“I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore,
If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before.
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing
‘Cause everyone listens when I start to sing,
I’m so grateful and proud.
All I want is to sing it out loud.
So I say,
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing.
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.
Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty,
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance, what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me.”
Since 2015, Littlebearabroad and more recently The FMLY place has been my oxygen, my food, my life force. In Maslow’s hierarchy of human need Littlebearabroad and the FMLY Place cleared the top 3 for me: esteem, belonging and self-actualisation. 12 hours a day 6 days a week I poured my soul into building a community. Writing, content creation, even management, communication, reaching out to new arrivals. It gave me purpose, joy, social autonomy and the chance to meet thousands of people I would never have otherwise.
But, in the last 18 months that sense of joy, purpose, self actualisation has been marred with anxiety, worry and resentment.
Sure, we’re currently experiencing the most exhausting and relentless annus horribilis of the decade (and that includes 2016). The punches just keep rolling. Environmental disaster, the fight for social justice, political upheaval, geopolitical squabbling, public health and plague, pestilence (don’t forget the murder hornets). Someone reminded me recently that the original MadMax was set in 2021… it’s not far off folks. But, I cannot blame any of this on the decision to close my business. They are simply notches on the fence-post of inevitability.
The simple truth is I’m done. I’ve been working for nothing and doing nothing but working for the last 5 years. I have made every mistake in the new entrepreneurs book ( I could list them but that would need a separate novel to accompany this). I’ve pivoted so many times I feel like a Torvel & Dean special. And, now, with personal finances and investment sunk into this it has become too risky to continue on the basis of uncertainty as to what the future holds (will we ever get a vaccine?)
For a year now, my partner and I have been using personal finances to pay rent, overheads and, in some cases, salaries. Hoping against hope that things would pick up, people would come out of hiding and life would return to normal. But, this autumn proved us wrong. We had to make a snap decision about fulfilling our current responsibilities whilst managing the wind up of the business in a fiscally responsible way before we risked our personal finances.
After making the decision the surprising sense of relief has been overwhelming. It struck me how unhappy I had become relentlessly trying to make this business work when all anyone ever wanted was a playgroup. Don’t get me wrong. We probably should have done a bit of market research (I’ve already admitted to making all the mistakes) but the most difficult/freeing thing about all of this has been admitting to myself that I don’t actually want to do this anymore.
I want to establish my life in Sweden instead of being stuck on the fringes, pushing a boulder through the sticky molasses of migrationspolitik and the Swedish inkludering quagmire. Forgive me if that sounds cold-hearted but having worked for 5 years in this sector I haven’t made much of a difference and because I don’t work in Swedish or had the backing of a Swedish organisation/agency – not much difference is going to be made. It’s literally the definition of squeezing blood from a stone. The FMLY Place boils down to being a playgroup. And, sorry, but if I had the burning desire to be a playgroup leader, believe me, I would have re-trained and gotten myself a steady, paying job.
People have said that the decision I’ve made is “brave”. I don’t really understand what that means. Being brave suggests that one has a choice in choosing to be brave, or not. It also feels a bit condescending. It was a wise choice. For the sake of my mental health, the relationship with my family and our financial future, it was a necessity to choose to close down my business.
I’m not too ashamed to admit that I feel 100% a flopp. Sure, it’s only my first entrepreneurial disaster but it doesn’t stop the feeling of failure, embarrassment and vulnerability. The Stockholm entrepreneur eco-system is saturated with stories of success and business triumph. It is devastating to be one of the statistical failures. But, I’m also walking away with an enormous sense of pride. Yeah, it didn’t work out but holy shit – look how far it came, and mostly on my own. I know for a fact that established Swedish organisations considered LBA and The FMLY Place genuinely as competition. We were so, so close. But, no cigar.
So, as if Dec 2020, we’ll be winding up operations of The FMLY Place and Littlebearabroad. I’m holding onto MamaMötet. I have some ideas for the future. Small, but intimate ideas for get togethers. But all other operations will be closed down. Of course the website will still be in operation but no lines of communication will be open.
The plan is to finish the book Katharine Trigarszky and I have written. And, if that is the sum of this experience and the legacy, at least it is a tangible one. So keep a weather eye out for the book. And, wave good bye when the lights go dark on Littlebearabroad in 3 months time. Trust me, I cannot wait.