Familiar lessons from closing a business

Thanks so much for sharing this Bryan! I’m a huge fan of Makeshift Society even though I’ve figured out that I’m one of those folks who gets more work done alone at home. Very glad you all took the opportunity to create this experience—and glad you were able to make this experiment and extricate yourselves from it with relatively minimal pain.

Seems as though about two years is the right amount of time to figure out that the plan isn’t going to work. When I had my one-woman bookstore in San Jose in the mid-1990s I spent roughly that time in site prep (built-in bookcases, signage) and being open. By a couple months before the end I had determined that though the store could pay for itself, it could not pay me. My initial runway was shortened radically when the long-term relationship I’d been in while planning and opening the store and during its first year ended, leaving me with a need to pay my own security deposit and rent for a new apartment, and thus needing the paychecks I’d been getting by without.

Thinking through “What if we learn we’re wrong about something and we need to close in a year or two?” is a great exercise for anyone planning a business. I was able to safely walk away from the end of my grand adventure because I’d planned my payments to my major investor such that I could continue making them while working a post-adventure full-time job. Sure, a painful expense comparable to car payments or hefty student loans, but doable—and enabling me to keep both my honor and my credit rating.

There’s certainly no defeatism in doing this planning. Something hard to predict could turn out to be a major factor—as with the differences between SF and Brooklyn you found—or a huge influence on your market could appear after opening—as occurred for me when Barnes & Noble opened 30,000 square feet of bookstore space in the south bay within a few months of my 400 square foot store opening, or when after I’d managed to pivot to add games to my offering as a funny little sideline called Magic: The Gathering came out, quickly becoming 70% of my business, the supply of Magic: The Gathering dried up for a couple months. You just never know. You make your best guesses, work up a range of spreadsheets, and go for it.

The best thing about sharing experiences like this is how it helps everyone guess better.

Small Business

[This was a comment on the article “The mystery of the white dress shirt: Death and life of a Brooklyn coworking space” by Bryan Boyer on Medium.]

t-shirt Discardia

Simian Liberation Army shirt


which had its genesis in a SXSW long ago

Design by Crazy Uncle Joe as I recall.

back of the SLA shirt


The 5 remaining well-worn, but not recently worn Inkspot t-shirts


from my bookstore (1994-1995) r.i.p.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 6.18.17 PM

Inkspot: A damn good bookstore.


*sigh* And it was, too.

Inkspot sign


This is the second year incarnation when games were a bigger part of my business

Inkspot register

First sale at 12:42pm (1 Adoornment door tag), last at 6:44pm ($9 MTG singles, 6 MTG boosters, $12 MTG singles).

Book club patrons: 0

Total sales: $329.84 (tmcc $260.20, tmbk $20.75, tmga $18.70)

Oops, and then, 8:06pm, one more sale at angel discount for 1 MTG booster and 1 $5 MTG Dark booster.