Successful lunch for 25 and my residual desire to be self-employed

So yesterday went well. I am still recovering. Yesterday was our annual Christmas Lunch with our friends. We started doing it a few years ago – I think it might have been after my first child, Joshua, was born. We had not been able to keep up with many of our friends socially as we had a baby and you kind of have to save the occasions when Grandparents babysit to the essentials – overnight jobs for weddings or special occasion type parties, that kind of thing. So we didn’t often just go out for lunch or dinner with friends as that would use up a much needed babysitting voucher. So that first year we invited a few friends for dinner or lunch. There tended to be between 8 and 14 people roughly, including me and hubby. However, after putting the invite on Facebook this year and expecting the usual 8 or so people to be available, I got an amazing response. So many that I was actually starting to worry about pulling it off and have to admit I wasn’t too upset when a few people cancelled on us. It ended up being about 25 people in the end. And a few last minute cancellations meant we had 22 or 23 in the end. I first of all booked our favourite local pub. I do love this place. It is comfortable, has a nice atmosphere, lovely staff and on the whole good food. But I have a couple of bones to pick. It has annoyed me that they seem to regularly take my favourite food off the menu (baked camembert). What reason would they have to serve that in the summer and then take it off the menu in the winter? Surely you need (or maybe crave is a better word) food like that in the winter more than in the summer. Anyway, I also wasn’t particularly impressed with their Christmas menu. They would not allow us to order A La Carte and their xmas menu was fairly standard typical Christmas food. Turkey, beef, roast…. and I didn’t fancy a single one of the options they had. Plus the menu worked out at around £25 per head which is quite expensive. I ended up opting for a Zizzi’s in town. I love Italian food. Can’t get enough of it. Love goats cheese and mozzarella and dough sticks and pizza. Plus they allowed us to choose the A La Carte menu (in the end only myself and two other people chose that option) and their Christmas menus varied from £16.95 to £24.95 and had plenty of choice and very yummy options. I’m so glad I changed my choice of restaurant. Although to be fair the main issue was that the pub did not have wheelchair access and one of my friends is in a wheelchair so that really sinched (is that a word – it sounds like I mean) the decision for me (I mean that it really made up my mind for me).

So with that decision made, I sent out the invitation by email and facebook (also an initial text message too for those that don’t check their emails or FB very often). Then a few weeks before the event, I started chasing people for their final RSVP and also their deposits.

I had a spreadsheet that tracked everything for me. It evolved as the time went on. First of all it was just to track who I had invited and whether they responded. I am a very visual person so I had it so that anyone who had said “yes” was highlighted in Green, no’s were in Red and maybes in Orange. Then it evolved and I had columns for number of adults, number of children, total people (then another set of columns to show total numbers accepted), columns to track meal option choices, actual course choices, whether I’d received the deposit or not, special dietary requirements, then price of their meals, minus deposit so I had value of what they would owe at the end of the meal. I also did a summary tab which pulled the menu options into one simple table, listing name, starter, main course and desert. I printed off this sheet for each person. I did another table (a pivot table to be exact) that pulled the amount owed per individual (before deposit and then after deposit), another one that showed per couple how much was owed (for those parties of more than one). I printed a copy each for each person or couple/family. Wrote their names on the front, highlighted that individuals data for ease of use and stapled it all together.

The restaurant had already shown me in emails that they were impressed with my organisation so far but when I handed them a copy of this pack that I had made for everyone they were just amazed and seemed also very grateful. The lady in charge told me that I could come back and do other parties for her. I think she was joking but it really made me think. The guests all seemed pretty impressed too. I just wanted to make the paying mallarcky a lot simpler. Everyone would know what they had at least for what they ate. They would have to sort out cost of drinks and tips among themselves but at least knowing what each person owed was a little easier and I think they appreciated that.

I so enjoyed organising it. The truth is when I have a project to organise, a spreadsheet to manage, is when I am at my happiest.

This little experience also made me think more about my desire to work for myself. I often fantasised about working for myself when I was working part time in a job/company that I didn’t really enjoy working for and where I always felt unappreciated and unhappy. However, then I was made redundant and I found this job and decided to go full time. I am happier than I was. The drive is long but I’m enjoying my little bug Florence (my car). I’m not as busy as I’d have liked and I spend a lot of my time at the moment reading blogs, organising my personal life. I would rather have the sense of achieving something (in work) but I am hoping that will come. But that need to be my own boss, to run a business that is my baby… .has not gone away. Its still there. I have tried my hand at being self-employed in the past. I used to be in a Blondie Tribute act. We were pretty good and fairly successful. I fantasised about doing that full time – about declaring the money we were earning. Doing everything by the book. I could be in charge of the paperwork, the running of the business, the running of the diary…. Sadly it was not to be. I got a new very demanding job and after a few months of feeling like I was being pulled from pillar to post, I quit the band. I tried making hand made cards. I loved the feeling that I got when someone praised me for the lovely card I’d sent them or sold them. But the money was never anything more than pocket money. In fact it was more a way of feeding my habit so I could buy MORE and more craft supplies (a lot of which just sat in a cupboard). Then I tried bath bomb making. My hubby got me a kit one year before I had my son. I loved making them. I experimented with different styles and smell and ended up selling them. I set up a page on Facebook and a website and got quite a lot of business through word of mouth. I started doing Christmas stalls. I put in a huge amount of effort into making all the bath bombs, presenting them nicely, making sure I had flyers and business cards. I wanted to do it professionally. I had dreams of having a shop, or even a warehouse where I would maybe even employ some people to make them for me when I got too busy to do it myself. Sadly the amount of time needed to turn it into a successful business wasn’t time I had and I was not able to take a break from working to focus on it. Then I went through a phase of going crazy about organising things. Encouraged by feedback of my organising exploits that I’d detailed on Facebook to some of my friends, I set up a blog about Organising. I got very good feedback. Someone commented that I should become a professional organiser. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I looked into it and realised that there were professional organisers and that they actually did pretty well for themselves. I had business cards done. I helped a friend (for free) to completely organise her play room (took photos so I could start up a “portfolio”). I was so sure that this was the thing that would get me out of being an “employee” and give me the freedom to be my own person. Then I was made redundant and after a few weeks of staying home with the kids (not full time but about 3 days a week), I found that I couldn’t manage to organise ANYTHING. I completely lost confidence. I spent a lot of time job hunting, going to interviews, doing housework (and worrying about what an absolutely SHITE housewife and stay at home mother I was), and I lost that buzz for that idea. I guess I just completely lost my confidence to organise things. I got this job and started working full time (started Mid October) and have been too busy really to even think about organising and blogging about it.

