The other day I got a letter in the mail addressed to Little Dipper Confections, LLC. Normally, any such letter goes straight to the recycling bin unopened. It’s sure to be junk mail designed to make me stretch my budget even tighter on things I don’t need for the business. Not this one. This one was from the State Department of Revenue, and like all letters from the DOR, it sent a little shot of adrenaline to my stomach. Had I filed my previous quarterly taxes incorrectly? Had I missed an important deadline somewhere? Was the Department of Revenue going to knock on my door and seize all my assets?
My head raced around trying to think of a secret nook or cranny to stash all my caramels and truffles before the men in black suits could take them. I braced myself and opened the letter. The subject line printed in bold read, “File your corporation/LLC annual report.” A groan escaped me. It was even worse than men in black suits. It was another piece of paperwork to remember to file and another deadline to keep track of. This one was November 30, at the time just a page turn of the calendar away.
But as I tossed the letter on top of my file box, my thoughts did a double take. Annual report? November 30? I realized the letter signified something much bigger than paperwork and deadlines. It represented a milestone. It meant that Little Dipper Confections had survived its first year!
As all anniversaries tend to do, this one made me reflect on the past twelve months. There was the evening of crying into my husband’s shoulder from believing that the Proctor Farmers’ Market had rejected my application as a vendor, followed by squeals of excitement upon checking my email early the next morning and seeing that I’d gotten in after all. There was the indescribable feeling of amazement when people who weren’t connected to me in any way stopped by my booth and actually handed me money for my chocolates. Then there was the young woman whose eyes had teared up when she sampled my banana caramels and told me it reminded her of a candy she used to eat in her native country.
“What ethnicity are you?” she asked.
“Vietnamese,” I said.
So was she.
How is it possible that I’ve managed to come up with a chocolate-dipped version of a banana candy that tastes just like a banana candy found in Vietnam, when I’ve never even set foot in the country? I don’t know, but the whole thing gave me chills. My husband told me it was meant to be. I think he’s right.
Of course I’ve also had my share of not-so-glorious moments. Like the times when I’d come home from a particularly slow day at the market lugging back almost the same number of boxes of chocolates as I’d started out with in the morning. Times like these, my thoughts would take a downward dive and I’d ask myself, What’s it all for? Where is this going?
There were the lonely sessions of dipping away in my kitchen, missing the days of coworkers popping in and asking, “Coming to the breakroom?” There were more than a few instances of feeling like I wasn’t contributing enough financially at home, of doing some quick math and seeing that a certain month’s profits fell far short of that same month’s tally of bills and groceries.
But the bottom line has always been this: keep going. Keep going, even when I find myself sick of the boss (me) and wishing for someone else, someone with way more knowledge and way more experience, to come tell me what to do instead. Keep going, even after returning from a two-day festival where the ratio of vendors to customers was easily five to one. And finally, keep going, even when you don’t know where it’s going. Because even without a clear destination in sight, at least I do know what it’s all for.
It’s for the love of one’s craft and the opportunity to make some kind of living doing something deeply satisfying. It’s for the love of knowing I’ve put in a hard day’s work and given it my best, every single time I hang up my apron or drive away from the parking lot of a festival. It’s for the love of tucking each chocolate into place and then setting the lid on top, knowing someone out there will lift it up later and be greeted by a little family of confections that I’ve created with my own two hands. And it’s for the love of getting an email out of the blue from someone who wrote to tell me that he or she bought a box recently and loved it. I admit, this last one tops them all. The other reasons are fine and dandy, but hearing from people like this and knowing they “get” me and my products is by itself reason enough to keep going.
Here’s to year two.