Tag Archives: small business

Being business like

A few weeks ago a recent acquaintance asked me if my ‘making ‘ was a business or a hobby. I have been pondering this ever since. A couple of years ago the answer was straightforward- business. I had a plan, I made enough profit that I had to pay tax and there was regular money making activity going on.

Then I had a break for over a year. Little income, no regular activity and no plan. Until 3 months ago when something clicked and I started making again. At first it was just making for making’s sake but it has grown again and while I don’t yet have a fully laid out business plan I do have some vague mental ideas about where I am going! Some of it is instinctual from my earlier time in business and some of it is aspirational because I continue to daydream that my life will magically change to create space for me to have time to be successful. A lot of it is held back by my pessimism/reality checks that my plans are so often undone by family life and my resultant mental health. So I ask myself, like a mantra, ‘hobby or business , hobby or business?’

Where does the line cross from one to another? For me I think it comes with making decisions about ‘making’ in a profitable, repeatable way. My crazy crocheted tea cosies where I create a whole new pattern for each piece? Hobby. I don’t recover the cost of time spent in making each piece if I apply a business model. But do I love making them? Yes!!!! Reusable tea bags? Business. Now that testing has finished I have a repeatable process for making, marketing and selling them.

All the things in between? Some land on the side of hobby, some cross the line to business. What to do with all of that? At this stage my approach is that it is all business. The unique, one of a kind, time intensive creations are attention getters that have a marketing function. The repeatable patterns that can be made in batches cover the costs of making the one off pieces. It all works together to fund materials, marketing and growth.

I also think that for me, thinking of what I am doing as a business helps to add a piece of self esteem back into a life where I previously self-identified as successful through my career achievements – a business is something that is about me, something that other people admire, something I can succeed at. (Because let’s face it, any judgement on my success as a parent and carer won’t really be known until they are grown and leading happy healthy lives!!)

The next hurdle is a mental one. I have products that are ready to wholesale so I can, in theory, start marketing them to retailers to stock. Gulp. But I haven’t. It remains on my ‘to do’ list. Why? Because the last few years have been so much like a roller coaster ride I have an ingrained fear that I won’t be able to keep any commitments that I make. Which begs the next question – why am I worried about letting others down? Do they really have high expectations of me or am I just setting my own bar too high and then self sabotaging so that I don’t reach it? Hmmmm…. self-analysis via writing this post indicates that I am, as usual, my own worst enemy!!

To shift myself fully into that business mindset it is probably time to write the plan down, instead of having vague aspirational thoughts and wandering around making stuff. Time to be a grown up, do the analysis and make a clear decision on business vs hobby. Wish me luck!

(In the background I have been playing with fabric combinations to make fabric insulated tea cosies- getting back to my happy place combining colours and patterns!! I have also been perfecting the cactus teacosy pattern!)

If you also ponder the line between hobby and business I would love to hear your thoughts !

So this is Christmas….

I was listening to the iconic John Lennon song ‘Happy Xmas – War is Over’ while celebrating Christmas Eve with my chicks and my parents here in our rural nest, and realised that, in answer to the question ‘And what have you done?’ I have a long list on some topics and a very short and bare one on others.     Maintaining this blog would fall on the latter list and yet I am still loathe to let it go. (In fact I just paid all the invoices to renew my web-hosting for another year just this evening!)

So what have I done?    This year has been a year of consolidation with life in the country. Our little flock of 5 sheep grew to 17, and we have enjoyed some lovely lamb meals as a result.  Our flock of chickens shrank from 14 to 6 and our egg production increased as a result!   Go figure!   We started the year with two dogs and ended with two dogs, but sadly not the same two.  Dottie the crazy terrier has survived to deafen us with her barks but after a couple of unusual and serious illnesses we lost Milo the Labrador in November.     In December we welcomed Buddy the kelpie and he is settling in well, but has not replaced Milo in my boy’s affections.

We adopted a resuce dog, Buddy the Kelpie, in December 2016.

We adopted a resuce dog, Buddy the Kelpie, in December 2016.

On a business level the year started well with me doing lots of sewing for the Shop Handmade, and lots of consulting for a new business venture.  By the end of the year the sewing was non-existent and I had to pull back from all the consulting as I was facing burn out again and didn’t want to head back down that path.   I live in hope that I will return to consulting and sewing in 2017, but we will see.

Our flock of sheep includes two sets of twin lambs born in late October.

Our flock of sheep includes two sets of twin lambs born in late October.

