Some of you may know that I own a little shop in Vancouver called Black Dog Video. And you may also know that video stores have fallen on hard times. It’s a been tough couple of years, but we love what we do and want to keep our fabulous collection of films available to the public. The problem?
Two years ago my wife had this crazy idea that we should take a year off and travel the world. And like many things things that my wife has suggested – “We should buy a house!” We should have a child!” “We should do yoga!” – I agreed without much thought (I really should think about things more before agreeing to them although I still have yet to try yoga).
Back when we started this nutty conversation everything was fine, business was great – almost as good as it’s ever been. Let the planning begin! She got the time of work. I began figuring out what I needed to do with the stores. We made arrangements to pull Swanson, our 9 year-old, out of school for a year. We bought our tickets to Portugal back in January. That’s when it became real.
In truth, business had started to decline last year but we were holding steady and the stores were still profitable. It wasn’t too bad but it was possible it could get worse. And it did. It seemed that as soon as we bought our tickets business started to head south. Fast. I started to panic. The months rolled on and the numbers continued to drop. Over the last 2 years we’ve seen a 40% reduction in business! That’s pretty damn huge if I do say so my damn self. What was I going to do? I could cancel or postpone the trip, but my wife had fought hard to get the time off and it would break her heart. I had to make a decision – do I cut my losses and close at least one, if not both of the stores, sell off the stock and enjoy a stress-free adventure? My rational brain was saying, “Yes, do this, you idiot.” Or do I see what I can do to keep them open until I can figure a way to turn this ship around? I gave myself a deadline of June 1st. The problem came in May. After 4 months of declining business, May took a bit of an upswing. It seemed that maybe the downward spiral had ended and business was going to level off and we’d be fine. I made my decision. Let’s keep them going. I love these stores and it seemed that enough folks loved us as well. June came and the numbers sunk again. Now I was stuck. I didn’t have time to close them down before I left. I truly was at a loss as what to do. I had a few colleagues who looked to various crowd-source funding projects to help keep their video stores alive. I wondered if that would work for us. I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do as it felt very weird and uncomfortable for me to be asking for contributions. I felt sick. But after much conversations and what-not we looked at it like this – if folks wanted to donate and help us out it was because they valued what we do and wanted us to be in their neighborhood, to still be a part of the community and their lives. The hope was that people would not just help us out with contributions – investments in us if you will – but to also get the word out that we’re still here and to get people back into the stores to rent and so forth.
The response has been great and quite humbling.
But I still had issues about how this would look to people. Here I was launching a campaign to save my business and then I was leaving for a year of travel! Shit. That even sounds bad writing it. I lost much sleep and gained much stress. I was afraid to tell anyone that I wasn’t going to be around once the campaign ended. How were they to know that this trip was being funded by savings, an inheritance that my wife received upon the passing of her mother and from the sale of our car? That the Indiegogo campaign and my travels were totally exclusive? I wasn’t getting paid from my business anymore. I had a customer (and contributor) ask if I wanted to go out for dinner with him and his wife. I was a bit flustered as it’s not a question that I get very often. I said that I was going back east for a while but when I got back, sure. I didn’t tell him I was going to be gone for a year. He said October maybe, and I stuttered out, “OK!” I have no idea why I said that. I panicked. I was afraid. What the fuck?!
But what is done is done. The campaign is almost over. It looks like the stores might be OK, at least for the foreseeable future, and we’ve left for the first part of our insane journey (first stop Pickering, Ontario!).
We have a couple of days left in the campaign and, while we won’t come close to reaching our goal, the response has been great. People saw that Black Dog is in danger of closing and they responded by donating to the cause, coming back into the stores to rent, people are talking about us and we’ve seen a nice increase in the number of new folks signing up. This might actually work!
We’re mulling over on a few ideas. Hopefully they will help. Stay tuned. I’ve left the stores in good hands and am hoping for the best. Only time will tell.
Here’s the Indigogo campaign that we put together…