It’s a beautiful summer day, and we are somewhere in the middle of Connecticut. We are together in the car, on our way to pick up our eldest after two weeks at overnight camp in upstate New York. The other kids are back at home with our au pair.
We can’t appreciate the small things without knowing what it’s like to feel their absence. The warm sunshine and the bright green trees are so much more lovely after the punishing winter. The fact that we are in a car for three hours with no children is so enjoyable because of all the trips with cranky, carsick kids, and the same song on repeat for hours on end. Even the iPad we’re using to compose this post feels a little bit miraculous when you consider that eleven years ago, tablet computers were barely an idea and most people had never heard of a blog. The ordinary is extraordinary.
Eleven years ago, we had a two-year-old and a four-month-old. The idea of leaving our toddler with complete strangers for two weeks far from home and out of contact would’ve been absurd. Parenting was a full-contact sport, all-encompassing and exhausting. AND we were starting a new business. Life was hectic on good days, and full-on chaotic most of the time. Delegating was hard and scary, so we tried to do everything ourselves, even if that meant no sleep and skipping meals. It should’ve run us into the ground, but we were having way too much fun to slow down.
Now, that toddler is thirteen and she writes 750 words every day to help cultivate her inner artist. The infant is eleven, recently dyed the tips of her hair purple, and is better than her mom at applying mascara. There’s even a third kid, who never knew life before Magic Beans, but is currently trying to grow a dinosaur using cow’s milk and his own hair. Parenting has changed. It’s still all-encompassing, but it’s not the same frenetic please-just-let-me-make-it-through-one-more-day-without-losing-my-sanity pace. The idea of leaving our daughter for two weeks far from home with strangers is still a little absurd, but we did it anyway — and she had a blast.
The business has grown up too. It’s no longer possible to do everything ourselves — it hasn’t been for years. We’ve learned to hire, train and trust, and we’ve been blessed with amazing people who’ve come on board and helped make Magic Beans the special company it is today.
After eleven years, we know to be grateful for every single one of our amazing employees. We never take a customer for granted, and we treasure the ones who are kind and warm and supportive. We know all about the magic that happens when we cultivate strong partnerships with our vendors, and we know the synergy that comes from collaborating with other retailers instead of shutting them out as “competitors.” We also know that even as we grow and evolve, our work is never done. We will always have plenty of room for improvement.
One big lesson of parenting and small business ownership (and life) is that you can’t predict the future. You never know if your kid will love overnight camp, or if you’ll have to pick her up early because she’s too miserable to stay. You don’t know if the store you open one hot summer afternoon will make it past the first year. But time gives you the most valuable kind of perspective. Looking back at our experiences, successes, and mistakes makes us better at preparing for what will come next and helps us to see the extraordinary that’s all around us.
Thanks for celebrating eleven years with us today, and thanks for all you’ve done to get us this far.
Eli & Sheri