Sustainability of a small business is on my mind all the time but never more than in the past 12 months where I have come so so close to packing it all in and dusting off my non-existent resumé. However, what I came to realize was that I wasn't "failing", I was making bad choices. Choices that might be perfect for some businesses but not necessarily my own.
2017 has been somewhat of a "year of recovery" for my business from some classic small business mistakes, we all make them, some more than others but the most important thing is isolating the issues and backtracking to get things cooking again. This is incredibly hard when you are doing everything yourself, I've been known to repeat the SAME thing over and over and expect different results....I think that's the definition of crazy so essentially I am or have been a little crazy. The other thing I've had to tune out A LOT is what other people are doing. This is perhaps the single most valuable thing this year. It's a constant struggle to do it but I learned that switching off occasionally from the industry is sometimes necessary, especially when your circumstances are different to peers around you, there's nothing worse when you feel like you "should" be doing something that everybody else IS doing. So what mistakes did I make.....here goes:
This may not seem like a "mistake" to many people but last year I did shows. Now, the thing about shows is that they are awesome for business, you meet fantastic people, see real folks in your clothes and get to connect with outstanding, supportive dealers. The flip side is that shows can be pricey. So, to counteract the cost of participation etc you need a large inventory to cover your bases as well as make a profit. Here's where shows don't work for me. In 2016 I spent a lot of time and money participating in shows that I was never really set up for as a business, I was so grateful to participate but was ultimately always chasing my tail to 'fill the booth" and finding that the shows though fun and occasionally profitable hit me in my online business and that was where it became a mistake: holding inventory for shows and selling most of the "new" finds there meant online became a little skeletal- (which really freaked me out!). I've nurtured this online business for 7 years, my regular customers & followers right here online are the ONLY reason I am able to keep going as a business. I realized that rather than push my business forward the shows were just keeping me at a standstill like a mouse on a wheel. For the longest time I was perplexed, why are other people so successful at shows, why am I not? The answer is that we have completely different business models, I also realized that similar businesses with the same "product" can be structured entirely differently and that's OK.
I'm super proud of my online turn-over so I thought instead of feeling like this is "shows vs online" was a negative thing why don't I flip it and ACCEPT that my online business has merit and focus ENTIRELY on that rather than spreading myself so thin I become invisible. So after a bout of "business depression" I started saying no to shows. Shit, it was hard. Saying no is not my strong suit but slowly it just made more and more sense. My sales online grew every month this year and I was able to begin my monthly subscriber emails and actually enjoy doing it. It feels in my gut that I am doing the right thing. Now when people ask me why I am not doing a show I say "because I can only keep up with online", and it's true. It's not a negative to give something up if it doesn't work for you. So, so many factors go into small business. I have a small child, I'm with him virtually every day when he gets out of school and often in the weekends so buying, listing etc is something that comes secondary to him. It's frustrating at times to turn down opportunities because it won't work for my schedule but this is where online is truly good for me. Work anywhere, anytime (almost!).
I do not believe it's possible in business to do everything at once, I have learned this the hard way by thinking that I could. Now with baby steps and "being back to basics" I feel I am growing ever-so-slightly, perhaps I will even participate in more in-person selling down the line. If I get there fine, if not then I am very grateful to the online community for making my business possible in this form.
I truly wish all my peers the best with their businesses. It's not an easy thing at all and I hope that we all continue to learn from each other. If you are a customer and reading this I value you tremendously.