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!
One of my favorite things to do in December is to take a look back at the past year, and think about all the things that I’ve experienced and all the goals I have (or have not) accomplished. Sometimes an overall look at my year serves to help me appreciate everything that happened. Some of the small setbacks I had may turn out to have had silver linings when I look back with a little distance. And it always amazes me to see how far I can come in a single year. How much can change.
Here are a few of the goals I wrote down last December (both personal and business goals), and what became of them:
Work part time for myself by the end of the year. This is the big one. I really wanted to get more serious about working on my business, and giving myself more time during the week to do it was a really good way to kick start that goal. At the same time though, this is a scary leap for me, even with just one day a week. Financially, working for myself means that we are taking a hit. Goheen LLC does not pay me yet, because I put all the money I make back into the business right now. But, despite my anxiety about finances, I definitely accomplished this! Within 2015, I have gone from a job that I really wasn’t happy at, to two part time jobs that I loved, to now one part time job and one self employed day!
Go on a vacation. My husband and I took a road trip out west, where we got our first look at the Grand Canyon, and immediately fell in love with it. We drove out to Colorado, and then Arizona, and it is honestly the best vacation I have ever had in my life. Driving the whole way and back in a week meant that it wasn’t really a relaxing vacation, but it was a huge adventure! We hiked on Mt. Humphrey, went caving, hiked partway down the Grand Canyon, visited the Mesa Verde, and explored Flagstaff and Sedona. We have already decided we need to go back and hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen!
Sell 12 items on Etsy. The grand opening for my shop was October 31 of 2014. So when I decided to set goals in December I wasn’t really sure what was reasonable. That, combined with my natural inclination to set my goals low (to make sure I have a chance of success of course!), led me to set a goal of selling 12 items in 2015. One for each month I figured. I smashed that number, selling 52 items on Etsy this year, for a total of 72 items overall. My Etsy shop was a huge success by my (obviously low) standards! That being said, my one per month plan didn’t actually work out. I struggled (as many other Etsy sellers do) with selling during some of the summer months. So there is obviously room for improvement next year. Being able to get sales semi-consistently will be a huge benefit when I solely work for myself.
Run a race longer than a 5K. I have been struggling to overcome patella femoral pain (my knees), and I have at long last seen a little improvement. I’ve been hurting for a couple years now, and at the beginning of this year, I made it a goal to finish a race longer than a 5k. (this is way down from my original life goal of running 26.2 miles before I was 26.2 years old) About halfway through the year, I crossed out the “longer than” part, and decided it would be a win if I could just finish a 5k. A few months after that, I gave up on that goal altogether. But, after 5 doctors, and three different physical therapists, I have stumbled upon a chiropractor who is helping me get back to running. I can now manage to run 3 miles, 3 times a week, and I even ran the Drumstick Dash this year, which is 4.5 miles. This sounds so trivial to my former self, a few years ago. But now, after not being able to run for two years, this feels like the biggest accomplishment in the world.
Do a craft fair. This is another goal that I had pretty much given up on by the end of October. At the beginning of the year, I thought that the best kind of craft fair for me to do would be a holiday one. But by the time I started looking into them, in about May, all the shows I looked into were already full! But, right around Halloween I saw an advertisement for a little local show at the Carmel Public Library which still had openings for their holiday Green Gift Shop. So, last minute I signed up for it! It was very small, but right up my alley, because it was a show just for items that were "green" in some way, just like my Etsy shop. I was a nervous wreck going into it, but my wonderful husband ending up taking a day off of work to come help and support me!
Put up 52 items in my Etsy shop. Basically, I thought that for 2015 I could list one item a week in my Etsy shop. A week is enough time to make at least a small item, photograph it, and list it in my shop. And I thought that doing it on a consistent basis might get me into a good habit, and also keep me fresh in the Etsy listings. Technically, I did reach this goal. I listed 79 items in 2015. But as far as keeping it to once a week? That definitely didn’t happen… I still like the idea of it, and I don’t think it is too ambitious of a goal. I just have to get more disciplined about my consistency!
Read 6 books this year. This is not a very high goal, I admit. But when I say read books I mean read them. Sit down with a physical book in print and read it. With all my sewing and shipping and designing, I have gone completely over to audio-books and podcasts lately. I have just gotten into a habit of constantly multitasking. (I am actually writing this post while eating lunch at work.) But I had decided that I NEEDED some non-multitasking, non-work associated down time. And reading a physical book is exactly what I needed. So yes, I read more than 6 books in the past year. (not very many more, but still more)
List a Bag in my Etsy shop/ List a piece of clothing in my Etsy shop
These two goals were just a little push I needed to get some bigger, more expensive items in my Etsy shop. It is a big time commitment, and a bit of a gamble, because there is no guarantee that these time consuming items will sell. But I do have them in my shop, and I plan to have more!
Make a Website. Obviously, this one I managed to do, because you are here at my website!
Find cheap shipping supplies. This one did not happen. I have good reason though! Kind of. The problem with finding cheap shipping supplies, is that for the most part, you have to buy it in bulk. And that poses a problem for me in two ways. First, my one bedroom apartment is… well, it's one bedroom. And between all the fabric, the sewing machines, and the finished products ready to ship, I’ve kind of run out of room! I don’t know if I have space for bulk boxes and envelopes. The second problem is that my items vary so widely, that I need several sizes of shipping supplies. Especially if people order multiples. What I use to ship 1 headband, vs 1 bag vs 3 pillows at once is quite a range. So that means even more space…. But, I know that I need to figure something out. I am getting to the point where bulk buying doesn’t seem so far fetched anymore, as far as numbers go. Now I just need to reorganize my space to fit it all…
Overall, when I look back at this list, I'm pretty happy with what I have accomplished over the last year. It always amazes me how far you can come in the span of just one year. But even more-so when I look at this list I start to think about what I want to accomplish in 2016!
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
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Madeline Stage firstname.lastname@example.org
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