Blog, 2023, A letter – Past Present and Future
Well, it’s been several years since I last checked in on my startup blog. Years!? Wow, incredibly fast but also slow at the same time. It is hard for me to get my head around this in some ways.
At one point I envisioned this blog being an online diary of sorts. It served us well and connected me to many of you during our conception and start-up stages. That was a fun and extraordinarily rewarding time for me. Lost Boy’s story is so closely connected to my own. Because of this I always thought that it was important to share. Both for me and for you so we each understood one another. And frankly, to keep me accountable for the public commitments I was making to serve each of you.
I also wanted to give the journey a personal context. To share how and why Lost Boy came to be and why it is important. Initially, it was important to just me, as one would expect. As the journey progressed, it became so fulfilling to see Lost Boy cut the gap and establish a connection with so many others. I remain perpetually grateful to have become closely connected to you as the cidery has taken life and come into its own.
Allow me to recap. Lost Boy will celebrate year four in 2023. We opened in June 2019. COVID shut us down 8 months later. The following three years are a blur, literally.
Some of you know, I have three children. They were 3, 4, and 6 when we opened. And I am married to an amazing woman. That’s part of the blur, not unexpectedly. The other part is owning and operating a startup business during an unprecedented 36-month period where so many changes have occurred. Not the “normal” business challenges either, far more intense and unforgiving. With increasing speed, everything that I thought I understood continues to change, rapidly. Conflict and upheaval have dominated media headlines and dinner table conversations since we opened. A global crisis, historical inflationary pressures, and crushing social discourse have stolen the oxygen in the room and caused so much harm for so many.
Regardless of all the challenges we have faced both personally and professionally, one thing has existed throughout Lost Boy’s short lifespan and remains unbendable to this day. Lost Boy’s essence has always been to unite people, promote and encourage us to push ourselves to explore deeper, learn deeper, and chase our dreams.
Our logo represents many things. To me, it is a reminder to not give up and remain committed. The mission has always been to bring an honest, transparent, and world class product to your glass. Through the many challenges this young company has faced I believe that Lost Boy has done that. And we will continue to deliver.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a businesswoman whom I have deep respect for. She has successfully run her company for 20 years. Perhaps the most common question between business owners is, “How’s business?” Answers can vary and, in some cases, return deep value if answered truthfully. I asked her this question. Her response was this, “I have never faced more challenges, setbacks, or risks over the last three years.” As I smiled and shook my head in agreement, internally I was frozen. Her words made my feet sink deeper into the ground and my body tightened. You see, when you’re in business for yourself and everything falls on you everything feels heavier, more weighty, more serious. I suppose this is because you are so acutely aware of the consequences of failure. When Katie and I agreed to a mortgage on our home with three small kids in tow who were depending on us there was no option B. There was no contingency. This situation persists today.
As she continued speaking, I continued shaking my head vigorously in acknowledgment, smiling. Inside my brain was screaming, “Lost Boy is three and a half years old! This is all we’ve ever known.”
Her answer was meaningful to me, and I’ve thought a lot about it since we met. In her case she had inherited the business from her father. Some might shrug this fact off and discount her as “fortunate.” I disagree. To run a business and oversee and manage the change necessary to keep pace with your surroundings requires a unique talent. To do so 20 years after a legacy owner’s passing is special. Patience, being humbled (constantly), trust, and faith come to mind as descriptors of a good business owner. In the high-stakes world of small business startups, Lost Boy is a poster child.
Occasionally on gloomy days when the weight becomes too heavy, I have let the imposter syndrome take over and been forced to ask myself if I have what it takes. Fortunately, these feelings are temporary and something that a few laps in the pool or a good walk and some fresh air take care of.
So, where is Lost Boy today? I couldn’t answer that question without honoring the incredible group of people who are making it what it is. The team at Lost Boy has evolved and changed. After all, change is inevitable. This is something I have grown more comfortable with as an owner. However, the contributions made by my team, past and present, have been incredible. My commitment to them is to continue to do my best to support them and build a place where everyone feels like their contributions matter and their work is deeply appreciated. The team at Lost Boy is nothing short of exceptional and I am very fortunate to have them.
Today Lost Boy is a team of roughly 20 people. Some moonlight, some are full-time. All are loved and respected. A bit emotional, I guess. But I’ve been on the other side of that coin as an employee and it’s a terrible feeling. It is gratifying to think that we have several people celebrating their three and soon-to-be four-year anniversaries with us. That puts a smile on my face.
Some team highlights over the years. We’ve had an engagement at the cidery. We welcomed new babies, puppies, and kittens. And we’ve said goodbye to several furry friends too. We celebrated marriage twice! We’ve watched people launch into new careers, re-enter old ones, and provide a safe space for others to simply hold steady while they figure things out. As I’ve said many times. I’ve always wanted Lost Boy to be whatever it needs to be for that person at the time. My only expectation has been to give Lost Boy as much as you want to get back from it.
So, 2023? To survive, literally, we must continue to grow in the marketplace and win new customers. Our costs are up significantly and our sales are trending downward slightly. However, I am optimistic. More So than I have been in two years. I’ve accepted change and challenges as a normal part of this journey. Also, nothing can or will remain constant. I’ve grown up personally in unexpected ways and learned from several mistakes. And I have benefited from many “lucky” decisions.
I’ve also taken a few L’s. But the L for me stands not for “Loss”, but rather “Lesson.” Even before opening, we faced extreme challenges. The loss of a lease at the last minute after I had quit my full-time job meant we had no home. Later, after finding a new home, my bank rescinded its financing commitment just before construction was set to begin. And many others.
Our launch in 2019 was, in part, a clap back from me. A pursuit for change. For personal growth and to understand if what I thought I was capable of was true. Built through defiance I like to say. Defiance from the mold that my life had become captive by. This was just the beginning of the game. And it really has been game on. But I’m a gamer. My team are gamers. Lost Boy is a gamer. The support we’ve received from our community and our customers continues to strengthen us and give us purpose. I’ve come to realize that our customers are gamers too!
The business climate I find myself in today is an exceptionally callous opponent, out for blood. Credit to Lost Boy and the team we’ve built. We are here to game, and we are not going to back down.
What to expect this year? Look out for new amazing creations from the cellar team and a few special projects that we are very excited about. Our amazing events program will continue to expand and bring other businesses together to support the community that supports us. And we will continue to welcome each of you with open arms and a smile down at the cidery.
As we focus on our growth in the marketplace and if you have a local establishment that you would like to see us in, please let them know to reach out to me.
Lastly, I hope your year is off to a great start, and a sincere thank you for being a part of this Lost Boy experience with me. I appreciate you more than you know.