I entered 2012 without much of a plan for how I'd make money. There was no plan for anything really. Paul was still deployed. Our new townhouse was mostly decorated. I was running out of steam on prints and minibooks. My online workshops felt like they had run their course. I really had no idea what was next.
At the end of December 2011, I had received an email from Becky Higgins asking if I wanted to try out the Project Life scrapbooking system. While it hasn't entered my business story too much yet, scrapbooking was always in the background (and sometimes foreground) of what I've been doing on the blog since the beginning. I have shared many paper projects over the past few years (though admittedly, not many these last few years as my interests have shifted a bit).
I was flattered to be asked by Becky and excited to try a new documentation method. Six weeks after sharing my weekly spreads (most of which included cards I had made) on the blog, I got an email from Becky asking if I wanted to design a new edition of Project Life that would launch in 2013. At the time only two editions were released each year this felt like a huge & unreal opportunity. I didn't have the Adobe Illustrator skills needed and so I teamed up with my friend Meredith Carty (hire her for design work, she's rad). In secret, over the course of six months, I conceptualized the kit.
Meanwhile, in May 2012, I opened the stamp shop. Talk about a game changer. There was no long-term plan here except for the fact that I really wanted a THIS in an arrow in stamp form. I ordered one for myself and shared a photo of it. The response was positive and so on a whim, I designed six more stamps with a similar feel. I launched the stamps and had an overwhelming response those first few days, selling something like 500 stamps. It was completely unprecedented and I was not prepared. Neither was my stamp producer and it ended up taking me three weeks to get the designs to customers.
With the rubber stamps, I transitioned away from Etsy and started self-hosting through e.junkie for more customization and less fees. A few months later I completely rebranded my website (it looked a lot like it does today) to reflect my new venture. At the time, this felt like it. If you'd asked, I would've guessed that rubber stamps were going to be my new career path. My designs were incredibly simple, but they sold well. I loved using them and enjoyed creating samples which helped keep them moving.
In retrospect though, this was not a sustainable long-term business. My markup wasn't high enough to expand and sell them wholesale because I was selling them at just over double the cost it took to have them made. I was having them produced in the USA (yay!) but the factory was on the East Coast so orders took awhile to get to me and it was hard to keep the right stamps in stock to meet demand.
Regardless, it was fun product to sell. Every few months I would launch a new "line" and continued to add to the shop. New designs always sold but never at the rate and speed of that initial launch. My biggest sellers continued to be from those first six designs.
In August 2012, the fact that I was connected to the Seafoam kit was announced and it was a really exciting time. The response was positive and it was incredibly satisfying to have my name on a product that people wanted to use. At the time, the Seafoam kit (still available for sale here) was the biggest thing I had done. You would think that I could look at my resume and think "Oh that's it. That's the moment where I 'made it'." But if I've learned anything from this path is that there's no such thing. No one event is where you've "made it." It's a constant process of "making it."
I used to think "If only I could get X amount of hits." or "If only I could get a mention on X's blog." or "If only I could sell X amount of product." or "If only I could have the opportunity to do X." But over many years I have had some of those things happen. I have gotten the hits or the mention or the sales, only to realize I'm still exactly me. Those big things are exciting and satisfying but they are also just a blink. There is no "made it."
I'm always thinking about what will be the next thing. I understand that that might sound discouraging; I've been called out on it before. But for me it's so encouraging. I love this entrepreneur life. I've signed on to it because it's inspiring to be working towards a finish line that moves. If that finish line stops moving, I'll know it's time to pack up my desk and find a new career path.
2012 was a really big and great year. The stamps felt like the start of something. The kit design process was so much fun. Towards the end of the year I teamed up with the A Beautiful Mess girls to teach an ecourse on blog web design (version two of this class is available here) that had incredible reach and really pushed me to develop my own coding skills. I was riding a high and I entered the new year excited about the business but mostly looking forward to welcoming a baby in the summer of 2013.
The first half of 2013 moved fairly quickly, especially from a business standpoint. Most of my money those months came from pre-existing online workshops, stamp sales and affiliate programs. I wasn't thinking about growing the business or trying anything new because I was so singularly focused on getting our baby out and becoming a mom.
Those months really are a blur, but I vividly remember being 36 weeks pregnant and telling someone I was looking forward to the "challenge" of fitting a baby into the fold.
[Insert manic laughter here.]
to be continued...