I've seen the #MakeNine challenge around on Instagram for a few years now, but I've never participated before this year. Usually I have waaayyy more than 9 projects that I want to accomplish in a year. And to be honest, I still do have more than 9 for 2019 as well. But the problem with having SO MANY ideas and plans is that it is SO EASY to get side tracked and bounce around from one thing to the next. Which is exactly what I do. So in any given year I do make a lot of things, but I also start and never finish a lot of things, and I often have projects that end up on my to-do list for years that I keep meaning to do.
Which is why I have decided to partake in the #MakeNine challenge this year!
I've got a great little downloadable freebie for you guys!
I've always loved the idea of Me-Made-May, but I've always been intimidated by it. For those of you who don't know, MMMay is a challenge started by Zoe Edwards of SoZo to help sewists develop a better relationship with their handmade wardrobe. It is a huge deal on instagram every year, because most people pledge to wear all handmade for the entire month, and post a selfie every day on instagram using the #MMMay18
Which is super intimidating right?? My handmade wardrobe is not nearly filled out enough to wear only handmade all month. And posting a picture of myself every day to instagram is quite a commitment for me.
But then, I listened to episode 38 of the Love to Sew Podcast, which featured Zoe and the MMMay challenge. And Zoe emphasized that this challenge is NOT a photo challenge, and it is NOT the same challenge for different people. You get to choose what you want to challenge yourself to do. You don't have to wear me-mades from head to toe. And you don't have to post an instagram selfie every day. You can track your challenge however you want!
So of course, my mind jumped straight to bullet journaling!
I'm obsessed with my bullet journal, and I love creating new spreads to help me keep track of my life, so I whipped up a few pages to help me track my newly inspired MMMay!
I love new years.
And I love making new years resolutions.
I know, I know, it is a completely arbitrary date, but really, what is so bad about a trigger to help people remember to reflect on their life and inspire change? Who cares if it is arbitrary, really? Not me!
I'm not saying that you have to have a new years resolution, or that if you don't make a change on Jan 1st, you have to wait another year. But there is something to be said for group efforts. When everyone around you is determined to better their life, it can help inspire you to do the same. It does for me.
So as 2016 wraps up, and along with it my busiest season of business to date, I've been reflecting a lot on what this year has brought me, and where I want to go with my business and my life in 2017.
Looking back at my goals for 2016, I've realized that this year was all about growth for me. I've grown in so many different ways, from expanding my knowledge, to growing my audience, to bringing in more sales than I ever have before. I added another self employed day to my week, and I grew my network of like minded creatives for support. I also grew more confident in myself and my business this year. One big milestone was my interview on the Etsy Conversations Podcast. It took me months to work up the confidence to apply, and even more gumption to actually listen to myself on the podcast (you know it's hard!) but I did, and in the end it was an extremely fulfilling venture outside my comfort zone. Another milestone in comfort was participating in the Yelp's Totally Bazaar. I was extremely intimidated by my fellow vendors (a lot of brick and mortar businesses that are much more established than me) but it ended up being one of the hightlights of my year!
Growing my business in 2016 has meant a growing workload as well, which has really affected the way I've begun thinking of 2017. I've noticed my growing jealousy towards sewers who have a wardrobe full of self made items. Jealousy is not a fun emotion to feel, but for me it's a red flag of what I'm missing in my life. And I've realized that this specific envy is occurring because instead of adding a business into the rest of my life, my business has simply taken over the time I used to take for myself (and then some). My constant focus on growth has lead me to be more and more of a workaholic these last few years. The other day I realized that it had been 3 years since I had sewn a piece of clothing for myself. THREE YEARS. This is not ok. I know that it's a trade joke that "the cobbler's children go unshod" (aka my entire closet needs alterations) but if I keep this up, I'm going to burn out.
So instead of growth, (although I do still hope to grow) my target in 2017 is going to be FOCUS. Or maybe another good word for it would be INTENTIONAL. I want to take a step back, and make sure that the business that I am building is what I WANT, and not just the path I am swept down on my way to the faster growth. This means choosing where I want my business to go in the long run, and working towards that, with more balance in my life, more me-time, and more long term strategic thinking.
My Goals for 2017 (in no particular order)
1. Continue Blogging and Emailing Once a Month. This has been working well for me in 2016!
2. Create at least 4 Clothing Sewing Patterns. Sewing patterns (and kits) is the direction I want to take my company. This means I need to really focus on creating more patterns, even though it means months of work before I can start bringing in profit from it. In the long run, these items are evergreen and can be sold forever.
3. Plan Out Patterns for each of my Sewing Level Categories. I have the categories, so now I need to fill them!
4. Sell my DIY Kits in stores. I love love love my kits! They use up discarded fabrics, and my original patterns. So obviously I need to spread the love.
