SprinterVan Build(s) - Dress Rehearsal
and an unexpected change in our business With the "brain" in both vans (at least mostly) complete... we felt better beginning to show off our work and there's been a short list of people asking to see our vans (which is obviously difficult when they are still very much a construction zone).
We signed up a few weeks ago for Design Week Portland, which was coming up all too quickly and we all decided that much like when we started zenbox design, an "open house" might be a nice intro to the community and a chance to show off the vans. It also seemed like a nice "push" to make sure we were moving fast toward our planned finish line, but...sadly it really just ended up with us having "dress them up" for a quick show and tell. Deep sigh.
We did get things fairly well put together, did a quick roofrack/awning install and at least took an evening off (or out of the shop) to talk with neighbors and those interested in what we were doing. Somewhere in the middle of all this, tensions also seemed to raise in our business workings. We've been so busy on the electrical/brain install that we haven't seen our partners in almost a week and assumed they would be feeling good about the progress and where things stood... but somehow were still as stressed/anxious as ever about the money and the fact that nothing had sold yet. We sat down to a meeting and in describing how much we want to help them reduce stress we half-heartedly threw out the fact that we had even discussed buying them out.
We mostly intended to tell them we would be willing to do anything for them (they are well aware that we are also stretched to our financial limits and don't easily have a way to start any buyout), but also thought it make make them realize how much they really wanted this business to work. To remind them how exciting it was when it all started out, and that we always have a choice (and that the reason we all started this was for a fun and creative project that might hopefully also have the potential for income).
Sadly...rather than the expected response, we got an immediate and very energetic "what's your offer/what would that look like?!". Hadn't seen that coming.
We walked away feeling defeated and unsure of where to go. We had the first big unveiling of our vans and a very public speaking engagement/event in less than 3 days and this wasn't part of the plan. But... our life is proof that plans are meant to change and we are adept at nothing more than rolling with them and figuring things out on the fly.
This wasn't one of those "leap and the net will appear" moments we like to talk about but certainly felt like one of the "sew the parachute on the way down" one. Jen and I are firm believers that you should never feel stuck in life... and if our business partners (and dear friends) lit up at the very idea of escaping a business that made them feel that way- we were going to do anything we could to make that happen.
We ran calculations, filed paperwork to refi our house and did everything we could do to see if we could realistically make them an offer. Their response had made it very clear they were overwhelmed and no longer excited to do this...so we coudn't see much of any other option.
We put together a set of numbers that we felt were more than fair and would hopefully serve the purpose of both making them feel good about the business and make sure there were no possibilities of hurtful line item by line item reviews that could do damage to our friendship- and sent over an email within 24hours... again hoping that a weekend of deep reflection would bring them and their enthusiasm back to the project/business.
Rather than a few days of reflection we got a response within hours and learned how much they were actually excited to move on to other things. We will apparently be sole owners in this business moving forward, and while we don't know what that looks like or how we'll pull it off (financially or workload)... it's certainly better than them having stress about this thing (us being stressed about them) or any chance of it leading to something that can hurt our friendship. That is and was always the most important part of this equation for us.
We shook the mental/emotional aspect of this unplanned twist off as fast as we could and got to work cleaning up one of the vans for the week's big events. Obviously it's not finished, and many things aren't yet working/complete. Our recessed switchplates simply got mounted over the wires rather than having functioning outlets/charging stations, many of the components aren't yet even sealed and we haven't even touched the water system yet... but hey, it's an open house right? We hoped people would forgive our mid-progress show and got on with it.
The events were fun. We were way too tired, run down and exhausted to enjoy them as much as we would have liked but it was a nice chance to talk with strangers, neighbors and new friends...and its always nice to have that opportunity to watch someone walk through and interact with something you've designed and/or built without knowing you're the one who did so. Really no better way for raw/honest feedback at that level. It may have been exactly the refreshing event we needed to help us pick up the pieces of the last week and carry forward with the weeks to come. Good times!!
Now...sadly... we have to figure out the ramifications of the last few days. We have to resolve some sudden (and very large) financial issues, we have a lot of rescheduling to do, and perhaps most sadly... we have to once again tear apart a van that (though incomplete and not totally functioning) looked pretty damn good when it was all put together! ;)