This has been a long time coming but it still breaks my heart to have to write this.
Over the last few months things have been getting worse and worse and now I feel like I'm at breaking point. Like most things in life there is only so much you can take and for me Cantering Carousel was the straw that broke the camels back.
So with that I have to announce the gradual wind down of Chestnut Ridge.
This is by no means a decision that I've taken lightly and we are by no means closing. I toyed with the idea of selling the business as a whole but I have put 10 years of my life into growing this from nothing into what it is today. Today we ship hundreds of horses each month around the world and have thousands of happy customers. But we do not have a happy owner.
I feel it is only fair to be honest with people about my reasons and my decisions, and about what is going to happen going forward.
So here this is.
Is this really the end?
Well not really, we are still going to be operating and selling some items. I will continue to get in a small section of new Breyer, Schleich and CollectA horses each year and sell them on to the hobby.
I shall continue to sell the hobby supplies and my own custom work (which maybe I'll have more time for), all through the website.
But some things are going to go, we certainly won't be getting every new item in and we will be picking carefully how much we are going to get in.
With that I'll be making a few changes to the website, it will soon display actual stock levels and we will try and alert people when items are running low. That way you won't miss out on the things you want! We will also encourage you to place pre-order so we can guarantee numbers.
I'm probably still going to do a catalogue just because it's something I like doing...even if it seems a little pointless.
The aim is to get the business to a point where it is providing supplementary income to support my hobby, not my primary source of income as it is now.
But Why Though?
This one isn't a simple answer and there are many many reasons. Maybe it's the person moaning at a live show? Or that one crappy customer? Maybe it's the downturn in the economy or just my general sickness of packing tape and cardboard boxes? But here are some of the reasons...
Long Term Viability
Is this business sustainable at its current rates long term as the exchange rate worsens and the economy collapses further?
Maybe in 10 years we could start back up again, once things are a bit smoother, but as it stands things in the retail sector are tight. They are tight for everyone and people selling luxuries are taking the hardest hit.
Bare in mind literally everything we buy is in dollars. When the pound falls our costs go up and boy have they gone up.
At the same time sales are definitely down.
That's a bad combination and I can't see it improving over the next couple of years. I don't think it's sensible to invest huge amounts into a business that currently, isn't sustainable long term. I don't want to end up bankrupt and I don't think you guys want that either! I'm intelligent enough to know a sinking ship when I see one and right now model horses are not a good business to be in.
Cutting back by choice now is very different to losing everything by force in 2 years time.
Is my heart in it?
And that's bad.
Because my heart and my passion is what makes this business successful. But I don't wake up every morning excited about what I'm doing like I did a year ago.
Right now I wake up every morning stressed and tired. My heart sinks when the work phone rings and when I get an email ping.
Honestly most of it is just pure exhaustion, bare in mind I work two other jobs and do all the house work. But there's also a lot of crappy people out there and this kind of job involves dealing with them a lot.
You see the difference between me going out to work and me working on my own business is that when I come home from work, I don't have to think about work. If it's been a pretty awful session I can have a drink and forget about it.
But I can't do that with Chestnut Ridge. And I'm no slacker. So if there is work that needs doing then I'm going to do it. Even if that means I'm up till 4am or working from my hospital bed. I'm just that kind of person. There's no excuses here, if it fails it fails due to my laziness and I certainly am not going to be lazy.
But that isn't good for me. This year alone I've attempted suicide three times, my health is worse than it's been in a very very long time. My pain levels are unbearable and I've exhausted everything the NHS has to offer. If one thing I can say for Chestnut Ridge is it has been paying for my private medical care for the last 7 months!
I Used to Love This
This is the most important thing of all.
I can't remember the last time I painted because I wanted to paint.
Or ran a show because I wanted to, not because I felt forced to.
I can't remember the last time a new horse excited me like it used to, or I sent excited messages about new Breyer releases.
Now they are just numbers and words on a spreadsheet. They are profit margains and predicted sales. They are conditional formatting and percentages. They are not the horses I used to love.
And this. This final reason is the most important of all. I used to love this hobby and now I hate it. Now I don't want anything more to do with it. This was my escape, my passion, my whole world revolved around it.
But now it's just a job and I hate it.
And that's not right. So I'm leaving, not because I want to, but because I know I have to. There's a big difference here. This post right here, this is being written through tears because I'm broken hearted. Because this is my baby and I've loved it and cared for it like no other. Because every Christmas I get at least one message with a happy child hugging a dinosaur or a horse or a cow and they are over the moon, because I made that child's Christmas special. And that is the most wonderful feeling. But I get that less and less and I can't keep this up any longer.
This is not a decision that was taken lightly or on impulse, this has been four or five months in the making. There have been discussions and plans, many people already know. There was an ultimatum. Take £1000 at Cantering Carousel and I'll give it another shot. We took less than half that and I knew that it was not worth it anymore.
Now I'm sure some unscrupulous types would like to jump on this. Please go ahead, knock yourselves out. I'm sure you feel all special and warm and fuzzy inside, like some kind of victory. But mark my words, I'm no fool and I write this with big massive neon flashing warning letters right now (although if you want some stock we are happy to sell excess to you for a decent price of our choosing).
So the future?
The future looks like this.
Find a fourth job (very important - looking for yard work in the mornings guys if anyone knows anyone or is looking for someone).
Do BHS exams (I love studying)
Work on the scaling down, well I already have and plan next year in a wholly unoptimistic fashion. Then if things work out better I can feel a bit better about things.
Start to properly save towards a deposit on a house. So I can have my own ponies (real ones) and a little small holding.
Try not to get killed by any small children. Try not to kill any small children. Those are my two priorities at both my jobs currently.
And finally. Fall back in love with the hobby I loved so much. Less assholes, more happy children (OK more of Harriotte getting over excited because Golden Crunch won again, or Dani's really happy face when she gets a model she loves, or Laura moaning because "YET ANOTHER PALOMINO", or Ann purchasing handsful of random animals and sea creatures and not a single model horse) because those moments are what make this worth while and I want to focus on providing those and not being stressed out and unhappy all the time.
Which leaves me with one final thing to say and that is #CRUNCHFORGOLD (and that's an in joke literally one person will get but I don't really care).
This was the original Chestnut Ridge logo back when we started.