5. Update all my PDF Instructions to include information about my Facebook Pattern Group. No one will know about the group if I don't go back and add it into the instructions! This is a fast goal, but a tedious one I've been putting off.
6. Work towards #FitTheFlux. This is something that has been running around in my brain for a while, and I'm hoping to get it started this year. Patterns that fit, even when your size fluctuates. If you are going to spend all that time on making your own wardrobe, you want to be able to wear it for a long time, even if your body is in flux.
7. Sell My Products in a Store in Fort Wayne, and on Mass Ave. I love being able to reach more customers and I love working with other local business owners.
8. Grow my Facebook Pattern Group. It's a community for people who use my patterns and kits, and want to get tips and share pics.
9. Super Slow Fashion Project. This is a project that I have always wanted to do, and I feel like it may help me to better appreciate my profession, and the professions surrounding me. I want to create a piece of clothing from scratch. As scratch as I can get. This means not only sewing it, but weaving the fabric. And spinning the yarn to create that fabric. And shearing the sheep to get the wool to make that yarn, and so on. I'm not entirely sure how this project would even work, or who I would need to contact to make it happen. But in a world full of super fast fashion, I want to take a time out to really appreciate what creating clothing used to look like. If anyone has any idea who could help me make this happen, I am all ears!
10. Take a Textiles Class. Textiles are my weakness! Especially because I get a lot of hand me down fabrics. I don't always know what fabric I'm working with, or how to take care of it. If I'm going to get serious about these patterns, I need to be able to recommend fabrics to people who use them, and I'd like to be able to help people take care of their finished garments. (once again, if you are going through all the effort to make it, might as well make it last!)
11. Pay Myself a Percentage of Profits Each Month. I've been struggling with how to start paying myself from the business without crippling my business if I have a slow period. I heard on a podcast that another creative business owner gets around this problem by using percentages. You take 20% (or however much) of the profit each month, and that way your business still gets profits as well. And it is a little extra incentive to make more sales to get paid more... I'm happy to say that I'm starting this method this month! :)
12. Give Myself a Raise. Any of you who have read my past blog posts know that I struggle with pricing my items. I made a big effort in 2016 to get my prices to a (mostly) fair point, while being able to pay myself (theoretically) $11 an hour. But really, as the CEO/CFO/Marketing department/Designer/Seamstress/Customer Service Rep/Blogger/Website Designer/Salesperson/Researcher/Buyer/Social Media Rep of Goheen LLC I think I deserve a raise....
13. Create a Consistant Sizing Chart. If I'm selling clothing patterns, this is a must!
14. Create a Line Sheet. I'm hoping this will streamline my wholesale/consignment pitches.
15. Use Pattern Testers. I can't catch all the mistakes myself. Plus, I've gotta have all the different sizes tested out!
16. Contact 5 Sewing Blogs. Blogs are a great way for people to learn about new patterns, and once I have some new ones, I'm hoping to connect with my fellow online sewers and spread the word.
So, 16 goals is a lot (although 4 fewer than last year. I'm getting better I swear). Some will take me a day, some will take me all year. And I need to make sure that these goals don't crowd out my personal goals for the year (like they did in 2016). It won't be easy, but after reflecting on all this I am refreshed, and I am ready to get started!
How have I not written a blog post about this yet?? I was so busy telling everyone I know in person, and on social media that I forgot to even mention it here on the blog!
Basically, for anyone who missed it, I have had the great honor of being interviewed by Ijeoma for her Etsy Conversations podcast last month! This is a huge thrill for me! I have been listening to this podcast since I first thought of selling on Etsy a few years ago. It has been a truly encouraging, informative and inspiring resource for me as a business owner. I made it my goal for 2016 to contact Ijeoma and offer to be on her podcast, and I did, but I never really thought it would happen! I am so honored to be a part of Etsy Conversations, and I hope that my story helps to pass on some of the same encouragement that I've received!
Head on over to Ijeoma's website, or to Sitcher or Itunes and listen to my episode! #145
“So what do you do?”
It’s a pretty standard question, regularly asked at parties, club meetings, family gatherings and networking events. But ever since I started my business, this little question has given me big anxiety. Because I don’t know what to say.
The easy answer is to tell people that “I work in a drapery workroom”. It’s true, it’s short, I feel comfortable saying it, and it doesn’t generally illicit more questions: a definite plus for my introverted self.
