An Honest and Open Accounting of My Second Year in Business.
Somewhere around November 6th of last year I hit the two year mark for Wright and Rede. Only I didn't notice and I'm just now realizing that I never did my end of the year round up. I think that is a good example of what this second year in business has been like. The first year of starting a business is all about moments. The series of firsts that keep driving you on to the next milestone. The second year is a steady slog uphill. Not that I don't like the slog. I love the slog. I eat slog every morning for breakfast and love it. Slog is what makes you feel like you are starting to get a grip on what you are doing. Slog puts a little ground under your feet for the first time. It's also kind of sloggy. What use to be a major milestone last year is just another task to be completed this year.
The second year heralds just a little bit of normalcy. I have a general idea that I can actually make a living doing this. I have a reasonable grip on how much work it is going to take and how much material I need to have on hand. The days of stumbling around in the dark are fewer but strangely missed.
I had some hard lessons learned and a few roads blocked. In 2014 I decided to stop seeking out wholesale business. After sitting down and doing a little math and some serious soul searching I had to conclude that my work is too labor intensive to sell at wholesale prices. Maybe someday I'll be able to produce enough that it is an option again. Right now it is just noise that is distracting me from the work that needs to get done. In April I pulled out of my last consignment shop as well for the same reason.
I also succeeded in having my first truly public failure. I spent six months promising and promoting messenger bags that would be ready for the holidays. Then the holidays arrived and I discovered that hand stitching bags at a production level is a superhuman task no matter how many extra hours I throw at it. I had to come to the conclusion that for the amount of labor I put into each bag, I'd have to charge a price that I didn't feel they were worth.
There were some great moments in 2014 as well. The good folks at Cleveland Magazine were kind enough to put a nice big picture of my goofy mug in their publication. The article that went along with it made my mom proud and (hopefully) everyone who ever picked on me in high school green with envy and self-doubt. There was the morning I woke up to discover that my website had sold out over night. There was that weekend where I sold an entire season's worth of stuff in three days. There were all the people I had to apologize to when they came looking for a bag I didn't have who responded with “We can wait.” There were trips to cities I've never been to before. New products were stumbled upon. Things were made and sold. Blood spilled. Tears shed. Acquaintances were turned into friendships over pints of beer. Burdens were lightened and gossip was dished. The second year has fewer milestones but the more I look back on it the more I smile. There is something to be said for the quite happy moments. They might pass by unnoticed but they have added up to a life that I'm happy to live, which is the point of this whole venture anyway.
The biggest (and best) moment waited until after my season was over. He is currently napping right next to me while I (quietly) type. While he was asleep he went from being four weeks old to a five weeker this morning. Nothing has provided more clarity to my life than this little guy. You can gain a lot of confidence when it is required rather than volunteered.
First, before I rattle off some numbers here, the biggest social media milestone is that I stopped giving a flying fig as to how many likes I have received. I have been witness to too many social media juggernauts putting out crappy (and over priced) work to really care any more. The simple reality is this: some people will get me, some will not. I'd rather have 200 people that are really interested in what I'm trying to do than 5000 anonymous followers.
Facebook followers: 360
Instagram followers: 734
Pinterest followers: 101
Tumblr followers: 34
Twitter followers: 185
Mailing List subscribers: 782
What's Up For 2015?
That is the big question. January is always the time of year when I sit down and do all my planning for the year. Mostly I just ask myself if this is the way I want my life to be going and if not what can I do to change it. The little guy is going to change a lot of things. Working from home makes childcare a lot easier. It also makes getting any work done much more complicated. I foresee many late nights in my future. I'm also going to have to scrap a few of my more labor intensive products. While that's a little sad, it's also a chance to try new things. The bags (once again....) are on the drawing table. A new design that requires a lot less stitching but is much stronger is in the works. Hopefully this pony will make it to the finish line this time. A couple of side projects have turned out to be a big success. I hope to spend more time working on special one offs and experimental projects. That is one of the benefits of not courting wholesale accounts. I think the biggest change for 2015 will be in the way I do business. Last year I didn't have a weekend off from April until October because of all the events I do. It's a lot of fun getting to talk to everyone. It's a lot less fun having your livelihood dependent on whether or not it is windy that day. So starting with the website relaunch I did back in October I'll be devoting much more attention to the internet side of my business. Also, I have plans for some interesting collaborations, but that will be a discussion for another day.
Finally I want to take a moment and thank everyone for all of their support in 2014. I was talking about how the milestones fade as the time passes. This past holiday season was one that not only broke records but sent them packing. It is rare that I am left speechless (imagine that), but that is exactly what happened and on more than one occasion. What all your support really means to me is that right now, during my slow season, I can take time off and sit here and watch my son sleep and daydream about what he is going to be like when he grows up instead of worrying about paying bills. It blows my mind that I've gotten myself to the place I am at right now. I could not have done it without all of your support. So thank you.
This will be a hell of a year. Hope to see you out there.