Then I decided to start a Twitter account so that I could “micro-blog” anonymously. So that some judgemental people that I have had issues with in the past could not see me and I could use this avenue to express myself without fear of judgement (sometimes the worst judgement can come from people you actually know!! – and that kind hurts more). But then I started this blog as I realised that I had more to say than I could fit in 140 characters and I don’t think I’m going to look back. I realised also (after getting carried away on my organising blog with advertising and trying to earn money from blogging) – I’ve since been spending a lot more time reading other blogs and I’ve learnt that I prefer the blogs that don’t have advertising and afterall, why do I do this? Its because I enjoy it. Its a space for me to be me and talk and discuss things that interest me. Although I did decide when I created it that it would not be my moaning spot. That’s something I have been criticised about on Facebook that I use it as a place to take out my frustrations – although I thought that it was for expressing yourself – whether that meant good or bad thoughts – but this space, my blog, I decided that (apart from the odd bit of expessing something that’s bothered me) mostly it will be for me to focus on the good stuff. But I like to keep it honest and true. I’m not going to only tell you the good stuff that happens as I don’t want anyone to think I’m perfect in anyway, cos I’m not.

Anyway, back to the business thing. The way I successfully pulled off this lunch really made me think again. I had previously considered the idea of running an event planning business. In fact, I had got very excited about the idea. At this point I was inbetween jobs. I’d not yet been offered the job I’m now in and I guess I was clutching at straws. Desperate to find a way to get out of this cycle of interviews, trying to pump myself up, not getting the job, finding myself fall into a depressed state, feeling worthless, having to pump myself back up for another interview, etc etc. I even tentatively discussed the idea with my dad. Who discussed it with my mum. Who texted me the following text:

Hi xxxx! I just wanted to say that I agree with Daddy
that your greatest asset is your ability to speak Spanish
and you could be a very good teacher if you set your mind
to it. Forget all these other ideas. You have no experience
of party planning. There’s a lot more to it than you may
realise. Stick to what you are really good at. Love Mummy. 
I get that she is just wanting to protect me from failure. She is right, I am good at spanish and was not a terrible teacher when I was giving spanish lessons for a bit of spare cash, but I didn’t enjoy it that much in the end. I found the pressure to prepare for the lessons rather hard and felt rather put on the spot. Also I did apply to do a teacher training course. I even went as far as sitting in on lessons in a school. But the teachers at the school seemed so jaded and didn’t really seem to enjoy it that much. I realised that maybe I didn’t have it in me to go through with it. And then when I was turned down for the course as I didn’t speak French (for a course to teach Spanish – why would I need french too>????) that really closed the deal for me. I wrote off that idea. So I suppose my my parents (and indeed my husband’s too probably) minds I am a flitter. I flit from one idea to the next. Get really excited about the prospect and then drop it when it becomes apparent that its not quite going to be what I hoped it would be.  But I really feel like party planning could be something I could do very successfully in the future. My parents don’t seem to realise that I have been a PA for over 10 years. I have planned conferences with 50+ people. I also arranged a surprise babyshower for my best friend. I have organised more parties than I care to remember. 
I felt quite hurt receiving that message. I felt like my feelings, thoughts, aspirations were being dismissed. 
I don’t want to be a private spanish teacher. I want to run my own business. A business. Not just me doing a service. I want a business that could potentially grow. That could expand and evolve. 
Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough. I may look into how much party planners charge and start doing a bit of research. 

2 Thoughts on “Successful lunch for 25 and my residual desire to be self-employed

  1. I started to read this post last night and gave up half way through, then came back this morning to finish it off, and I’m so glad I did. I have four sons, all now adults, and I have tried over the past 40-odd years to be supportive to them all. Sometimes its hard, but everyone needs to try to find their own role in life, and not be told by anyone else what they should do. I was very sad to read what your mum said to you. If I were your mum, I would have said, “why not, give it a go”. So thats my advice, follow your heart. Joy xx

  2. Yeah it did go on a bit, didn’t it!!! I’m glad you decided to come back and finish it. I was on a bit of a roll. I do feel like I haven’t quite found that role that is just right for me. Hopefully I’ll get there. AFter the kids are in school there won’t be so much pressure on me to bring in so much money so hopefully then I might be able to follow my dreams.

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