Surviving The Transfer of a Family Business

Up to this point in this blog, I have talked about fashion trends. Today, when I was sitting in a social marketing webinar hosted by Wyoming Entrepreneur, the teacher made the suggestion to use my blog as a diary. Interesting idea. The first thing I asked myself was what do I have going on that I could blog about on a regular basis. The answer came quickly: working in a family business.

For the last fourteen years I have been in training to take over my family’s business. Fashion Crossroads began nearly 40 years ago when we moved to Casper, Wyoming so my mom could take over the failing Mode O Day store. I was only 3 at the time. During my growing up years, the business was a second home. I remember falling asleep under racks when my parents were remodeling. When I was sick and couldn’t go to school, I spent my time building houses out of boxes and playing in them. I roller skated in the downstairs, went to the downtown library for story time, ate at the local lunch counter, and had ice cream at the shop across the street. I grew up in downtown Casper.

I started working doing freight and receiving when I was in junior high and worked my way into sales during high school. I recruited friends to help do inventories and watch the racks during sidewalk days. By the time I left for college, the last thing I wanted to do was take over the business. I got a BA and M.Ed. and then left the country to teach English in South Korea. I came back and earned a MA in English. My sole focus was to become a college English professor.

But then tradegy struck. I was diagnosed with Cancer at 27. It took the wind out of my sails.

I needed something safe, predictable. I just didn’t have the energy to struggle as an adjunct or compete for a job at the college.

My career at the store began by just being a sales person, morphed into managing my own store and changed again into my learning to be a CEO. This last year, I became a partner with my mom. While my unsuspected career trajectory has been good, it took me a good ten years of the process to fully embrace the idea that this is what I was going to do with my life. There was this nagging little thought that I just couldn’t get past: I wasted all that education. But every time I tried teaching a class at Casper College, I ended up not enjoying it. Finally, I decided this was my path, my destiny even.

I wish I could say this process has been smooth and emotion free. To the frustration of both my mom and I, we have found it hard to separate roles and duties clearly. So I think I might try blogging about this journey as a family and as a company. I want to explore the triumphs and pitfalls of a family business, particularly taking one over.

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