August 20, 2018
The struggle is real

Entrepreneurship isn't wonderful all the time

Renee King

I was 23 years old, fresh out of Worcester State University with a degree in psychology. I had been baking cupcakes out of my parent's kitchen and had a little operation called The Queen's Cups. Instagram had just become popular, and Facebook was still the rage at the time. I would create all different types of cupcakes and post them online, not knowing one day this would be the basis of my entire business. After graduating, I am almost positive my parents were tired of me leaving a mess in their kitchen, and they suggested I open a bakery.

One random Saturday morning, my parents and I met with the landlords at 238 Millbury Ave. in Millbury, gave them a $100 deposit, and agreed to open The Queen's Cups. In a tiny, 750-square-foot space, we opened in my hometown on Oct. 5, 2012. A little makeshift bakery – which we managed to start with very little money – ended up beating the odds of the 50 percent failure rate of small businesses within the first five years.

By then, we totally outgrew the shop, and it was time to look elsewhere. I found a beautiful historic building in my favorite part of Worcester and fell in love instantly. It was in rough condition, but I knew this would be where The Queen's Cups 2.0 would reside.

The whole process was pretty taxing, financially and emotionally, on my family and me. I budgeted for a $75,000 buildout, through a U.S. Small Business Administration loan and microloan from the City of Worcester. It ended up costing around $120,000 with many unexpected costs, like $30,000 in plumbing and electrical work. All in all, somehow the extra money fell from the sky, and it all worked out. I survived the headaches and mini meltdowns and managed for my parents to still love me even as they dealt with my stress. I added a couple more grey hairs to my collection and luckily, still found someone who agreed to marry me.

Our business in Worcester is not even remotely comparable to our shop in Millbury. We have started over, which has actually been a very exciting process. We went from a business where I would only hire people I knew to 20 employees I have learned to trust with my business. Our sales have quadrupled since moving, but so have our costs. Many lessons have been learned in this beautiful struggle.

In almost seven years total of business, I have seen my afternoon hobby blossom into a flourishing company. Other people may tell you they make a life decision and never look back, but I would be lying if I said such a thing. I have looked back many, many times and wondered what I got myself into. In Millbury, I cried every day for the first two weeks and hated everything. In Worcester, I managed to work myself so hard I wound up with bronchitis, pneumonia and the flu all in one year. Do you know what I learned through that? How to be a boss, how to delegate tasks, how to put people in the right seat, and my body will no longer handle 90-hour work weeks.

So many small business owners put on a brave face and say, "Things are wonderful, everything is great." This is a lie, but I have been one of those people who have tried to mask the struggles happening in my business. When I started meeting with fellow business owners, I was relieved knowing I was not the only person who dealt with staffing issues, financial struggles and the inability to let someone else take the burden off our shoulders.

In the past year, I really felt the fun and love I once had for my business had been sucked out of me. I wanted out! But after many changes and a lot of self-reflection, I have never been more excited about my business. How did I get my love back? I plan on sharing that with you in future columns, how I built leaders and developed trust among employees, implemented management meetings where everyone has a voice, made mistakes with firing, hiring and putting people in the right and wrong seats. Most importantly, I'll touch on why working 90 hours a week does not mean you are working harder than someone else who works 40.

Renee King is the owner of The Queen's Cups bakery in Worcester.

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