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Still Learning, Still Walking

Sarah Tao

Let's hit the rewind button, shall we?

October. November. December. It all seems a blur, with the flurry of sales and in-person events. Unboxing and giveaways. Packaging and post offices. Exceeded expectations. Loyal customers. And then, inevitably, reordering happens and the glorious cycle begins again.

But let me be real with you. This has been hard. Hours have been long, and work has been insanely mountainous. My back hurts from sitting at the computer so long. I've pulled all nighters (and I'm waaay too old for that.) Not all customers are the most gracious and charming. There are times when I want to say, "Hey! This is not my full-time job!” And for someone who operates best with systematic order and predictability...  well, let's just say this business is almost designed to have you feeling perpetually behind and with no assurance of what lies ahead.

I hate to admit it, but there have been times in the last month where I’m ready to be done. I've thought about life before all of this… When running a household of four young kids seemed enough, when there was such a thing as leisure time, and when I could veg out on the couch for an occasional episode or two. I could get my morning workout in, maybe even meet a friend for lunch, and diligently sit through all my kids' piano lessons. Ah, how life has changed. Yet, I knew this would be a sacrifice and that the first few months would be hard and tedious, and maybe even painful. That, it indeed has been. At the cost of many things, it has been hard to turn it off.

I know that this is the beginning, and the beginning is going to be hard. I made the decision to dig in deep, and my hands got pretty dirty. They say that nothing worth having comes easy, right?

As I reflect on the start of this new venture, I have learned to appreciate all those who sacrifice daily in their jobs. I think about those who serve in the church, or in the government, or in hospitals or classrooms with very little reward or compensation – perhaps they get a simple pat on the back, or maybe they earn enough to put food on the table, but some folks give much more than they receive… by far. For me, one of the greatest challenge has been sacrificing my time and effort, and balancing family. These last few months have been a good practice of generosity for me.

I’ve also learned that working hard can become a habit. I spent hours evaluating and re-evaluating, networking and building, and lots of trial and error. I trained myself to think creatively and to dream big. I made mistakes, and had to quickly learn to adjust. Starting a business became a serious kind of fun – with all the kickback of doing something for a greater cause, something outside of myself.

I’m also coming to the reluctant conclusion that I can’t do this on my own. Giving up tight control was not on my list. I like to play director, and tell all the pieces where to move and when. There’s always a mental timeline running through my head, and I write every post with precision and care. My December operation goals were overwhelming (I’ll write a separate post for that one!) but I learned in those ten days what it meant to be a recipient, and to humbly ask for and accept help. I think a tight grasp on this will only hamper growth, and letting go has got to be a good thing.

I absolutely love what this business can do. I love helping someone shy feel beautiful and confident. I love it when a friend is pleasantly surprised with the clothes they receive. I love talking with my kids about what it means to give to others. I love sharing my vision for DressWell when people ask. I love collaborating ideas. I love it when someone shops with me because they want to be intentional, and not just because they want a good deal. I love it when doors open wide, and it just takes guts to step forward.

It’s been a heck of a learning curve. I can’t immediately see the results or even know what next month will look like, but there is something exciting and scary and adrenaline-pumping about taking a risk for good. We are planting a seed, and whether or not it takes root, I know that this businesses we’ve created – this vehicle for giving – has challenged me to act stronger, think wiser, become braver… and with hard work, its wheels are greased and ready for what lies ahead, whatever that may be.  

Cheers to a New Year of partnering and giving together!


-Sarah, from DressWell GiveWell