steve duross - craftsman. artisan. entrepreneur. musings on running and growing a small business

starting from scratch

steve 2014 recently i sat down with one of my business partners to discuss the opening of our newest venture, the salon at duross & langel. i won't be coy about how it went down. the partner is my niece, a bright and energetic person with a fantastic job and an emerging life as a young mother. when we first discussed the possibility of her coming on full time, the baby was just an idea. now that go time is almost here and the baby is four months old, the reality of beginning this project takes on a different hue. though she is present in this project (and for me) in a variety of ways, we won't be seeing one another on a daily basis for some time. i feel it would be accurate to say we are both sad and relieved. starting from scratch is a tricky business.   most people at the beginning of any venture have a giddy, almost ecstatic way of describing their future projects. guts, grit and determination fuel the adrenaline that is required for such an undertaking. i have a vastly contrasting view on this particular experience. having been down this road before, the pay-off my inner entrepreneurial junkie craves comes in long term success and stability. any fool can take home a prize gold fish from the fair. few are capable of keeping it alive for any length of time. besides, as a child of the early sixties raised by the typical parents of the fifties, i knew that each of my choices had long term consequences, and that a smack might be coming at any moment from a risky decision made.   the studio at duross & langel (yoga) begins in late winter. james and i are overjoyed to be fully incorporated with sarah as our partner. for the first time in her career, she will be the majority share holder. and why not? years of proven hard work, success and devotion toward D+L provide us with a sense of trust. our personal relationship engenders a familial sense of permanence. her background within the philadelphia yoga community as well as her following as a teacher make her a natural choice. though we know there will be blow-back from some, sarah has chosen to create the studio as an extension of the ideals we espouse within the D+L concept. that's a kind of bullshit for saying "no bullshit". though we are starting from scratch, sarah still runs the store as well as creating the vision for the studio and hiring the teachers. the teachers are the key to her concept. though i promised not to give away her plan, i will say that sarah believes the teachers should create the environment for the studio rather than the other way round. i am sure to get smacked for sharing that.   the salon is another matter entirely. though it's been in my head for what seems like forever, it is a wisp of a thing until it is not. you cannot begin culling together any sort of staff until it is ready to open. to do otherwise would be risky to the stylists and sow the seeds for a disloyalty. i don't cultivate disloyalty. if a stylist is feeling unhappy in their current workspace, if they want a different environment in which to do their work, if a stylist is just out of school and is eager to begin working on the floor under a mentor, we are currently creating a space that might fulfill their needs. we have decided not to make it a big sexy story that will be covered by the glossy mags. hi wattage pr nonsense will not be the fuel that fires this venture. no one ever needs to be bored by my pedigree within the salon community. the proof will be in the work we turn out and the experience the client enjoys. there is enough hair in the city of philadelphia that i do not feel the need to compete with my fellow stylists, my brothers and sisters in the salon community. once i have the place built, then i can have the state of pennsylvania give us license, then i can populate it with a deep, wide bench of talented team-mates, then i can get to work. i cannot in any conscience ask a young mother to sacrifice everything to start from scratch. thankfully, my colleen has her head on straight and would not follow me if i had. it will be her headache and joy soon enough.   "why?" is the over-arching question i often ask myself. "why to solidify the work we began ten years ago" i tell myself. traffic needs to flow through the front door. i feel that people need a space that offers them something different, whether it is the person working or the customer coming through the door. besides, it would be sinful to waste our god-given talents. if i personally cannot find what i am looking for in an experience, should i not create it?  at the end of the day, sometimes my life feels like that old peggy lee song, "is that all there is?"  if i begin to feel it deeply, profoundly, i know that soon enough i will be, once again,  starting from scratch.