Today marks one year since I first went live with my Etsy shop. It has been an amazing year and I feel incredibly lucky to be doing this for a living.
It has also been an educational year.
Here are just ten of the many things I learned.
1. I need to OWN my business, I mean own like flaunt it.
After nearly two decades in the environmental protection business, in May, I left to grow Phoebe&Egg. I love what I do, but when people ask I what I do, I still hesitate to say “I am a doll-maker”. It’s just not your usual profession.
When I proudly own it, the conversation not only goes more smoothly, I often make unexpected connections. People don’t talk about dolls in daily conversations, but there a lot of people who are happy to if given the chance.
So now I always have my Moo mini cards and am happy to talk about what I do.
I own Phoebe&Egg.
2. Have patience. My husband said this the day after I officially gave my notice at my previous job. He knows I am not the most patient person, especially when it comes to my own progress. But that is one of the best pieces of advice a new business owner can receive.
This past summer, my first summer in "retail", business was slow. I worried. Had this all been just a crazy far-fetched idea?
I am now crazy busy and wish I had been patient and enjoyed the slower pace last June, when I needed to be patient.
It is important to enjoy the process of growing gradually.
3. When your business is online you meet a lot of people. Maybe more than when you sell in a bricks and mortar store ( I do both).
I’ve met some great people. I love my customers. I also have met some amazing people who sew or craft for a living. I am not sure I would have made so many connections by only selling in bricks and mortar stores or indirectly through other online shops. It has been the direct connections, through my blog, my etsy shop, emails or Facebook or Instagram, that have been most valuable.
4. I can't do craft fairs. At least not for a few years.
I did one last year, it was fun (I maybe broke even).
I signed up for two this holiday season (back in June when business was slow), thinking that was what I needed for the holiday season.
It was not what I needed at all. I am so busy with custom orders this fall that I never had time to create stock for one fair, let alone two.
It was with great angst that I backed out of each fair.
So fairs will not be my thing.
5. Don’t order too many supplies. I tend to worry I am going to run out of something at a critical time. In fact I have on occasion run out of something critical. But not for long. In this day and age, most things can be obtained within a few days and stuff takes up space.
6. Assume the best. This one I got from Tara Swiger, of Share Your Enthusiasm. This applies to so much. Assume the postal service will work. Assume a customer issue can be resolved. Assume people will like what you make for them. Negative thoughts and worry drain your valuable energy.
If I had assumed the best when the summer was slow, I would have spent more time creating back stock for fairs, organizing my photos in Lightroom, and writing blog posts, because I would have assumed I would be very busy now.
7. Develop systems when you are slow. They are critical for when you are busy. Things like a “shipping station” or a system for how your photo files are organized (if you are getting the sense this is a problem, you are right) or a blog posting routine. After the holidays, I will be instituting a few more systems.
8. My husband is right more often than I admit. He was right about being patient. And many other things. He has been my biggest (and most helpful) fan.
9. Family time needs to be sacred. For your sanity and for your family's. A few times I’ve been behind and tried to borrow from family time, it didn’t turn out well.
10. My customers have the best ideas. Many of my new doll ideas have been prompted by customer requests. I have then gone on to sell many more of that doll. Fancy Nancy. A boy doll. A baby with pink hair. A toddler with the wild braids. I just had a Harry Potter request.
So please, keep the great ideas coming.
And most of all, thank you for such an amazing year.