Hey, Y’all! Here we are at the end of one chapter and about to begin a new one. I like to take the time to reflect on the chapter that is ending because it always gives me insight and inspiration for the chapter that’s beginning.
I like to look first at what didn’t work or needs improvement and look last at what did work so I can roll into the new chapter with the positive and a plan to correct or change the “negative”. Negative is a relative term as it really isn’t a bad thing, but a learning opportunity. So, let’s dive in, shall we?
2022 was a slower year for sales. The economy hasn’t been great and there are many other factors that affect my business as a whole as well. Fewer sales equal fewer funds for advertising and growth. Some of the other factors that affect sales are dry spells in our creativity, lack of time to be creative, photography, social media presence, and connecting with the people that want our products.
Things going on in our personal lives affect certain aspects of our business. Some of you may not know that I am a Family Law paralegal. That in and of itself is a demanding and sometimes stressful job. There are some days that I just want to come home and veg out. That means that a ball for my business often gets dropped. I love my day job and the people I work with, so I just need to find the balance or find some help juggling all the hats. I am the one that handles all the back-end running of the business and that often doesn’t leave me much creative time. That’s where Dee Dee comes in. She is a full-time housewife, so she often is able to find more time to create. Unfortunately, we both hit a creative dry spell for a little bit which put us behind in making new inventory. When we’ve had dry spells in the past, we’ve usually picked a weekend to get together and craft. We didn’t have that option as our craft space is temporarily occupied. She also received news that she and her husband may be moving to another state in the coming year, so she is dealing with all the emotions that come with that news and we are both trying to figure out how to pivot our business with that.
Since we sell primarily online, photography is a huge element. My photos have gotten way better than when we first started this journey 12 years ago, but it still needs work. Since most of our products are one of a kind, hiring a photographer isn’t practical. I find that I am often in a rush to get a few decent photos so I can get them listed in time. I often tell myself, “I’ll go back and take better photos later” but I never find the time, or I have to move the finished product to the shed and don’t get around to pulling it back out to photograph. I live in a tiny home so I can’t just keep it in here until I get time.
I haven’t been as consistent as I need to be with posting on social media either. It takes so much time to create the graphics and then write each post. Often it is very difficult for me to get out of legal writing mode and into creative writing mode. This is somewhere I could utilize Dee Dee but I’m always running behind and don’t have time to send the graphics to her so she can write the copy. I have however found a new tool that can help me with that.
I haven’t had the time to connect as much with our followers either. Ideally, I would love to send at least one email a month and write at least one blog post a month. I’m also working on starting our Youtube channel since video is the wave of the present and the future.
Now on to the positive.
We are members of a wonderful handmade business group called Make and Flourish. Imagine having the answers to any question you could have about running a small handmade business all in one place. Let me tell you, it is priceless! Before I joined Flourish, I spent days trying to find and learn what I needed to know about SEO alone and still came up short. This group is also the most helpful and motivational group I have ever been in. The founder, Sarah Sewell, really knows her stuff and is a force of positive energy that the whole group is better for. She has many awesome advisors in every aspect of a small handmade business as well. We had the honor of being able to attend the conference in New Orleans this year and came back totally motivated and ready to hit the ground running.
I have stumbled upon a few helpful tools this year that will make some things easier and/or quicker. One of those is an app that we can use to scan our supply inventory. Previously we would write it down as we bought things, and I would add it to the inventory spreadsheet. I look at most of the entries from before and couldn’t tell you what the entry is describing. I still have to transfer the inventory that we’ve scanned to our Paper and Spark (another Flourish wonder) spreadsheet but now I can create a link to the scan sheet that has a photo of the item. Our inventory system has been a mess in the past and I believe I almost have it fully straightened out.
I learned how to create barcodes and have them work with our Square for when we do craft shows. Once I get all the finished products labeled with a barcode this will make checkout at craft shows quicker and easier.
We have a huge supply inventory, so we have been able to craft mostly from that instead of having to spend money to make new products. Did we spend money on supplies this year? Yes, we did. I think buying the supplies is as addictive as the creating. It just takes less time to buy the supplies than it does to create items with those supplies.
We have finally started working with sublimation and I am working on educating myself on all the things with it. I am finding it so much more enjoyable than working with vinyl, there are so many more possibilities with this.
I have learned a lot about what I have improved on and what I need to improve. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings and how much growth we can achieve. I don’t look at growth as being just about sales and money though. I’m ok with fewer sales if we are still growing in other ways. I’m totally cool with the slow growth because I don’t want to get in over my head and have our customers suffer for it. We are not only building a small business but a legacy for our future generations. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.
Happy New Year! We hope you find growth and prosperity in 2023!