On a Foundation of Faith, a Business Rebounds
After months of tough times, a couple's prayers are answered and their fortunes reversed.
I should have been getting ready for church that Sunday morning in May 2011. Our family never missed. But now I just couldn’t do it.
“I’m not going,” I told my husband, Mark. “I can’t say more goodbyes.” I couldn’t bear seeing any more of our former employees leave our town of Trinidad, Colorado. There was nothing I could do to ease their worry and uncertainty. It was beyond frustrating.
I’m an artist, creative. I’m usually full of ideas. I love the challenge, the pride I feel crafting lasting, beautiful objects out of practically nothing and building a business. But this was more than I could manage. I didn’t know how to fix it.
Mark nodded. “It’s okay, Annie. Folks will understand.”
But did they? Really? We’d laid off more than 60 of our 100 employees at Danielson Designs, a custom frame and gift company. Our business had been hit hard by the economic downturn. Our workers were like family. Some of them were family.
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Today the congregation was giving a send-off to a couple leaving for Pittsburgh, our former national sales manager and a buyer for our retail store. We hadn’t laid them off. Yet. They’d seen the writing on the wall. But it hurt just the same.
Mark and I were trying everything to turn the business around. We’d launched line after line of new products, even customized frames, inscribed with the customer’s own words. I knew we were as much victims of the economy as anyone.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. We’d given our employees jobs when there were none to be had, jobs that helped finance houses and cars, send kids to college, save for retirement. And for what? To see it all slip away just like that?
I shuffled into my studio, wanting to be alone. For a long time I stared out the window at the parched red earth as far as the eye could see. We hadn’t had rain in ages, as if nature itself was against us, as if the ground had died.
I ran a sheaf of colored paper through the shredder, then slowly weaved and teased the strips over a small bowl, like a bird’s nest. At least that had been my idea. Now it just seemed like another mess.
I thought of favorite Bible verses and logged onto my computer. “God works all things together for good for those who love him,” I typed from Romans 8:28. Was that really true? These days I wondered. Still, I printed it out.
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Maybe there’d be a way to work it in with the colored strips somewhere. Lord, I prayed, Mark and I thought we were following your will. But this is so hard. So many people are struggling. It really stinks.
We moved to tiny Trinidad in 1990 from southern California to be closer to family. It was an old mining town, down on its luck. We wanted to start a business, help the local economy. But what?
I’d been a product developer at a greeting cards company. Mark’s passion was woodworking. We prayed about it. One idea kept coming to us: wooden picture frames adorned with heartfelt words, like a greeting card but more permanent. We made 15 samples. I hand painted each one.
We took them to a retail gift show in Chicago. We came home with hundreds of orders! We needed employees. Lots of employees.
The rush I got hiring our first workers was like nothing I’d ever experienced, young couples dreaming of starting a life together, men laid off from the mines, women just wanting money to put food on the table and buy clothes for their kids, moms like Jami.
For more information about the Danielsons’ new business, Rendi, visit their website.