On the 9th of December 2019 it has been a year since we opened our virtual doors to our online shop. We have had twelve exciting months of shipping orders, designing products, testing designs, brainstorming, adapting strategies, and learning about business. Here is our take away on those twelve months.
- We expected sales to grow more steadily than they have. They have grown, but not as quickly as we optimistically expected. In fact they have grown realistically and naturally, which is hard to imagine before you start. To realise this and not dwell in disappointment because you feel like you’re not growing ‘fast enough’ is a steep learning curve.
- We were aiming for a studio space in 2020, and didn’t expect to feel like we needed one so soon. Th truth is that working from home is hard unless you are 100% laptop based, or make small products. Cutting fabrics, painting big fabric designs and drafting full scale dressmaking patterns on a kitchen table is only doable for so long. The lines between our home lives and working lives became non-existent and this impacted our productivity. It was a massive leap to move into a studio space so soon and it’s a financial hit, but it was an unexpected positive thing.
- The things you expect not to be good at, are not always that bad! Over the past two years we have taken on roles that we never thought we would, from bookkeeping to public speaking to speaking to suppliers.
- We had certain expectations about what products would do well or what customers would love, and those things are not always true. It’s important not to assume and to test lots. What is it that people actually want, versus what we think they want?
- We have had many opportunities come our way that have given us work that hasn’t been directly linked to our products, but more to our company ethos. These opportunities came along unexpectedly quickly and at times we felt unprepared or we felt so new to the game, that we thought people had mistaken us for a more experienced business. Never underestimate how much impact a well timed business launch can have, when you offer something that sits perfectly within our times. The reason those opportunities have made their way to us, is because our little business and its ethos is perfectly situated within our times of change: a change in how we consume, how we think about our environment and how we do business.
- We didn’t expect to have to combine our personal lives with out business lives so soon, but now we have reached the end of 2019, we have had a wedding and a baby alongside running a new and growing business. These were things we wanted and one of the main motivations behind starting a company of our own, but we didn’t think we would have to put this combination or work/home life to the test so soon! But you know what they say: as soon as you think it, as soon as you say it out loud, you have started down the path of making it a reality.
- It’s a financial challenge to let other work take a back seat and focus on something that you know will have to grow a lot before you can make any real financial gains from it. On top of that, there is two of us, so any financial benefits will have to be a bit bigger before you can pay two people, in contrast to if there had only been one of us. This game between doing paid work elsewhere and working on your own growing business is a constant challenge and there is no perfect balance. We both still have our part time jobs and we both still need them, and that’s okay.
- Running a brand new company takes a lot of time and energy, and this can take away some time and energy from other things in life, like friends and family. This is a challenge to deal with, and it can also be a challenge for people around you to understand why you’re willing to put so much time and energy into something that they can’t necessarily see or understand. It’s important to see this time as an investment into something more long lasting, and that it will be worth your time. You cannot build something good and sustainable overnight, although there have been occasions where we secretly hoped we could because it would be ‘easier’.
- Our main challenge during the final months of this year have been to balance new opportunities with creating new products and creating content to keep our online shop and website running. An opportunity comes along and sometimes it’s too good to let go, and then that takes a lot of time; time that you would otherwise spend on growing your product range and your online content. How do you balance those things? This is incredibly challenging when you don’t have a team to delegate to. Everything you see us put out, is created by the two of us, and we only have two heads and four hands.
- It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also okay to deviate from the plan. A lot of unplanned, great things came along this year and had we been so focussed on a strict plan, we may have missed those things. At the same time, a plan is something to guide you and gives you something to aim for, and we have found this incredibly helpful when you are setting out along a path that is totally unknown.
- When a plan doesn’t work out, allow yourself time to reflect on why; don’t haste into another plan as quickly as you can.
- Plan to play, or plan to do nothing: creativity comes in unexpected ways and sometimes you need a day of doing something completely different and then all of a sudden you think of a solution that you have desperately been trying to find for days.
Our graphics designer Emma, our illustrator Helene, our web developer Andrew, our accountant Sonia, our machine sponsors Husqvarna Viking, our generous pattern testers and models, Lori at Eco-Age, our families, our partners (for welcoming us home whether we are crying with disappointment or crying with happiness). And ourselves, for taking a leap of faith and building and creating something of our own. And you, our customers and readers, for enabling us to build and create.