My 2020 year in review is a strange one, I’ll be the first to admit this.
It’s both my best and worst year on record. Full of the pandemic doldrums, and joys that topped everything in my life up to date.
When I set out to write this review? I thought for sure it was my ‘worst’ year ever. But lo…In SO many ways it is my best.
I have been MORE creative, MORE resilient, found MORE joy in my work and my partnership, and MORE enjoyment with my chosen home of France.
It’s my worst in terms of the reality of my businesses.
If I didn’t have government aid, and diversification in my income? This year would have bankrupt me. Us. When I posted this on Instagram, I said it would have bankrupted all of the companies. THAT wasn’t quite true, when I when back through the numbers. But our cooking school? Ayup.
Due to the wild nature of 2020, I decided to split my “year in review” into three categories.
1. @lapeetchfr and the cooking school
2. My coaching business
3. Personal & Creativity.
This is not a short piece. This is A LOT of information. And perhaps you’ll find it boring, or perhaps it will feel like reading the journal of a fellow entrepreneur. Perhaps you like stories of business shifts and strategies for resilience.
If so? This is for you.
If not, scroll on.
La Pitchoune/La Peetch and the Courageous Cooking School’s Year in Review
Let’s peek into what ACTUALLY happened within La Peetch and the #courageouscookingschool in 2020. No holds barred.
The Mess and Pivots:
By March 20th, it was pretty clear that we had lost 100% of our business at La Peetch and the #courageouscookingschool for 2020.Every. Single. Client. Had to be rescheduled to 2021 or 2022. Because every. single. client is American. And travel restrictions were fierce.This year was meant to be a year of growth. With the opening of the Vermont campus and a trip to Argentina for cooking and the total solar eclipse with a group of 12. (Where I am supposed to be right now).
Truth be told I spent 90% of my waking hours in March worried about cashflow, weeping into champagne and rosé while locked down, reworking my mindset over and over and over and over (which staying positive when this is happening is WICKED challenging if nigh impossible) shifting from gut wrenching anxiety to expansive possibility. I Cried. A lot. More than I thought possible.
We knew all of this would affect the year’s revenue, and halt it to a crawl at best. We received 90% less deposits than normal for 2021 too. Because of nervousness around travel. So it’s a BIG deal. All of this.
We spent a huge portion of the Spring worried about the real threat of bankruptcy, and came out the other side breathing…well…a bit easier. We were able to receive *some* government aid, restructured the company and…yet…The biggest hit? The decision to cancel Argentina, a trip with over two years of planning, and hundreds of hours of work and thousands of dollars already invested.
The result? Tens of thousands of dollars in ADDITIONAL losses.
Well…We have a good problem. Our clients come back again and again. So….1) We had to refund our Argentina clients, thankfully they are the only ones we had to refund due to our ironclad cancellation policies (more on that in part 2).Why even though we have a no-cancellation policy? In my integrity, I had to. Because…You simply can’t reschedule a total solar eclipse no matter how hard you try. AND 8 of the 12 had already been rescheduled once this year in France or Vermont.2)
We had to pay in advance for all of our bookings for the trip, most of which weren’t cancellable or able to be rescheduled. So 100% loss in revenue for that trip, and on top of that the pre-paid bookings. (We lost 30% MORE than the projected/booked revenue loss because of this). All of this above meant not ONLY a massive loss of revenue this year (nearly 90% of projected/booked revenue evaporated and with Argentina we were running in the red for 2020 until).
But that’s not all…This means MULTIPLE years of space/availability issues and thus revenue/profit shortfalls in the future. Aka this is a multi-year problem for the business.This meant, we needed to deploy a long-term strategy to fix ALL of this. Due to having enough operating capital in the bank, we were able to be strategic and respond instead of react.First? We made some difficult staffing decisions and had to let some people go over the summer. But we were able to keep our full staff employed through lockdown one at full salary. And lockdown two at partial salary for those we kept.In the aftermath of lockdown #1, and the realization we needed to pivot…and fast in order to stay alive beyond this year…We did so. I finally buckled down with Chris Nylund and we wrote the curriculum for the Online Cooking School.
I cohosted our first online classes on Facebook, we did some 8 free. And then I did a bunch of one-off paid to groups of 8-10. And then we launched the official school!We soft-launched it to plug a sinking ship.We didn’t rush the content, we did it smart. And focused on cultivating raving fans over making EVERYONE happy. It’s working.
We had a great month of revenue during our first launch in spring, and the 2nd launch in the fall also brought in some solid revenue. And we have slowly been adding people, a few a month. Softly, softly.
The upsides to 2020?
* I Co/Hosted 77 online cooking classes (some on insta, some on the book of faces others within the school itself). I became a MUCH better chef myself, and have developed over 100 recipes for my #cookingsketches cookbook!
* We created a long-term source of online revenue, because we had the TIME to do so.
* We made difficult, but important pivots in staffing and operations.
* We recorded over 100 hours of content for YouTube and the static, permanent content of the online school. We took the most comprehensive online culinary educations we could find on the internet, made ours better, AND made it recipe free.
* We were able to update La Peetch in many important ways including getting her a new La Canche range, putting in a 30+ raised bed garden, and getting chickens.
The lessons in this?
* No MATTER what you’ve booked in business, only count on what you’ve banked. No matter what your contract says. This is good advice for ANY industry. Because even your ironclad coaching agreement with no cancellations for your high-ticket 10k a minute package? Most banks don’t fucking care about your contract and care more about their clients than your contracts. #realtalk
* Keep 6 months, minimum operating expenses in the bank, 12 months if possible. No matter what business you’re in.
* Don’t count on your business insurance to cover anything, have it. But don’t count on it.