Buuuut, this answer is really me hiding. Hiding my insecurities of starting a business behind the cover of having a day job to talk about. I could tell people that I’m a small business owner, but when I say that I feel like an imposter. I feel like Owning A Business is a Big Deal, and that when someone hears that I have a business, they probably have certain expectations. Like that I’m making a profit. Or I have employees. Or I don’t have a day job. All of which are not true. At least not yet. So I have this reluctance to tell people that I am a business owner. I feel like I’m not big enough, I don’t know enough, I don’t have enough experience, I’m not good enough yet.
This is no good. I DO own a business. And I can’t grow my business if I’m constantly hiding the fact that I have one. So I made it a goal for 2016 to self-promote, and even wrote it up in a blog post here. But even knowing what I need to do, it’s not easy.
Early on in the year, I met my sister and her friend for breakfast one day, and her friend asked me what I did. And I gave the cop-out answer “I sew…” and got put in my place by my big sister!
“I thought it was one of your goals to not say that anymore! Aren’t you supposed to talk about your business??” Yikes! Apparently people do read this blog! But she was right, and she gave me the accountability kick I needed to get serious about this goal.
I actually practiced with my husband, pretending to introduce ourselves, to try to get comfortable with what I had to say (and he is my hero for not making fun of me for this). And we cycled through a few answers to see what fits me best.
"I’m a fashion designer" – For me, this gives the wrong idea. I’m not at some couture fashion house in New York.
"I have an Etsy shop" – True, but my business is more than Etsy. And some people have no idea what Etsy is anyway.
"I’m an entrepreneur" – this sounds like I really like to start lots of businesses. I don’t. I just want this ONE business, because it is my passion.
"I’m a business owner" – I don’t like just saying I have a business without saying what I do!
For now, I’ve settled on: “I own a design business” or “I run an online sewing business” or something along those lines. But it’s still hard to say.
After settling on what to say, the next step was to put myself in situations where I would need to introduce myself. The only way that I am going to become confident with my self, and my abilities, is if I see that my fears (ridiculous fears of people yelling at me, telling me I’m an imposter) are unfounded. So here we go, out of my comfort zone.
I started an Etsy team. I wanted a group of like-minded people in the area, to meet up with and talk about our businesses. To help each other through problems, and celebrate each other’s successes. A group like this didn’t already exist, so I decided to just make it myself. This means that I get to meet new people who come to our meetings! On the scale of imposterism, this was pretty low, because we are all Etsy business people, so I felt more at home.
I went to other club meetings. I’ve been visiting some local sewing clubs, like the American Sewing Guild, and the Sewing Professionals Network. This is a little harder to introduce myself at, because there are lots of women with a whole lot more experience than me at these meetings. But I’m trying. I have one more to check out.
I contacted store owners. Thank goodness for email, or this would be a truly terrifying process. Still, meeting in person to discuss selling my products in stores definitely takes some self promotion! And as of next week, I will have two local businesses selling my wares!
I taught a class. This one was very nerve wracking. I taught a class at the Indy Trade School, all about digital sewing patterns. This was very nerve wracking because teaching someone something means you are telling people that you know a whole lot more than them on that subject. Which is possibly not true at all. But I survived, and my class was very nice to me, and I’m going to submit another class proposal this week.
The next step in my journey of self promotion, (aka self confidence) is to ask people to model for me. This would be super helpful, but I’m a very novice photographer, and asking people to be in my photos (that may or may not turn out) is almost laughable to me. But it is something I need to do eventually.
Because hey, I can’t let myself get too cozy here in my comfort zone, right?
You may have noticed a change in my prices this month. I have been working hard to standardize my pricing these last few weeks, with lots of excel spreadsheeting involved. My goal by the end of the year is to be paying myself at least for my time sewing and patterning for my business. (paying myself for my admin is a whole ‘nother issue I need to tackle) Right now, all of the money I make goes straight back into the business, buying supplies and marketing materials, etc.
My pricing breakdown is something like:
Profit I get from Etsy = price + shipping cost - cost to wash fabric - cost of shipping supplies – cost of material – my actual cost to ship - my labor (cost of my time patterning and sewing, cost of my time listing the item, cost of my time shipping the item) – 3.5% Etsy fee – (3%+.25 direct deposit fee)
Wholesale Profit = (retail price * .5) - cost to wash fabric – cost of material – cost of my product presentation and packaging– my labor (cost of my time patterning and sewing, cost of my time interacting with store owners)
I am trying to juggle these two formulas, and also trying to standardize some of my profit margin: 25% if it’s resale, and 15% if its wholesale
That 15-25% profit? It is there to help cover random overhead costs of my business: my car fuel, my administration work hours, my internet, my website, assets like my camera and much more. Is it too high? Is it too low? I’m not sure yet. Only time will tell. Covering those overhead costs depends a lot on how many items a year I sell, as well as how expensive of an item it is, and the total of my overhead costs, all of which I don’t have nailed down yet. I also haven’t been super strict when it comes to these numbers, because the products I sell are so varied in price. So 15% of a $10 item is much much different than 15% of a $400 item. So sometimes I adjust accordingly.
