Friday, January 6, 2012

My State of the Studio New Years Post

I know that everyone and their cousin has a blog post about New Years resolutions and year-end recaps, and yes friends, I'm jumping on the band wagon.  But I'm doing it because 2011 was a heck of a year.  I mean, in the record books of years, 2011 was a big 'un.  It started with me directing a large national service program for the federal government out of an office in a marble laden city hall, and, thanks to federal funding cuts, it ended with me working out of my living room painting and gluing and shipping like crazy.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  Instead of having to go on unemployment, I had a business I'd been building for years to fall back on.  Plus the holiday season was coming and that's go-time for sales, so it seemed like great timing.  But it was a much more challenging adjustment than I was prepared for.  I used to get dressed up for meetings.  Now I can work in my pjs all day if I don't have errands to run...not that I do that...seriously.  I used to have a steady pay check.  Now my sales are my livelihood.  It's been a liberating experience, and yet has been a very rough transition for me.  I've been thinking a lot lately about this transition, and here's my year end cap:

The cons:

  • All of my income goes right back into my business.  This isn't something that's widely advertised when you think about running your own small business, but the majority of your money will get funneled right back into your business.  Pretty much every cent I make goes right back into buying materials to make more.  This is totally fine if you have another means of income, but when you see those sales figures and they're looking really good and you still can't find the money to pay the electric bill, it's a bit disheartening.
  • It's isolating.  Going from working in a large office with plenty of in-person human contact and daily meetings with people I supervised to working alone in my house was rough.  I'm not going to sugar coat this one - I was really lonely and depressed for the first few months I ran Found Beauty Studio full time.  I missed interacting with other people.  I missed having purpose. I missed being able to bounce ideas off of people who knew what I was doing and collaborate at the drop of a hat.  Now socialization outside of superficial interactions with the good folks who work at my local post office takes effort.  I mean, my cats are cute and my husband is awesome, but sometimes a girl just needs to talk to someone else. 
  • The mission is money.  I know this sounds obvious since it's a business and my purpose is to make money, but for most of my adult working life I've worked for nonprofits with really amazing social missions.  It's what kept me going.  When work was tough, I just focused on the mission and it got me through.  Now I am my mission.  Keeping my electric bill paid is the mission.  It takes a major mind-shift to get through this one.
  • I don't have control.  You'd think that as the sole owner and staff person of a business I'd have complete control, right?  But I don't.  My measures of success are all at the mercy of customers and shop owners.  I can't just make something, put it up for sale, and be able to count when it will sell.  That lack of control was staggeringly difficult for me. 
The pros:
  • I work for myself!  I've had some great supervisors in the past, and I've had some really crappy supervisors.  Now I make all my own decisions without having to massage them in a way that makes them palatable to a higher-up.  I may not have control over sales, but I have control over everything else.  And that's incredibly liberating.
  • I make stuff and search for neat vintage items for a living.  Seriously.  It's kind of awesome.  When I'm sick of making one kind of thing I can go make another.  Or I can go thrift store and antique store hunting.  And it's my job.  Instead of feeling guilty that I'm wasting my time when I could be doing work for my job, now this IS my job.  I mean, how many people get to say that?
  • No one can fire me.  I'm no longer at the mercy of grant funding.  No one is going to tell me that my program funding hasn't been renewed and my job will be to close down a program and lay people off.  I don't have to justify my worthiness or my program outcomes to anyone to keep my job.  After years of worrying about that stuff, it's amazing to have that taken off of my shoulders. 
  • My customers are fan-flippin-tastic.  I mean it.  The people who are attracted to my work tend to be hilarious, quirky, fabulous people and I love when I get to meet them in person at shows or exchange emails with them when they buy online.  It's like I've found this secret club of interesting individuals who all like the same aesthetic that I do.  And that's amazing.
  • I can do this.  For years I wondered if I had what it takes to run my own business successfully and, you know what?  I do.  Turns out that I love the business end of things. I love the financials, I love the spreadsheets, and I love the intellectual challenge of constantly looking for ways to innovate and streamline.  I'm running an artisan business in one of the worst recessions in decades and I'm actually making a profit.  I had record breaking sales on etsy in November and December, for crying out loud!  I can totally do this. 

So that's my year-end recap everyone.  It's been a big year with heaps of ups and downs.  It hasn't been even close to smooth sailing but I imagine that anyone who, for whatever reason, leaves full time employment to run a small business encounters much the same thing.  I'm looking forward to 2012 and hope you are too.  Thanks for following my blog, and may your year be full of happiness and good health, friends.


  1. Congratulations! It's been a joy to watch you go through this process and I'm so proud of you. I appreciate your candor about all of the cons, as well as the pros. We really need to get together a group of local crafty types to hang out once a month or every other month. (I just don't have a way of hosting a get-together, unfortunately.)

    Here's to 2012 being another great year for FBS!


  2. Thanks Martha! And absolutely YES to the get-togethers :)

  3. Laura, nice post, glad you jumped on the bandwagon and looked back at a big year. The nice thing about Facebook is that it allows me to check on people I used to know in the workplace or other parts of my life that I would have completely lost touch with otherwise. And your creativity and energy is energizing to others, myself included, an unadvertised benefit. And if you ever need a friendly face to have lunch, just give me a call or email. It would be nice to catch -up.

  4. Thanks Steve! I totally agree - facebook is wonderful for keeping up with people I would have otherwise lost touch with. I also get the bonus of seeing your amazing photographs.

    Lunch sounds great, by the way!