Disclaimer: This post is my perspective on this topic. I am by no means an expert. I did however, gather a bit of information through an Instagram poll to see where people stood with certain aspects of this topic.
"Women support women."
"Build each other up!"
"Community over competition"
These are all phrases I see all the time! But what does it all really mean? How can we be all happy-granola-kumbaya when we have business to run and money to make; not just to keep the business alive, but also to make enough to feed our families. By opening ourselves up to others and sharing, are we hurting our businesses? How much sharing is too much sharing? Should I be keeping things secret? These were all questions I've had for a long time.
The answer to that, I found, was yes and no. I know, I know, very helpful Ana! What the heck? Well, let me break this down for you.
As I have shared before, I had a #1 hater and this same person used to message me on Instagram and ask a lot of questions about my set up. Was I working from home? Did I have a commercial space I rented? How much did I pay? Where was it? These questions at the time made me feel really uneasy. So I lied. I lied so hard!
"Oh yes, I do have a commercial kitchen I rent."
"Well, its $25/hr and it is in Englewood."
I had a feeling that these were not friendly questions. Guess what? Many years later, I was proven right! Had I shared a little too much, this person could have used the information to hurt me in any way they could. Moral of the story, be kind, but trust your instincts and protect yourself. (PSA: Make sure you look up your state laws regarding baking. I will share a bit more about this in a different post.)
It is OK to have boundaries...Actually, it is very healthy to have them. Do not feel bad if there is something you are not willing to share. If someone gets upset with you, that is their business, not yours. Just leave it at that and walk away. If you believe that your recipes are your secret to success, you don't have to share them. If you think that how you create your graphics is your golden ticket, keep it to yourself! In the end, you don't owe anyone anything. With that being said, you can still be kind about your delivery, you don't need to be rude to say no. Unless someone is already being rude. People say"take the high road"...but how easy is that? Not very! When I am triggered I can't always help myself.
All of this does not mean that you are not a "woman who supports women" or that you can't be part of a "community". It is possible to root for people without making yourself vulnerable. Why live paranoid? Because unfortunately, not everyone means well. To be honest, this way of thinking to me does not say paranoia. It simply means that you are smart, looking our for yourself. Why would you push yourself to share something that doesn't feel natural or OK? Simply, because people bully you with these phrases. Do not let people push you with these tag lines.
But Ana, there is plenty of business out there for us all. This is true! To me, that only works if everyone respects boundaries. To you, it might be perfectly fine to share it all and still find success. But that does not work for everyone and that is OK. what ever your thoughts or feelings on this are, they should be respected by everyone.
For me, supporting someone might look like: commenting on posts to let them know how much I admire them or cheering them on when they get an amazing order/account. When I owned my business, supporting others did not include me sharing my recipes. It was the thing I treasured most, the thing I knew set me apart from other bakeries. Those recipes were the reason people kept coming back to me and posting those, sharing them...giving my competitor a chance at having them? No dice! Even with my fellow bakery owner friends. Mamma didn't raise no fool! I love them dearly, but we were all trying to make a living out of this thing.
Things are different now, now I will be sharing a whole lot more. I mean, thats the whole point of this thing. But when I had the bakery, I had to get used to the fact that people were going to ask for recipes all the time. A lot of followers were there because I was making videos and sharing a lot of techniques. I had to learn that I had put myself in a vulnerable position and that people were going to ask and wonder why I was not sharing more. To me, sharing techniques did not take away from my business. While it was very important for me to create beautiful desserts, taste was above all. So what happened with the questions I didn't want to answer? How did I handle that? I would kindly explain why I could not share it. Most of the time, they understood my "no" and it was a lovely exchange. Other times, I would get comments back like "Oh! You will share all that other stuff and not the recipe? Thats ridiculous!". These comments made my brain want to explode! I couldn't help myself, they had pushed a big time trigger..."Ok Karen, sure! Let me do all this hard work and hand it over to you". I really wanted to say a big fuck you when people said things like that.
(PS if you are offended by swear words, kindly exit my blog, I do not need your opinion on swears.)
With all that being said, is it wrong to ask questions? Of course its not! However, think about the person on the receiving end. How would you feel? Maybe role playing will help here...
Think back to being in school and on a dreaded group project. The worst, right? Have you ever been the only person doing all the work? How aggravating is that? How upsetting was it to see them get an A from all your hard work?
Same thing applies in adult life. I just think its only fair that you do your due diligence and do some research. There are so many resources out there, so many blogs full of information! Google is an amazing and magical place that has most of the answers you are looking for. Most people will be way more open to help you out if they feel like you are not just looking for easy answers and not willing to do the work. OH! and always remember to start your messages with "Hi", followed by a "how are you" or something like "love your work, hope you don't mind me asking". Those little details will get you very far. Manners, they still matter.
I know everyone is going to have a different perspective. That is ok. I only ask that you all respect each other's opinion when it comes to this topic. Owning a business is something very personal, something people feel so passionate about. Respect their boundaries, the same way you should expect people to respect yours.