Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Ryan and I were going to buy a small business, but now we’re not gonna.

It was actually a really interesting experiment that put a lot of our values and lifestyle choices to the test. We might not be able to afford to go out for sushi, but thank God we have our priorities straight.

At first it seemed like a really exciting opportunity. “Wow,” we thought. “We might be able to create some financial stability for ourselves and have a real income instead of moving money around at the end of every month from various ‘savings’ accounts that seem to constantly deflate like an emphysema-inflicted lung.”

My creative brain was firing. Tag lines and slogans and logo design ran through my mind like a stock-exchange ticker. Within a day we’d already renamed the company and come up with a marketing campaign and conducted a domain-name search and started pre-planning our kick-ass launch party. (What could be better than Aspen Ice Garden, a keg, a disco ball and ’70s attire – hello?)

I was online, creating wish lists at Ikea and Apple, surfing design blogs for office-interior ideas and paint colors. I was cruising around Basalt with my friend the real estate broker, her clipboard in tow, to look at sunny, modern office spaces that overlook the river.

“I need to create a work environment that I actually want to be in,” I told Ryan, the pitch of my voice rising an octave or two. “It has to be somewhere I actually want to go.”

He let me spin my wheels on that one until the reality set in that we couldn’t actually afford the kind of spaces I was looking at.

Still, we were already talking about how much fun we were going to have, doing noon yoga classes at lunch and taking road-bike rides on summer mornings and figuring out a way to be able to take half of Friday off in the winter so we could go hike Highland Bowl.

See, we’d be our own bosses, so we could do what we want.

“Don’t work together,” our business-savvy friend Mike warned us. “It’ll ruin your marriage. Plus, you’ll never be able to do anything together again because one person will always have to be manning the ship.”

We sort of laughed and shrugged and were real smug about it. When our friend stepped out of the room, I whispered to Ryan, “We’ll just get iPads, you know, ‘work in the cloud.’ That way if one of us wants to meet the girls after yoga for a coffee at Saxy’s and then do some shopping at Heirlooms, we totally can.”

Plus, my parents worked together while I was growing up, and working together made them closer. They shared everything, so their day-to-day wasn’t something they just talked about casually. It was full-on.

“So did you see Mary today?” my mom would ask my dad. They were shrinks, so they couldn’t divulge their patients’ true identities, not even to us kids. “You know, Mary, who drives the blue BMW?”

My dad would shake his head, clueless.

“Mary, the cutter?” my mom persisted.

I’d just seen the movie “Breaking Away,” so I said, “Did she work in a quarry?”

And in my mom’s typical deadpan way, she said, “No, she liked to cut herself with razor blades. She was a cutter.”

I’m not so sure this kind of information was good for my 10-year-old brain, but the point I’m trying to make is that working together seemed great for my parents, and that’s what I know. So I was pretty excited about the prospect of working with Ryan. We’d have fun all day long! I pictured us sitting at our desks laughing and smiling and making fun of our customers. It was going to be great.

Then I got together with my friend Brady, who is, like, the smartest, most kick-ass businesswoman I know. She knows a lot about how to run the show and even how to manage the accounting. The whole accounting thing was the one thing I was a little worried about. She did the spreadsheet thing that the bank wanted me to fill out for the loan and explained how the only way to be profitable was to keep costs down. She said something about bootstraps. Or was it bowl straps? Maybe I misunderstood.

“If you run this business anything like you run your writing business, you will fail,” my accountant, Super Steve, said when I’d called him for advice.

“Duh, I know that,” I replied, like a teenager who has just been told to do her homework.

That’s why I took that QuickBooks class – hello. Those people who diagnosed me with ADD were wrong. I can sit through a six-hour accounting class and pay attention and not shop online for platform flip-flops or text my friends.

What was I talking about again?

Oh, yeah. The business.

So it started to dawn on us that this business would require a full-on commitment for the next three to five years. We realized we’d have to become accountable and organized and responsible. We’d have to pay for our own health insurance, which, holy cow, is insanely expensive when your employer isn’t paying half.

We also realized there were these little gaps in our skills that might be a little problematic, especially since we seem to share the same weaknesses. Like, we aren’t very organized, and we’re terrible with attention to detail, so that might be a problem when it comes to doing something, but I forgot what.

So one night as we sat down to dinner, we just looked at each other, and we knew this business thing wasn’t for us. We might not have any (extra) money (left over), but we love our life – just the way it is.

There’s no business like no business like no business I know.

The Princess is available for hire. Email your love to