It took 40 years to get my first customer.
I have stopped and started many businesses in my life. I have failed at more things than I have succeeded in. Looking back, I can say that many of the ventures I started began with the wrong motivation.
Guitar Care was started out of the love of the customer base. I love guitars. I like being around guitarist. I stand in awe of musicians that master the guitar. I aspire to be in that number before I close my eyes for the last time. It took me forty years to get my first customer and when he arrived, I knew he was sent by God.
I know that sounds like a line from the Blues Brothers doesn’t it?
I am a man of faith. I have overcome some great challenges in my life and all the while growing and getting closer to the person I am supposed to be. I knew this business was blessed by the Almighty when my first customer called me.
I had just put up a few notes online about the company I was starting. I had not opened it for business. I didn’t have any great pictures or testimonials yet. My website was not complete. I didn’t pay Google for the ad space.
My first customer drove an hour from southern Maryland to bring me a guitar that had been rotting away in his basement for 40 years. He was recovering from cancer surgery and the loss of his wife and called me wanting to resurrect his bass and get back into it.
The bass was a bad Japanese knock off of a Fender Precision in ¾ scale. He loved it. Said he played it in garage bands during his military service and now he wanted to play it at church. He arrived and shared his story with a person also grieving the loss of how things used to be and who plays a guitar at church.
We shared war stories and I am amazed at how much we had in common. He testified about his faith, his life, his struggles and we wept together like old friends. He still had the G-tube installed in his stomach from when he was hospitalized like my wife did but asked to hug me and to watch out for it. I totally understood. It was a Christian thing. Two old vets, one a Sailor and the other a Marine bound by their love of God, life and music.
I began to diagnose how I was going to fix this ugly baby.
I started ordering parts and realized what he wanted I couldn’t provide. I would be building a new guitar that would cost more than repairs. I gave him the bad news and some options.
Amazon.com had a ¾ scale Fender Squire in hot rod Red that he might like at the price of two of the ten parts I had bought to “repair” his old bass.
He appreciated the info and bought it. I set it up and installed a hybrid of expensive black nylon wound strings. He loved it.
Realizing this business was now my jam, I shared that I was going to start it on Facebook. I got a call from a professional musician almost instantly to upgrade the electronics on a couple of his guitars. Terrified I asked him to wait. I still have imposter syndrome that I won’t be good enough for a guy I respect a lot.
Meanwhile, the blessings continue. The wife goes to the hospital for another round of surgeries to correct a wound that didn’t heal in her skull and is doing ok. I am a basket case, stressing over paying all the bills, a new job, and dealing with family, and all that comes with caregiving. I am often angry, frustrated, depressed and confused except when it comes to my music and my guitar. Playing the guitar regularly every Sunday at church and training my ear to be able to accompany the musicians no matter what; is therapeutic, cathartic and has been spiritual.
I get a call from another Navy veteran that had tried being a luthier once but now had other priorities. He offered to give me all his tools and miscellaneous accoutrements. He gave me $300 worth of gauges, files and odds and ends I needed.
Genesis 12:3 (KJV) And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
My first customer returned when he discovered a chip and a crack in his bass. There was a hairline crack under the chip that I repaired after a couple of days of looking for options. I went all over the place looking for matching paint, and bonding solutions. This is a problem solving gig. I offered to repair it for free. I wanted the experience. I succeeded in getting the paint match, the crack filled and the customer happy. He told me that it took him forty years to get to this point in his Christian walk from the time he first picked up a guitar and then a bass, played in bars, sang in quartets to appreciating the gift and ability to play in church post cancer and all the struggles he has as a senior citizen.
Its Biblical for God to give you stuff in your latter years that you might have squandered in your youth. Appreciation and gratitude is the secret sauce to living.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
Guitar Care is going to be my post retirement gig for sure. I knew that I was never going to be the guy that retires to the Virgin Islands with the funds to live like a king. After I build my confidence and skill level, I’ll probably build my own guitars. Music helps me so I’m trying to share the blessings and the joy it can provide one customer at a time.
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17