Garage to Showroom back to Garage

When I set out to start Grass + Grain Co. I could have never guessed this would be the story. No one could. In late-September 2019 I stepped back from the dream whisky ambassador job to start my company. I genuinely loved my old job and the people I worked with…but anyone who knows me knows I’ve been itching to start my own business for over a decade now. I’ve been vetting ideas, business plans, and opportunities for years. I’ve studied start-ups relentlessly, developed plans, assembled teams, and raised capital in the past. I did my due diligence. This idea was different. This was my ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. I learned how to weld, designed and built prototypes of my vision. Learned how to manufacture a custom product overseas and how to cope with the anxiety of freight-forwarding the bulk of my life savings across the earth. I put together a sensible, secure global supply chain to support this when it took off. Built the business plan, brand, marketing, website, sales funnel, content, videos, support, production process, the infrastructure to operate. It. Just. Made. Sense. So I went for it, I invested everything I had. I launched the website on October 17, 2019 and found a new-build industrial unit to call home later in November. I built that space from the raw concrete: sealed the floors, ran the plumbing, electrical, built the washroom, the walls, built the workshop and the showroom. All over the holidays. All while selling, building, and delivering cabinets for our first clients. Our sales started off strong. I turned 30 in January and did a soft opening of the space for my family. One of the proudest days of my life…

Just as it all seemed to come together, it all fell apart. Two weeks later, I was hospitalized for an unexpected growth in my throat. Surgery and recovery led to full month set-back. When I got back to work the first week of March, I broke my hand in an accident in the shop. I found myself back in the hospital getting fixed up before flying to Halifax for a whisky consulting gig. On March 10 I returned home to a substantial personal loss. I had a tradeshow that weekend I had invested heavily in, so I kept focused on the task at hand. I was physically loading my tradeshow booth into the van on Thursday March 13 when they cancelled all public gatherings. On Monday March 16, Canada declared a State of Emergency and we were forced into lockdown…

Here’s the thing about a startup, the first 6 months are crucial to survival, to get up and running, to get cash flowing, to solidify the foundation. I was barely even 4-months in… Sales stopped dead. Showroom closed. Rent’s due. We weren’t eligible for the CEBA and our landlord didn’t opt to go for the CECRA. I really tried to make it work, but the rent was crippling for a showroom that was collecting dust. I was backed into a corner…I pulled what I had left and negotiated a termination of the lease. The next few days were crazy – I had to breakdown, destroy or salvage everything I had JUST built in the space. Moved everything back into the garage I just invested my savings to move out of… I closed down the showroom before I even had our Grand Opening. I’m so sad that most of you will never see what I worked so hard on. To those who did make it out to visit the shop in the short time it was open, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You saw a piece of me most never did, and you supported me when I needed it most. Thank you.

At the end of the day, I’m still one of the lucky ones. I lost a lot of capital on a showroom that never was…but I still have my company. I still have the inventory, the designs and the ability to take this wherever I want to next. I know there are entrepreneurs who cannot say the same. People who have invested a lot more time, resources and life compared to my little early-stage startup. Entrepreneurs who were responsible for employees, families, and livelihoods. People who have devoted everything in building their business just to lose it all in a matter of months.

I don’t know what the future of Grass + Grain will look like. I have visions. I have ideas. But I’ve also learned that no matter how hard you work, how prepared you are, how sure you are, life can throw you a curveball. Control what you can but stay agile & aware enough to adapt when you lose control. We all do at some point. Push forward. Always forward…

Stay safe and stay strong. We will get through this. Go and support your local business. They need you now more than ever.

…and grow some weed. We can ALL benefit from this plant right now.

With love,

Spencer Gooderham  


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