Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!
A while back, I mentioned a conversation I’d had with a relative of mine. He expressed frustration and concern that I did not share the same vision of professional success as he did-
Relative: “Just think about it, Matt- you make the right moves, and wouldn’t ever have to bake again! Buy gigantic ovens and extruders for the product, hire and train people to use them, and then all you’d have to do is show up once a week, make sure no one’s hurt themselves, and collect your paycheck!”
Me: “Except that doesn’t sound good to me- I want to keep my bakery small. I LIKE the idea of coming into work and baking everyday. I want to work alongside the people I hire so they can be trained right.”
Relative: *waving hand dismissively*. “Yeah yeah yeah, I get that, that’ll just be for now. Eventually you’re going to grow it bigger though.”
In the end, we walked away shaking our heads, agreeing to disagree- him muttering that I was naive, and me grumbling that he “just didn’t get it.”
I had mentioned before that, in a way, we were both right. I’ll explain this with a story I heard a long while back.
In a small desert town, there was an old man sitting at his stall in the marketplace. Hanging in front of him were 20 strings of onions. A man from the city came up to the old man and poked at the old man’s wares.
“Hey pops, how much for a string of onions?”
The city dweller poked at a few more strings. “How much for 5 strings?”
“50 cents,” the old man replied simply.
“50 cents? No bulk discount?” The young man asked, eyebrow raised. He looked at a few of the other strings. “Those onions aren’t as big as the others… I’ll give you 5 cents for them.”
“No,” grunted the old man, nonplussed by the city dwellers rudeness. “10 cents a string.”
The city dweller eyed the old man suspiciously and sneered. “Hmmf! You need to learn some business sense, pops!” he hissed, inkily. The young man then stepped back and looked at all the onions yet again. “How much for all your onions?” He asked with a smug smile, nonchalantly pulling out an expensive leather wallet.
“I would not sell you all my onions,” muttered the old man, barely bothering to look up.
“You wouldn’t sell me them? Why not?” asked the surprised city dweller, interrupted in pulling cash from his wallet. “Isn’t that why you’re here? To sell your onions?”
Here the old man finally looked up and leaned forward, staring right into the city dwellers eyes.
“No, boy- I’m here to live my life. I’ve been visiting this marketplace since I was a child. I love coming here. I love seeing the colors of the beautiful rugs the women pull out to sell. I love the smell of the food they cook. I love eating lunch then taking a nap right here in the middle of the day. I love when my friend Tom comes by, and we sit and smoke and talk about our wives and families. Y’see boy- if I sold you all my onions, then I wouldn’t get to meet or talk to anyone else coming to buy them. My day would be over- I’d have to pack up and go home. I would have given up the life I love- and I wouldn’t do that for anything.”
Money is lovely for the things it buys and security it offers. Success is lovely for the doors in opens.
There are more and finer things in life than money though- and success has different definitions for different people.
Baking is not just a money-making venture. It’s my passion- it makes me happy. It calms me down. It relaxes me when everything else is going wrong. I love talking to people about their favorite flavors. I love figuring out the delicate science of how to make a new recipe work. I love working with like-minded people, teaching them and learning from them.
When you buy from someone who owns a small business, you’re not just getting whatever they are selling- you’re buying some of their time. You’re buying pieces of their heart and soul, and a bit of their passion. You’re not buying from a faceless giant corporation- you’re buying from a friend.
Success has different definitions- and for me, that’s getting up every morning, working hard at what I love, and making a living off of it.