Friday, August 5, 2011

Lessons from a Gelato Shop

It's been just a little over one year since Mike and I took the mad leap into opening an ice cream and gelato store. Although it can begin to seem normal, at times we wake up and realize how weird it is that we own a gelato store. If you asked us 10 years ago what we would be doing, this certainly wouldn't have been on the list! (We would have said philosophy professor and stay-at-home mom.)

But still, how fun will it be for our daughter to grow up around an ice cream store? Mike and I both remember growing up hanging around the hospital/clinic with our dads. Mike played hide and seek at his dad's doctors office and I loved to spend the day with my dad and uncles at the chiropractic clinic when I was sick. (What other kid got to lay on the electric massage bed while sick?) Now, our little girl will have fun taste-testing ice cream and washing dishes in the back. ;) She'll be like one of those kids on sitcoms whose parents have unreasonable and unlikely jobs: A writer for a mother and a gelato maker for a father. It tickles my romantic bones.

Anyway, now that we've been in business for a year, we've learned a few things. Here are just a few things we've learned about the universe since our adventures began.

You can't control the universe: This is really too bad. It would be quite handy to control the universe, wouldn't it? But one thing we have learned repeatedly owning a small business is that there are things you can control and things you cannot. You can only control your response to them. Luckily, Mike is like a little duck, and ice cream seems to roll easily off his back. Like when an employee melted an entire case of very expensive gelato or when our fancy Italian gelato machine broke (that American handymen don't like to work on) and remained broken for two weeks waiting for a handyman brave enough to touch it. We can't control our employee's mistakes or the trepidation of handymen. But we can still have peace. Peace that, even when the gelato case breaks and the employee doesn't show up for a shift, our responsibility isn't to control and perfect the universe, but to simply respond in the best way that we can.

You can't foretell the future: This would also be mighty handy, although it would take all fun out of life. In the past several months, an unprecedented number of frozen yogurt stores have opened in our city. It can be a bit scary. Had we known a year ago that our competition in the frozen dessert market would double in a year, would we have gone forward with our store plans? Well, I guess that's why it's nice to not know the future. We can't live our lives in fear, or, at least, it sure would not be enjoyable. We can only know what we know and make the best decisions we can based on that. We can't waste our lives worrying and fretting over what we don't know and can't control.

Success in this world isn't all that important: Well, it's important to be able to eat and pay your rent, but other than the basics, there are so many other things that are of far more value. We have family who love us, a church who cares for us and a God who is always with us. The rest is just gravy. This mindset helps us to weather the unexpected.

It helps to be nice: Mikey is a nice boy. But we've learned that niceness isn't necessarily the skill of all small business owners. I guess they don't necessarily get into it for their cuddliness. We've met a number of other business owners, and while we've met some incredible people, we've also met some whose skills don't lie in the warm, friendly department. This is where my lovable hubby can have an advantage. Mike is especially a hit with the over-60 lady crowd. I don't know why, but they seem to love him. It also so happens that the over-60 crowd like to eat ice cream regularly.

Work is good: It's been so wonderful to watch my husband get to work hard at something. Even though we're not personally making a dime, work is good. Before we started the store, many people questioned if Mike would like it or if it would be too much work, which I thought were funny questions for someone who was unemployed. It's not Mike's dream job and there are hard things about it, but the satisfaction of doing a long, hard day of work is something we can easily take for granted.

Cinnamon roll ice cream covers a multitude of sins: It's good to be the owner of a gelato store.

We need to exercise more: See above.


Tara said...

I am glad your store came into your lives. It is really neat to see Mike running the store and doing such a great job too! Plus, now I don't need to drive to Longmont or Boulder to have the best ice cream & gelato in the world:) I can just drop by after visiting you both!

Mrs.Strongarm said...

Your ice cream store is the best, therefore you will outlast all competition.

Amber said...

Thanks, Emily. I appreciate your confidence in our product, despite never having tasted it. :)

Elizabeth M. said...

Amber, I have always boasted of Mike, but I now that he is a famous business owner, I boast even more...about you both and what God has done! Alexandra is going to love growing up with you two! I am getting eager to come up and see you guys, maybe in the next few weeks! I'll call : )
Oh, and Mike's recipes and flavors seem so creative and yummy!

Anonymous said...

While it would have been nice to turn a profit in the first year, there are many great things about your ice cream/gelato store! First, and most importantly, you started it with prayer. Then, as you said, there is reward in the doing - Job well done! Bravo! Then, there are the jobs you created and the work experience gained by the people you employed, as well as, the experience you gained. There are the other companies that were helped by your store, your suppliers and your wholesale accounts. Great entrepreneurial spirit! Then, of course, the product - so delicious with original recipes too. And my favorite -- the warm gathering place you planned so carefully and lovingly. From the glass tiled fireplace to the cozy chairs, to the book shelves and game area, to the outside seating area, to the wholesome and safe environment, I think God must be smiling as he watches the enjoyment of children, teens, families and seniors. What a very nice thing you have done!!!