2007 & 2012 WIBO Graduate Zahra Amanpour
Revisioning Post COVID-19 – My Business Journey
by Zahra Amanpour
For the past eight-plus years, I have focused a huge amount of energy and capacity on building my business, Indiegrove. Every decision was based on my vision and desire to make it stronger and reach more people. We built a community. We built a space. We broke through barriers and changed the way things had been done. The journey has taken me to places, both good and bad, inside myself I didn’t know existed.
So when COVID-19 hit in March, I sat down and did the numbers the way my experiences and WIBO had taught me to do when emotions and business start to blend too much and you need a good dose of reality. At the end of that process, I knew that if the pandemic didn’t end by the end of summer, I would be closing my doors. It was the first time I had ever emotionally and strategically truly considered that possibility. We just had the best year ever in 2019 and Indiegrove had become an anchor business in the community.
The first thing I had to tackle was my ego. What would people think of me as a failing business? Was I a failing business? How would I face the people who depended on me? Everything I had done with Indiegrove up to that point had given me a reputation as someone who perseveres and gets it done. The first time I said the words out loud was in July with my bookkeeper, who had been my trusted advisor, venting outlet, and most of all good friend for the past eight years. I started to cry as the words came out of my mouth “I have to close this business, don’t I?” But something happened once I actually said the words out loud. After the tears subsided, I felt a huge sense of peace. I still had a chance to end the business the way I had run it and walk away with my head held high.
I have watched so many entrepreneurs go through the process of closing their business and, sadly, for most of them it was a very ugly thing. Work was paid for and left undone. Vendors were trying to track them down for payments. They hurt countless people who cared for them and had been part of their success. I didn’t know how I would face everyone and dismantle something that I only knew how to build, but I knew I didn’t want to end it that way. So I sat down and wrote a closing plan. Just like every other important decision I had made and worked for in the business, the plan included each step and communication that needed to happen for the next three months. It would leave me in the best financial and legal position possible and end things on a good note with everyone.
As I’m writing this I am still in the midst of that closing plan. Things so far have gone pretty smoothly and I am actually in a good place mentally. The plan keeps the emotions out of it and keeps me on track to do the things I would otherwise not want to face. The communication has made this a positive experience for me all things considered. So many people have reached out to me and showered me with love. You touch so many lives as a small business owner. All the customers, employees, partners, vendors, and community members are part of your journey. Each one of them had an experience with you and, often, you don’t even realize how much something simple you did helped someone or just made their day. Giving structure and appropriate time for closing my business has given me an opportunity to reflect on so much and truly reap the benefits of all the hard work I put into it.
Too often, as entrepreneurs, our identities are taken over by the businesses we build. As a brick-and-mortar business, I interacted in person with my stakeholders every day. My business required more than full-time from me. I’m okay with all of that. That’s who I am. The adrenaline that rushes through my body when I get a new idea that will take my business to the next level is an incredible feeling. It’s that intimacy with the business that also got me through the really hard times. But at the end of the day, I am a full person. I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, entrepreneur, activist, community builder, teacher, and so many other things. No one thing defines me. Indiegrove was just one part of my life journey. Letting go when it is time to let go is what makes all the difference in living the life of freedom and purpose we as entrepreneurs are in pursuit of.