Article by Amy Quarry, Owner, Long Table Grocery –
Life as an entrepreneur often feels like I’m on a roller coaster between chaos and despair with only occasional moments of hope. Every day, any number of minor things go sideways—the freight doesn’t arrive, the internet is down, something breaks, or someone calls in sick. Someone always needs to be paid, and there is never enough money. We are always running out of ingredients, and the garbage needs to be taken out again. The floor is muddy, and I can never find a Sharpie. There isn’t a single day that I don’t forget to do something I said I would do, and I rarely seem to be able to answer my phone, let alone return messages. I never even get close to the bottom of my to-do list, yet it grows by the minute and my inbox is a tsunami of unread messages. We always have too much of one thing and not enough of another. There is always someone I am disappointing and something to apologize for. There are days I don’t know how I am going to make payroll. And that’s just the small stuff. Never mind the big things the business has experienced, like record-setting wildfires and world-wide pandemics.
And yet we still have generous and loyal customers. We still laugh every day. We still launch new things. We still send out orders every week. We still turn the lights on and unlock the door and chat with our customers. The day goes on and so do we. We laugh and cry. We show up for each other. We lose focus and begin again. We make do with not enough (for now, anyways). We turn nothing into something. We Create. Have vision. Problem solve. We are inspired and discouraged, often both in the same day. We make changes. We move forward and back. And forward and back. We support each other through illness, death, and divorce. We celebrate babies and weddings and birthdays. Sometimes we have a win. Sometimes we fail and must grow in our capacity to admit we are wrong. Some days we fantasize about packing it all in and moving to Spain. We cry, sleep on it, and try again. Fail again. Want to give up. Don’t give up. We keep trying to be better. We know we are not alone. We will try again tomorrow.
And I wonder at the end of the day, isn’t this really the work of living a life that matters? The work of building something that lasts? To just simply return over and over to the task at hand. To do the next right thing. And the next. To fail and fail and fail and maybe sometimes succeed. To care and to sustain our caring in the face of apathy and self-interest. To show up for those who need us. To believe our dream is possible in the face of dire and immense uncertainty. To meet the day with compassion for others and grace for ourselves. The work of building a business isn’t about orders, or transactions, or boxes on a shelf. At the end of the day, the actual tasks we do in our work are irrelevant—what matters is how we show up for the process.
How do we bring ourselves to the table, and what do we have to offer others? Who is not at the table and what can I do to make a place for them? What does my community need from me to be fed today?
What matters is how we do this work of building a community. What matters is how we do the work of building relationships. What matters is how we do the work of building ourselves.
Amy Quarry is an entrepreneur, community-builder, maker, graphic designer, and localist. She loves her small town and strongly believes in the resilience of a community built together. Long Table Grocery is a locally-owned independent food hub providing good food that is sustainably sourced and locally-rooted in the Cariboo region of BC.