*A diversified income is a GOOD income. If your ONLY income is your business, have a diversified offering pool. The one offer, one thing is NEVER foolproof unless you have a ton of flexibility and business acumen in your back pocket to use when things go tits up.
* Get clear on how much you REALLY need to survive. You should know your surviving, thriving, and dreamy cashflow numbers. All three. No matter how ‘flush’ you are in cash right. now.
* Don’t get hung up on ‘the market is too crowded’ or that you don’t have something unique to offer. There can be 1000 versions of your business (or more) and YOU are still the most important ingredient for the clients who want to buy from YOU and not the other guy/gal/human/anteater on the block.
The Art of Traction, Your Leadership Recipe, and Coaching Year in Review
I came barreling into 2020 thinking it would be the year I would be coming back *mostly* full-time into coaching, and would be releasing some of my responsibility from @lapeetchfr. Clearly, if you read day one, this isn’t what happened. Whatsoever. Instead, we went through MASSIVE upheaval.
So…Lo….My coaching business did too. The strategy we *thought* we had planned had to burn. to. the. ground.
At the end of 2019, @leadershiprecipe was put on hold, mostly due to the fact that the other humans who run it with me are all freaking busy. And GOOD GOD am I grateful we did.
Originally we had talked about hosting one in-person retreat in France, and one large in-person event in the US. So thankfully, something in our spidey sense said ‘naw, let’s not.’ (We even revisited it briefly in April 2020). We had some sign-ups for our in-person retreat, that we refunded, and I am so grateful we didn’t have multiple sold out events to manage and refund/reschedule. Especially with what happened with La Peetch.
With Leadership Recipe on the back burner, I buckled down on planning to relaunch my own coaching business, and on terms I was excited by.
In January, I launched The QuantumLeap method to over 30 humans, and then did it again in March to the same number. Over 60% of the humans who signed up, completed the program. (A number that I am VERY proud of). QuantumLeap was a new coaching paradigm I had been percolating forever, and codified it into a singular offering. It’s my favorite thing I have offered, it just wasn’t the right delivery.
During this time, I became deeply disenchanted with Facebook, so I built an entirely new business model, focused on giving back WITHIN my community. AND opened the @artoftraction community, with over 300 humans and counting joining us. (It’s available to join starting at $27 a month, Link in Profile if you want in on the magic)
In the space 60% of the profits are funneled into an angel fund, and 40% for a community care fund. It’s not self-sustained profitable…yet.
We now have DAILY coaching in the space, & it costs $27 a month.
- Business acumen cannot be replaced by courses and coaching containers. Business acumen takes years to cultivate. And being able to implement tactics does not a solid business owner make.
- I have capacity to teach business to others, and I am BEST at teaching in groups. It energizes me most, and gives me the opportunity to teach live case studies when people have different strategies.
- I reminded myself and others why we must stop relying on courses, or other people’s successes as our sole metics of comparison.
- Personal lesson that I needed jammed back into my brain? I have developed a robust sense of business that is embodied. Education, books, analysis, and seeing what works in my own world has built this (More on this later, as I finally figured out how to teach this too)
I had planned on splitting creativity and personal…But frankly? They are deeply interconnected. And also, I’m tired of the associated vulnerability hangover with these posts. 😉
When I began 2020, it was truly the best year of my life for the first two months.
I went heli-skiing for the first time (pre-pandemic), and had the most pivotal experience of my life OTHER than learning to walk on fire, my first wedding to Chris, and the birth of baby girl Noli.
Spent a month in Bali and a few days in Thailand with my family. Just before the world went belly up. Ate the most important meal of my life at Gagan’s and a close top 5 at Locavore in Bali.
When we got back to France, it was clear that things were taking the turn. We survived the first lockdown (with a house in the middle of a renovation, literally holes in the floor, a very active 1.5 year old and no end in sight) and then thrived through the 2nd.
We eventually…completely renovated our home. Top to bottom. It actually feels like a HOME now.
I wrote 100 pages of my book about buying La Peetch, and what it means to own Julia Child’s house (and doesn’t mean), submitted my first proposal draft, with a lot of comments and redlines in it. Went back to the drawing board. Still working on it. COVID has made it harder to find the plot.
I started and quit drinking for forgetting, something I had started doing again during the pandemic. A habit I thought I threw out post my divorce. So to help me with coping, I started my second book called Done Drunk. A memoir on the history of alcohol (personal and overarching), love, loss, and remembering who you are. It’s a doozy, and will take a while to write. (I’m in no rush)
Over the summer? I started painting again. With no agenda. Just simply to paint. We set up the storage room at @lapeetchfr and turned it into an abstract art studio.
I watched my daughter turn into a little girl, and start school (which she loves so much more than I thought possible).
Celebrated my 2nd marriage anniversary and my 1st wedding anniversary. Forgot my age and had to do math regularly to remember (I turned 35).
I got into an MBA program, a feat that has been in my vision for three decades. (Yes, I have wanted to go since I was 5. #weirdkid). And I finished my final coursework for my PhD.
Right now? I am meant to be watching the solar eclipse in Sagittarius in Argentina, with 12 cooking clients. Instead, I’m in France. For the longest I have ever been in one place, since I was 18 years old.
This year has eaten me alive, and digested me into something completely different. It has been suffocating, painful, and utterly exhausting.
The honey in all of this is yet to come. But as I look back I remember that I have built completely new programs and paradigms. IN a pandemic. I failed miserably at my marketing game (see you in 2021 with a WHOLE new lot on life). But I planted a LOT of seeds.
Things are sprouting, slowly but surely.
2021, no matter what it holds, will be approached with grace. Patience. And aplomb. Because 2020 was about sowing, and 2021 is about reaping those benefits. #somoteitbe