.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Where, oh where, is the light at the end of this tunnel?

I knew that starting a business would be tough. I knew that most businesses fail within five years. I knew way too much.

I didn’t know jack-shit.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. I never would have believed how long it would take before I could begin to draw money from the company. I worked for years with the absolute certainty that I was going to go bankrupt. I discovered that I am a terrible pessimist at 2:00 in the morning. I developed an endearing habit of waking up in the wee hours so that I could stare at the ceiling and obsess about what failure was going to look like. How exactly was it going to feel on the inevitable day when the bank repossessed the house and we sold the two cars to buy a single junker? How was I going to put my son through college? How was I going to deal with the loss on a personal level? Why had I ever thought this was a good idea?

I’d go back to sleep eventually. A Jackson Brown song became my anthem. “And when the morning light comes streamin’ in, we get up and do it again. Amen.”

I tell people now that it’s like there is a freight train sitting on the tracks in your front yard. You go out every day and push on it as hard as you can. You put your back into it. You strain and curse and kick it. When you’re too tired to move, you go inside and rest up just so you can push on the damned train again. And you do that day after day after day. All the while thinking that it’s probably futile; that you’re going to go bankrupt and it doesn’t matter.

And then one, one day, you look out and realize that the train has moved. You go out and put your back into it and feel the motion. There’s a bit of a rumble from the tracks. Things are starting to happen!

It’s still tough. Sometimes I feel like I’m going into battle. There are still days when I wonder why I thought this was a good idea. But then there are days when it comes back to me. There are more and more days when the vision of what I wanted to do snaps into focus, and I can almost reach out and touch it. I can now walk out into a building that I purchased and see products and equipment that I bought and paid for. Only a few years ago I was all by myself carrying 50 pound bags of raw materials up a ladder to make product. I was loading trucks, rolling 55 gallon drums back and forth, emptying the trash. sending invoices, paying bills, formulating new products, talking to customers. If I needed to mail a letter, I had to find a stamp. If I couldn’t find a stamp, I went to the Post Office and bought one.

When I see two forklifts moving around a 12,000 foot warehouse with rack upon rack of raw materials and finished goods, it’s a little hard for me to believe that I bought my first lift just six years ago.

I’m still a pessimist at 2:00 in the morning, but I sleep pretty well most nights. I’ve rediscovered that I really do enjoy what I’m doing—now that the threat of bankruptcy has been pushed back (It’s always an option). And now I am unemployable. I have been my own boss for too long to contemplate a real job.

And there is this: There are a lot of companies that do exactly what we do. There are plenty of manufacturers of car wash soap, grill cleaners, degreaser, janitorial products, etc. There’s even a pretty good number of customer formulators.

But we are River City Soap, and nobody does it better.

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