There's two kinds of people in the leather community: those who patronize leather businesses, and those who own them.
I've lived most of my kinky life in the former of the two. I always have shopped at local businesses and leather shops whenever I can, and at the same time, I would ask myself all kinds of questions about those shops. "Why don't they carry _____?" "What's the overhead on _______?" "Can't they upgrade the storefront?" Why, why, why, why....
I've come to learn a lot of answers to many of those questions.
It's been kind of surreal saying, "I'm a business owner," or "I own Twin Cities Leather." On some level, I feel like I shouldn't. I'm 28 years old. I feel like owning a leather shop is something that the older members of the community do, but as I've already written, we couldn't just sit around and wait for someone else to pick up the responsibility.
I love it though. The days have become very long. There are days that are filled with joy, stress, cheer, frustration, and (occasionally) sheer terror. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Right now, we're coming up on International Mr. Leather - IML. IML has THOUSANDS (about 15-20K) leather, rubber, or kinky people from all over the world. Each of the three years I've gone, I've had an incredible time. It's kind of like kinky Christmas; it's the event that gay kinky people (mostly men) look forward to every year. It's an opportunity to shop at some retailers you never have the opportunity to visit, see friends/kinky people who you never get to otherwise meet, relax and be yourself in a comfortable environment, and enjoy the most epic of vacations in the quite epic city of Chicago. (Oh yeah, and the unending opportunities for kinky sex!)
I've reached a completely different point in my journey. I'm a different person now. No longer can I run around IML, dependent on the business owners to create the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm of the event. I AM one of those business owners now. It's a comfortable change though. I've reached a point in my kinky life where I'm pretty comfortable with the kinky person that I am. Learning is a lifelong process and the learning will never end, but how many more "milestones" will there be, you know?
Twin Cities Leather is going to have a booth at IML. This means that IML is going to be very, very different to me than it ever has been before. Rather than being able to roll out of bed at the crack of noon and wander around and look for something (or someone) to do, I'll be on a much more regimented schedule. The booth will need to be staffed every day during all the times the market is open! Less drinking. Less partying. Etc.
It's bittersweet, but I'm ready for it. It's exciting to get to work the booth and show the world the incredible talent and community we have here in Minneapolis-St. Paul. I have no doubt I'll get in all the meetings, socialization, and parties that I need to as well, but this IML is going to be like a rebirth for me in a lot of ways. I'll finally get to experience it from the other side of the looking glass.
I can't wait.