As many of you may know from following our story over the last 3 years, we've faced some major challenges as family and a community while we adapted to a new life with a Spinal Cord Injury.
Just to put this all into context, I feel like a little bit of background is required here. In August 2014, my kids had both started school and I was looking to return to work in either communications or start my own business. I really wasn't sure yet. I was looking for a unique business opportunity that I could afford and transform into a little gem, so I started searching on the local business for sale sites to see what was already out there. I was looking for something flexible, seasonal, creative, fun, engaging and would use my web design skills to develop the concept. Not too much to ask hey! After months of searching I stumbled across Stripes Gear for sale out of Revelstoke. A small base layer cmpany that had the gear made in New Zealand and imported to Revelstoke for wholesale and online distribution. The second I saw it I knew it was exactly what I had been searching for and contacted the owner to discuss her terms and if I could afford it. Stephanie and I had a good chat about where I could take the business with my skill set and experience and she was already pursuing a different line of work and wanted to see the business continue in the Kootenays. The price was more than fair and a no brainer.... after some number crunching, 2 weeks later I owned Stripes Gear. It was crazy and somewhat impulsive decision, but occasionally they turn out to be the ones that work out the best. I was so excited for this new chapter in my life. I had the regular apprehensions. Was I up for the challenge?..., well we would soon find out. Meanwhile, Forrest was happily heading out to work each day as an electrician with his crew/friends and cruising through the valley doing his thing. He loves this job, really...he was born to be a sparkie. I was always a tiny bit jealous of that, but so happy that he was enjoying his work. I wanted what he had and I think I can find that in Stripes Gear.
It was too late to change too much that first year and so I put a short season and a half under my belt and started to feel my way around this business that had so much potential. I was feeling like I was picking up momentum, and I had some grand ideas and had a goal list a mile long with what I could do with it. I was working long hours designing and selling but still not making alot of profit, as a wholesaler but I knew it was just around the corner and I was more determined than ever to make Stripes great. I loved that I could spend time with my kids in summer and flexibly run this business when time allowed in the off season, while Forrest had a great steady income doing something he loved.. I had it all, right?! Well the universe had other ideas.
My husbands ski accident shook our little world. His injury, which happened in March 2015, required me to travel to and from Invermere to Calgary 28 times during his extensive recovery at Foothills Hospital, all while my kids were lovingly cared for by friends and family, as I knew my ordering season was right around the corner. The crisis and stress of hearing your husband is quadriplegic was nothing you can ever prepare for and for the most part... I don't remember alot of the first year of his recovery and in my mind it's a cloudy memory scattered with moments of cataclysmic breakdowns sprinkled with amazing moments of hope. The flight or fight response was polarizing to me and had me feeling totally out of control of my world. I really missed my kids when I had to go into Calgary and as I dealt with doctors, nurses, physios, infections, wheelchairs, renovations, grants, insurance, government paperwork, the list goes on.. but there was Stripes in my periphery, still needing me and no-one else do it. My new reality started to emerge... I had to face that I would need to take this little part time enterprise make it bigger than ever and provide for my family much faster than I had projected. Everything else in my life was beyond my control but my kids and my business, I can even admit my new life as a daily support in Forr's life was beyond my control until the medical conditions subsided and we even then we needed time to navigate a life that creates opportunities to increase his independence .. but we'll do it together.
Stripes became my beacon of hope when I needed order and structure and needed the support of my entire crew. Stripes became an avenue for engagement, support, contribution back to our community and a safe place where I can breathe again and take my life back. There were many days when I just couldn't face the world because I just couldn't see a light in the tunnel, I was overwhelmed and lost, but knowing that this little business could be the thing that brings my little family back into balance made me put on the shades and go to the pop up shop where friends and customers alike, made me feel loved, supported, understood and not alone.
I could never have known that this my little business would rescue me from myself and fate, and become such a part of our family fabric. I often struggle to separate my family life from my business life, but this experience has lead me to believe the benefits of truly living and loving your business in your local and online community, can be your safety blanket when you need it most.
As we head into Winter 2017.. These days we are rocking along with Forrest driving with adapted controls and entry and him recently completing all but the Final project for his Solar Design Certification that will be the beginning of his return to work as a Solar Design and Technical Sales Business in 2018. Watching Forrest grow as a computer user, student and business person all while going through this crazy time in his life has been both humbling and motivating. He doesn't ever give up on me or his kids, even as a new quadriplegic.. so I gotta double down and keep up with him as he moves into his new career...he really is my hero. I won't be a total liar and say life is easy these days, but who's is. I wouldn't be anywhere else, my crew needs me and I need my crew. We are all challenged by the curve balls the universe throws at us, but I need to remind myself everyday, it's how we deal with it, and to be part of the solution is the only control we have in the end. My kids are watching me and my actions are my lessons to them right now.. good or bad or sad, I'm real. Despite our challenges, I'll will live a full life I'll be proud to look back on. So should you...