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Dear Small Business Owner, This One’s for You

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I created a recent email, as entrepreneurs often do, announcing a new way to be involved with my services. A “new deal,” “a special”; it could even be called a “sale.” I work for myself in a job that I am passionate about, which creates a thin veil (more like a permeable membrane), that separates my identity of “self” from my “work.” Artists and small business owners know the feeling: It’s hard when your work is your passion because it’s a vulnerable place to stand.

I worked hard to cultivate and maintain that list in my email, and on the day the email went out to inboxes, I was nervous but excited.

What if people hate it? No, think positive. What if they love it?

What if it doesn’t work out? No, think positive. What if it works out just the way I want it to?

 I poured my coffee, turned on some music, and sat down to enjoy my morning social media scroll. But first, I wanted to check in on my email. I clicked and opened, curious to see the feedback.

Unsubscribes: 2.

This was the exact moment when I felt like junk mail; worse than junk mail. I thought to myself, “You can stay subscribed to some wholesale clothing company that uses child labor to produce cheap clothes that shrink or unravel after its first wash, but you can’t—absolutely can’t—stay subscribed to me, a living, breathing human being whom you know?”

Unsubscribes: 5.

The tears in my eyes began to well up.

Had I done something wrong? Totally offensive?

I felt as if I was losing friends, and fast. Since email recipients are allowed to select a reason for unsubscribing, I was seeing friends select, “No longer interested” and it crushed me.

No longer interested? In me? In my work? In my life? In my attempts to create a life for me? You are no longer interested to the point where you felt the need to immediately unsubscribe? You won’t even allow the email subscription to remain a few more weeks?

Like pop rocks on hot cement, my emotions and thoughts shot off in so many directions that I didn’t know where to focus, but then I settled on this:

Dear Small Business Owner, you are not junk mail.

Dear Small Business Owner,

You are not junk mail. I see and respect the time you spend calculating, managing, wondering how your business can get out there and try new things.

Dear Small Business Owner,

I am interested in watching you throw things against the wall to see what sticks because that’s life! It helps remind me that experimentation, vulnerability, and belief in what’s possible are what make up this life we live.

Dear Small Business Owner: you are not junk mail.

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Dear Small Business Owner,

I am loyal to your process even if I’m not interested in a temporary deal, special, or sale; I am interested in you, your efforts, and your journey.

Dear Small Business Owner,

I choose you to give my eyes, my reading, and my inbox space because I know you created that e-mail yourself, or work hard to pay someone else to do it. Either way, I recognize that none of that is easy and it took concentrated time and effort from you.

That day, I cried. Giant elephant tears rolled down my cheeks, and when my fiancé turned around from the French toast he was making to ask me if I was OK, I lied and told him it was the tea tree oil we used for cleaning that morning that got me. But what “got me” was something deeper than a smell. What got me was how easily I was made to feel like junk mail: discarded, unfollowed, rejected, uninteresting.

Dear Small Business Owner,

Let them fall away. If someone chooses—selects and confirms—to consider you, your work, and your effort as junk mail needing to be unsubscribed to, discarded, unfollowed, let them fall away. Allow that space the opportunity to fill with people who find your work and your journey of entrepreneurial attempts interesting and honorable. Continue to build. Continue to try. This world needs more people like you: people brave enough to create something, try something, and then put it out there knowing the risk.

Dear Small Business Owner,

Stand encouraged. You are out there doing something, and that is something I subscribe to.

I eventually found enough courage to put down my phone and remembered how to hold my head high. I went on a walk, and along my pathway, I saw a man whittling away at a piece of driftwood he had found. The pieces fell from the wood in his hand to the sand by his feet.

“What are you making?” I asked. He stopped whittling and opened up his hand.

“You have to keep whittling away until you can get the person out of there,” he said, smiling, toothless, as he carved the wood into the shape of a man.

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I nodded: Yes.

“Thank you,” I said, and I walked home knowing that even though this moment was cutting away at me, it was bringing out my character.


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Dear Small Business Owner, stand encouraged. You are out there doing something, and that is something I subscribe to.

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Sheena is a classically-trained ballerina, millennial, idea creator, and community-focused collaborator who believes in taking cookies out of the oven 2 minutes early. She’s a sailboat-living yogi with attitude who enjoys poetry, popcorn, and randomly planting vegetables for strangers to discover later. 

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