Lucie Wekeem and her husband Bill recently decided to close their long established soft furnishings business to move on to more exciting things in their lives. I spoke to Lucie about the stress of closing the business and also how her health issues contributed to the decision.
You told me that stress is your motivator and I’d just like to explore with you how this works out in your day-to-day life. You recently had to close a business and so that’s a big transition and so tell me about that.
We didn’t have to close the business we chose to close it down because we have found we wanted to move on and do something more exciting in our lives. We had that business for nearly 23 years. I had been doing that kind of work for 30 years and my husband had been doing it for 40 years.
What was the nature of the business?
Soft furnishing manufacturing. Manufacturing and selling and installation. We really enjoyed it. I remember when we moved to Coffs Harbour we were quite excited starting up and putting our mark on the town as such and we found probably the last 10 to 14 years we didn’t advertise any more because we had established a good name for ourselves and we had enough to keep us going just by word of mouth which gave us a great sense of achievement.
But we got to the point where we didn’t want to do it any more. We wanted to do something different and also with all the work that I have done over the years, which is quite heavy work, it was affecting my health. It’s in your DNA are you going to have arthritis in one form or another in your later years but mine came on quite early. It was in the form of RSI initially but it actually was a form osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It became quite painful doing heavy intricative work.
Tablets were just never enough and I also felt that I didn’t want to be taking quite strong medication with all the side effects and things like that.
Let’s talk about going through the process of closing down the business. How did you cope with the stress of that?
Well I had to make sure that I’ve crossed all the t’s and others all the i’s and cancel the things that have to be cancelled. Simple things just like electricity phone and working to a date. You have to make sure that you picked the right date that’s given you enough time.
We have a shed work room area and offices. All that needed to be emptied out and cleaned out. We then had to set up a home office. Knowing what things we were going to throw away, sell, giveaway, and that. That was important to us.
Everything we had was quite old but still workable and so we knew we were not going to make any money out of selling things so we actually gave a lot of things away. This was an expression of our appreciation to our staff and thanks to the people who had helped us along the way. We were really happy to do that.
How long did it take to actually wind down the business?
Longer than what we thought it would. We thought it was going to be OK just close the door today and that’s it. Obviously you’ve got your accounts flowing over for a few months. You’ve got work orders on hold where fabric might have been out of stock so you have to wait for stock to come in.
Also you have to stop taking orders. You have to decide what day you are going to stop taking orders. That was quite hard with people ringing up or coming into the shop and saying “I’d like to order some curtains” or “I’d like someone to come over and give me a quote“. We had to say “Look I’m sorry we’re closing down we can’t take your order“.
Actually a lot of the people that would ring were repeat business. They used us over the last 20 years.
You say that stress is your motivator. When you’re driving to work in the morning, while you were going through this process, what were you thinking?
Obviously what I’m going to do today. Making a priority list. Having a “to do list” and then prioritising what is on that list in relation to dates.
You saw this as an orderly process and no need to panic?
I suppose there were days when I thought “yes everything is in order its going on smoothly” and then something came and disrupted it. It was fairly orderly, yes.
So how does stress motivate you to do things?
I need to be busy. I need to have deadlines and I work to those deadlines.
So deadlines for you are positive things?
In terms of managing your illness, which I guess is long-term and not something that is going to go away, have you developed any techniques to cope with that?
Diet has been the thing I’ve found most important.
What changes did you make your diet?
I went to a Chinese Naturopath and he did some tests and gave me a list of things that I had to eliminate from my diet, things that I had to just eat in moderation and things that were good for me that I could have every day. Somethings that he told me not to eat were foods that I loved.
So what had to go?
Fruit, a lot of fruit. So I cut it all out of my diet for a good month and noticed a significant change. One of the benefits was a significant reduction of pain.
Since I stopped working I have been doing a lot of gardening. Normally doing that I would be in a lot of pain but doing the gardening and eliminating all of these things out of my diet I found a balance. I’ve had very little pain.
People who read this are going to say tell me more about the things you got rid off.
Very acidic foods. So for example I love a drink of wine but I can’t drink wine any more. I’ve just completely stopped drinking wine.
Watermelon, I could eat nearly half a watermelon in one sitting and that’s very acidic.
Grapes, tomatoes, dried fruit which apparently has a lot of sugar in it.
I had to give up a lot of sugary foods. I’ve just cut all that out as well and I love all those things. They are some of my favourites.
I’d quite often just sit down to a plate of fruit for dinner or for lunch but I just don’t do that any more.
Bread, I cut out bread.
I’ve found sugar is my enemy so I have eliminated that from my diet.
Then of course the bonus is I’ve lost nearly 5kg without even thinking I was on a diet. It wasn’t a diet I was on it was just eliminating things to manage my arms and my hands.
So you’ve been better as a result of the changes you made?
I have no swelling, and swelling obviously causes pain, but there has been no pain.
Thank you Lucie.