Self-reflection key for small business owner

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 23, 2020 12:53 PM CT | Published: April 23, 2020 12:43 PM CT

Putting thoughts onto paper can be a powerful experience.

That was a discovery Eclectic Eye owner Robbie Johnson Weinberg didn’t make until she was well into her small-business journey.

“I think the last four to five years it’s been something that I’ve been doing,” Johnson Weinberg said.

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But right now, it’s no longer just a hobby. It’s a way to find sanity.

“Little by little, I’ve been doing more of it as way to find what I’ve been calling my ‘true self,’” Johnson Weinberg added, “which is that I’m just as scared right now as the next person, that I’ve made a mistake or that I’m not handling this right. Writing has been my way of showing my vulnerability, although I usually don’t do it very often.”

And that’s far from the depiction Johnson Weinberg had of herself before her eyewear business shut down due to coronavirus concerns.

Through her fashionable lenses, she was once a bit of an authoritarian, someone who was hard-driving and no-nonsense, but also shut off from the outside world.

Not anymore.

“I felt like if I tried to hide behind a persona that shows that we have it all together, that would be a disservice to anyone who knows us,” Johnson Weinberg said. “It’s kind of like being on an island. There’s no board of directors. … It’s just up to you.”

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That uncertain feeling shows in her penmanship.

“I walked into Eclectic Eye yesterday feeling compelled to document where we are,” Johnson Weinberg wrote in her first blog post since coronavirus closed the shop. “I want to be transparent about what this little ol’ small business is encountering. How are we? We are definitely not ok. And, we are grateful too.”

That post, dated March 18, detailed the unknown future Eclectic Eye would soon face.

All 1,718 words were thoughtful and drawn out, yet intensely fearful. Fearful that she would not have answers for her employees about their job status, fearful that she would let down the vendors who rely on her purchases, and fearful that the business she spent so much time building up would eventually crumble.

“I am grief-stricken and sobbing,” she wrote. “And, I am getting back up. There are decisions to make.”

To at least one person, however, the emotional distress in her tone was alarming.

That’s why two days later Allison Rodgers, owner of Allison Rodgers Photography, stepped up with support for a fellow business owner she didn’t know beyond Facebook.

Rodgers had a different outlook – a more encouraging perspective that she wanted Johnson Weinberg to hear.

“I told her, ‘Hey, look, I know this is overwhelming, but if you can break this down financially and find a way to help your clients, they want to be with you right now,’” Rodgers said. “'If you need any help, let me know because I want to be there for you.’

“She wanted to start a group, and that’s when I told her that I wanted to start a group too.”

Out of that conversation came the idea to create a private Facebook page that other small businesses could join. The goal was to make the page a safe space for owners to voice their fears, share positivity and provide support for the emotional swings that were ahead.

They were certain they were ahead.

Johnson Weinberg was forced to furlough hourly workers, tell her vendors they were not buying and even applied for an emergency line of credit that was met with collateral she felt was insulting – “everything we own.”

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That was ego-crushing.

“I had to cocoon myself in the blanket of terror and wallow in the failure of it all for a few days so I could start to regroup, and then re-emerge from the grief of it,” Johnson Weinberg wrote in a new blog dated April 21.

But she knew that she was hardly alone, and that other small business owners are going through similar experiences. The same day, Johnson Weinberg received a positive update that the business had been approved for the CARES Paycheck Protection Program. They are now receiving funding.

That, of course, called for more self-reflection and a Facebook post.

“Morning journaling, morning meditation and connecting with people daily that fuel me, know my messy insides, but don’t try to fix me,” Johnson Weinberg described as the routine. “Those are the things that keep me sane.”

And while all of the financial situations and emotional tolls differ for each of the 20 or so small businesses in the group, they do have a common agreement that some sort of light at the end of troubling times must be found. Or at least they all need to believe it’s there.

Rodgers, the self-proclaimed optimist of the group, said she discovered exactly what that was when her photography business faced turmoil during the 2008 recession.

It is the same now.

“In small business, everyone always says that there are things they want to change but that they don’t have time,” Rodgers said. “Well, now we do. It’s almost like everyone is getting a little bit of a do-over, which totally sucks, but could also be good at the same time. It’s like a forced refinement process. For all businesses, mine included, if there’s a time to make changes, now is the time to do it.”

Perhaps that’s something Johnson Weinberg can think about through her continued self-reflection and writing. She still has worries and unknowns, but also has renewed hope that her small business will make it out OK.

“I must believe that Eclectic Eye will go back to business soon,” Johnson Weinberg wrote to conclude her latest blog. “Not believing this allows Fear to move back into the driver’s seat. I won’t do it. I can’t do it. I might do it, but I’ll pull myself out. That’s the best I can do today.”

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do


Robbie Johnson Weinberg Eclectic Eye Allison Rodgers Photography coronavirus
Drew Hill

Drew Hill

Drew Hill covers the Memphis Grizzlies and is a top-10 APSE winner. He has worked throughout the South writing about college athletics before landing in Memphis.


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