The key to making any indie business flourish is to have 4 Awesome Ps: Product, Presentation, Passion and a Plan. Without any of these you’ll find yourself stuck upside a wall and wondering why on earth your super cool crafted owl/octopus/fox screenprinted t-shirts aren’t selling. And since we’re still in the midst of celebrating the New Year – there’s no better time than the present to thing about P number 4: Plan.
I’ve been giving considerable thought to my New Year’s resolutions for Pierogi Picnic. Last year I came up with one specific goal and a flurry of hopes that I had considered early on. Some of those included scoring a wholesale account, building the PP website, getting more press, and hitting 300 sales on Etsy. While I have yet to get that account I was hoping for – I did make my other dreams come true. So now it’s time for me to ponder what is going to make 2011 stand out for my small biz. Will it be more craft fair participation, higher sales volumes, new creative endeavors, or getting into brick and mortars.
Before I sit down to pen these things out I have a list of questions that help guide my thought process:
Before anyone can take on the arduous task of planning 365 days of their future, one has to look back to see what worked and what didn’t in the recent past.
Some things that went well for PP included making designs in limited color schemes and diverse sizes. Though I still had the random one-of-a-kind creation, one of my focuses was to create designs that I could make in multiples should that wholesale order come through. I found that taking this route made hunting for fabric much more efficient and creating the designs less strenuous.
In 2010 I finally perfected PP’s ‘look.’ I had been toying with various backdrops, branding, and other visual schemes and hadn’t found something that was elegant yet whimsical. With my brother’s help, we re-painted my living room wall with a warm gray using my favorite brand of earth-friendly paint, Yolo, and pasted up my paper silhouettes to create the classic PP backdrop. With my daylight incandescents set up, the ‘set’ would now be evenly lit and still retain the fun spirit that inspired the line back in 2008.
Modeling is something that I still do, but prefer not to (insert Bartleby reference here film geeks). In 2010 I had the honor and joy to have more of my friends take on the posing – which led to increased item views and a greater diversity of shapes in my creations. Let’s face it, it’s hard for a petite girl like me to model a plus-size dress convincingly, is it not? More models also meant that the whole photo-taking endeavor was more enjoyable. I got to show my chops behind the camera while keeping things in focus.
Besides these three mentions, Pierogi Picnic also launched an official website in 2010, participated in new craft fairs, began a Facebook page and Twitter account, I started an eco-crafting series at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and sold a record amount of goodies both on and offline. So there is plenty to celebrate!
Once you get your feel good list in place reflect on the things that let you down, could be improved, or need reinvention in your business.
Life is all about striving for improvement. No one and no one thing is perfect.
Some things that disappointed me in 2010 included low craft fair turn outs in October and November, slow communications with some of my consignors, and the discouragement that ensued. The beginning of November was a rough month on PP. Internet sales slowed mysteriously and the two craft fairs that we participated in were also stagnant.
But rather than moping indefinitely I’ve reevaluated these shortcomings to come up with a different plan for 2011. Perhaps doing smaller craft fairs are not the best use of my time. Renegade has always been good to me – so it’s wise to prep for the fall chapter farther in advance – and to finally apply for the holiday show. The line up this year blew me away and I would love to participate on the inner end of the table this year.
Since going full-time in my day job in November I’ve had to let go of some compulsions to focus on basics. This meant less designing and more time spent renewing, re-taking photos and marketing. This was a good plan for the time being, but what really needs to happen is I need to recruit someone else to do the outreach side of things. This will leave me more time to dream up new designs and fine tune production. Now that things are really hopping online I need to get into publications and have more features about the brand. As this is not something I am an expert in (and lacking budget for!) I need to find someone who may be willing to take me on in exchange for clothes, cookies, or love.
Some other things I dropped the ball on: actively seeking out wholesale accounts, publishing a look book, and making press releases.
At the end of the day these are the reasons you even bother to follow your craft instincts.
No one can create in a vacuum. Part of setting your small business goals is looking ahead and anticipating that you will at some point fall into a rut and need help getting out. For this reason it’s important to know what gets your juices flowing.
For me it can be something as simple as sitting at a book store for a day with a gluttonously fatty mocha looking through music, fashion, design, and art magazines. I also love going for long walks with Peanut along the lake – it clears my head and helps me to focus. The more extreme interventions come in the forms of going on vacations or hosting art parties. Sometimes you need the creativity of others to give your engine a jump. So stop and think about where you’ll go and how you’ll prepare to keep yourself moving this year even if you hit a wall.
Also remind yourself of why you’re crafting in the first place. Especially if you’re juggling a day job, family, or an illness, you’ll need to understand why you do what you do. I have always been captivated by fabric and textures. By sewing I’m able to take something I admire and make it into something beautiful and functional. I also find that working with my hands is very therapeutic and recognize that it’s not just a matter of wanting to make something – I need to create regularly to remain balanced and happy.
Now that you’ve given thought to 2010’s successes, short-comings, and what keeps you going, make a list of what you’d like to accomplish in 2011.
Things on this list can be big or small. Put down your greatest aspirations and your simplest desires. This can include things like keeping your workspace neat and tidy – so if you have a spontaneous urge to experiment – your craft corner is ready. It may be something less practical like traveling to Italy to meet your small biz mentor. Don’t hold yourself back and list everything and anything that comes to mind.
Things that you should include: Time off, pow-wows with other creatives, sustainable business practices, accounting deadlines, and holiday prep.
5. Plot things out.
This last step takes your goals from dream to reality.
Now that you know what you want to accomplish you need to figure out the when and how. First things first, you need to have some kind of organizer. Some people like to use their iPods/Pads/Phones while others go analog with a day planner or notebook. I’m of the later mindset and purchased myself a customizable planner for 2011. In it I have tabs for each month, zipper pouches for business cards and receipts, and note pages for sketching designs and writing down ideas.
Once you have your ideas and tools, pare things down. Split your list up into goals that are time sensitive and can be scheduled and those that are more abstract.
If you’re setting an annual sales goal, break it up over 12 months using 2010’s as a guideline. If you want to sell 120 pieces don’t just divide the year by 12. What was your best month of 2010 and how much did you sell? Take this number and increase it by 20% – this gives you a realistic goal. Now, using this as reference plot out your year. The key to making this method work is at the end of every month you’ll have to compare your sales with your goal to see if you’re on track. If not – you’ll have to add the deficit to the next few months and amp up efforts in either production or marketing.
Once your tangible goals are plotted out look at what’s left over and map out the steps you need to take to get there. For building my website I scheduled a day each week where I would take time to first research web building programs, find a host, purchase my domain, take website photos, build the site, etc. The website took a period of two months to create using this timeline. If I had not had one the project would be ‘under construction’ indefinitely. If your goal is to do a craft fair for the first time set weekly markers between research, product development, and display creation. If you want to break out into a brick and mortar, set aside travel time to visit shops, make appointments to meet owners, and create a look book. Find tactics that will take your goals from abstraction to reality.
So there you have it! 5 easy steps to getting 2011 out of your head, into a book, and on its way. Remember that if you don’t set goals for your biz you’ll never have a way to gauge progress – and thus – will never know the joy of success. So get up, go to a local coffee shop, and start musing! You’re just an hour away from having this year ready for the taking!