I have no idea if I am doing this right. In fact, I have no idea if there is a “right” way to do it. It is simply what I came up with for now. And this change in pricing isn’t final. My product prices are very likely to change again. Here’s why:
The moral of this story? Pricing is complicated. And in order to be a profitable business (that can actually pay me) I am doing my best to figure out how to price my items to cover all of my costs. So bear with me as I make changes. They aren’t random, or greedy, or personal attacks on your wallet. They are just a reflection of a small one-woman business trying to figure it all out as she goes.
P.S. I am always open to tips on how to price things! Let me know if you have any suggestions, or see that there is anything I can do better!
One fourth of the year is over!!
So what does that mean for my
Well… let’s see.
Things I HAVE accomplished:
I taught a class for Indy Trade School (boy I was a nervous wreck!)
I’ve released 2 new sewing patterns so far
I’ve taken a photography class
I’ve applied for craft shows
I made business cards and I streamlined my shipping process
I’ve created a spreadsheet with all the details that go into pricing, to get me on track to pricing correctly (and then onto paying myself for my work)
I ran a 10K
I volunteered for a garden
I started my wedding quilt
I patterned a skirt for myself
I’ve read 3 (printed, physical) books so far.
Things I CANNOT accomplish:
Things change, and that's ok. One of my goals for the year was to run Steve's Run, one of my favorite road races. But Already I know that this won't happen because we have a wedding that day! It was a nice goal, but it will just have to wait until next year.
Things I MIGHT NOT accomplish:
I’ve had a realization about some of my goals: They aren’t in my control. This might have been quite obvious to an outsider, but it wasn’t obvious to me when I made the goal. One of the goals that falls into this category is: SELL ONE ITEM EVERY MONTH (even the slow months). Problem: This isn’t actually in my control. I mean, I knew this ahead of time, I knew that I can’t force sales or somehow magically control when someone decides it is time to buy. But I figured there were plenty of things in my control: putting up items consistently, creating new products, blogging, social media posts, having the right key words on Etsy, shop updates, promoting myself, emails (etc. etc.) And all these things do help to bring in sales, so I figured setting a goal of getting sales would inspire me to keep up with all these different tasks. But then March happened. I listed several new items, renewed several more, blogged, emailed, and posted updates. And I got great results in views and favorites! I haven’t had that many eyeballs on my shop since October of last year (and October is my busy month!) But no sales came! This is when I realized that I didn’t actually have control over this goal. (duh) I DID end up getting a sale in March, on the very last day of the month actually (funny how things happen). But in the end, I may reach this goal, or I may not. I guess this is one of those times that reaching the goal isn’t actually the point. I would like my sales to come in more consistently throughout the year, and it’s the constant striving for this goal that (hopefully) pays off in the end.
My overall feelings: I’ve made good progress, but I have a long way to go in these last 3/4 of the year!
How are your goals for the year coming?
I've given you my business goals, but that isn't the only aspect of my life that I make goals for! Just in case you are wondering what I aim for outside the business realm, here are 20 goals for me. (Apparently 20 was the perfect number this year?)
Personal goals for 2016:
Recently, I have become a goal setting freak!
I used to be horrible at thinking about the future. I had no idea what I wanted, or what would make me happy. But now I have realized that it is hard to be happy when you don’t know what makes you happy. The more you know yourself, and what makes you satisfied, the easier it is to achieve it.
So, every so often, I like to sit down and really think about what I am doing, where I am going, and what I think will make me happy in the long run.
What is it I should work towards. I’m not saying that it is easy, or that my mind doesn’t constantly change about what I think I should do, but I find that thinking about it helps. And setting goals helps. Setting yourself deadlines, or a set period to do something in is a good way to see if you care enough to get it done. Not everything will get done, and that is OK. A year is a long enough time that if I don’t get to something in a year, I can seriously take a look at it and ask myself if I realllly do want to achieve it, and if I do, then what stopped me from achieving it.
Part of reaching goals is knowing yourself and knowing how you work.
I am an obliger (for those of you who read/listen to Grethen Rubin) which means that other people are key to keeping me accountable. Telling someone my goals, or writing them down both make my choices much more real to me. And that means I work harder to reach them.
Business goals for 2016:
It is a lot, but I have 366 days to accomplish them (yay for leap years!). I'm not saying it will be easy, but that is why I have written them out here for you to see. So that you can help keep me accountable!
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
My Instagram Feed:
Madeline Stage firstname.lastname@example.org
"Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway."
- Earl Nightingale