Saturday, November 05, 2011

We're broke

I didn't want to write this, but it is finally time to surrender my pride and start begging.

Tessa and I are unemployed, over 55, and broke. It's been over four years since I had a full-time job and almost three since she has. I had a part time-job for one of those years and we have both had some contract work as writers, but that has been drying up. We've gone through our savings. We've gone through my inheritance. We've gone through my 401k. Now we're only a few months away from finishing off her 401k. Our next step will be selling our house.

About eight years ago, Tessa started making some soaps and balms for her belly dancing friends. I already had a business license under the name Howling Pig, so I drew up a cute logo for her and she used that as her brand name. Tessa's real strength is in blending scents; the soap was just a medium to make the world a better-smelling place. Her friends loved her products and, encouraged, she started making lotions and body sprays and selling them at belly dancing events. We began talking about Howling Pig as something we might develop into a source of supplemental income for our retirement.

By 2008, I only had a part-time, contract job and Tessa was unhappy and feeling trapped in her full time job. We decided to take a shot at turning Howling Pig into something serious. We built a website, bought some equipment, applied to fairs, bought a tent, had cards and a sign printed, and filed the appropriate tax paperwork with the state. We also decided to sell at a weekly farmers' market. Two weeks after our first market, the stock market tanked. Three months after that, Tessa was laid off when her company decided to move their operations to China.

As I mentioned, we have had some writing jobs since then, but our only regular income has been from Howling Pig. And there hasn't been much of that. The Pig brings in about a tenth of what we need to keep going. In 2009, we thought that if we maintained a presence, we would build a customer base and things would be okay when the economy recovered. It actually looked like that was starting to happen during the first half of 2010. April looked good. May was our best month to date. Then June happened. As soon as the Republicans decided on their election strategy of deficit fear, business went flat and then went down hill. Most market vendors and small businesses I know have experienced the same thing. Gifts and small luxuries are an easy thing for the middle class to give up when they are fearing economic Armageddon.

So, here's the deal. I could put up a PayPal button and ask for direct donations--I probably will, soon. But that's only a temporary fix. I'm sure our online friends would help us cover the bills for a month or two, but what we need is a regular income. I need a job. I'm an experienced writer (help files, documentation, light marketing, UI text), but I'm essentially unemployable (over 55, over-educated, unemployed for over four years, and a resume that looks like an explosion at the jigsaw puzzle factory). Still, the best situation would be if I could get a regular job while Tessa gives Howling Pig a little longer. If anyone has connections in Seattle that need a smart guy, who is a fast learner, and has an amazing skill set and broad knowledge base, please point them at me.

There is something else you can do that is good for you and for us. Buy our stuff. Really. Tessa's scents are unique and wonderful. All of her products are gentle, simple, cruelty free (plant-based ingredients and no animal testing, unless I count), and labeled with an attractive and amusing pig. We're into gift season, now. Buy some for your friends. Buy some for your family. Buy some for yourself. You'll get to do a good deed, you'll get something wonderful in return, and we'll get to remain part of the middle class and keep our house.

Please use your Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or blog to point people at the business website. Thanks. I love you all.

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