The family front is where the hardest work has been focused.   My boy has continued to struggle with mainstream schooling, and with his frustrations turning into aggression and violence. As we end the year I still don’t have answers on the school question but am comfortable that, after 4 separate hospital admissions I am on top of managing his behaviour, and that he is on the right combination of medications.   He is 10 now (I know – where did that baby boy go?) and is incredibly articulate, intelligent and compassionate, but also demanding and exhausting.    My girls have also had a rough year with the constant stress of living with this stress taking it’s toll on them.  I have found an excellent team of professionals to help support them and am sure we will get through this but the combination of all their needs saw me stepping away from the small amount of work I was doing and trying to be as present as possible for all three of them.  My artist-in-residence finished primary school with her art chosen for the cover of the yearbook, and my eldest chick has found her groove and her tribe at school and brought home some great feedback on her school report.

2016 has been tough.  In our home and in many other homes across the world.  I don’t think that there is any particular magic in a new year changing social attitudes, or the way an autistic child’s brain works, but I am hopeful that the 6 week school holiday break will give us all a chance to recharge, refocus and rebuild some of our battered resilience.   In the meantime I have gone back to the basics.  I have been sewing for the love of creating, not for work.   There are handmade pyjamas appearing under several family Christmas trees this year, there is a queen sized patchwork quilt that is almost, but not quite, finished for my eldest chick to receive in the morning under the tree, and there is hand embroidery on another gift after my discovery of the joys of sashiko (Japanese embroidery) earlier in the year.  My plan is to work on small personal projects for a while, then to get back to designing and making on a business level when I am ready.

My gorgeous mother helping me to pin the quilt sandwich together before tackled machine quilting it - perhaps choosing a queen size quilt for my first self-quilted quilt was a tad ambitious!

My gorgeous mother helping me to pin the quilt sandwich together before tackled machine quilting it – perhaps choosing a queen size quilt for my first self-quilted quilt was a tad ambitious!

I hope that your Christmas and New Year is spent with people you love, who cherish you for who you are, and that you have a chance to recharge and rebuild before the next year sweeps us away into everyday life again.  From my nest to yours, Merry Christmas. xx

The Waiting Place

Dr Seuss is a source of much wisdom.   His book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” is a firm favourite of mine.  As I was reading it to my son a few nights ago I realised that at the moment I feel like I am in what he describes as “a most useless place.  The Waiting Place……”    I think I have been hanging out here for a while without realising.    What is required now is to listen to Dr Seuss’ advice on the subject “No!  That’s not for you!   Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.  You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”

How did I come to be in the Waiting Place?   A combination of circumstances really.    Parenting a child who requires round the clock support and supervision, and who goes to school for, at most, 4 hours a day, cuts into the time available to ‘get things done’.    It cuts into the ability to go out and be amongst the bright places.   It removes the ability to commit to anything socially or in relation to employment, and it uses up so much energy that it is easier to lie on the bed reading trashy novels on a kindle than to use the time to play with fabric and make beautiful things.

But it is not all about parenting a beautiful boy with lots of needs.   It is also about getting a bit lost along the way in terms to what I want for my business, what I want to provide for my family, and what I want for our future.   I have had so many plans and visions of how to make my creative business a financial success – and then have to shelve those plans in order to focus on family issues.     I provide consulting services to another business, and I enjoy that.  I like the feeling of being part of a team, of being able to solve problems, of being valued.   But in making that choice I have chosen to use my spare time to work for someone else on their business and not on my own.    Do I regret that? No.    Being involved in another business has been good for me on many levels, and I have been aware of the choices I have made at each point.

But it all means that I am sitting the dreary Waiting Place.   Waiting to have that chance to build my own business, waiting for my son’s behaviour to be more manageable, waiting for other significant adults in his life to understand his needs, waiting to have time to do things that make me happy, waiting to be able to have a day off parenting, waiting to remember my identity outside of being a mother and daughter, waiting to find that bright place where Boom Bands are playing.   Boring.  Dreary.   Blah.

All this is by way of a confessional/explanation about why I have this fabulous website, and beautiful branding, and exciting ideas….. and it is just sitting here.  Waiting for a bit of love and attention.   I am not quite sure what the next step is.   There are so many options – I can reinvigorate the business that I love so much, let it sit until I have time, or admit defeat and walk away.    The only person who can make these decisions is me.   The only person who can stop all that waiting is me.     I have been constantly busy working on the family/parenting stuff, but the business/me stuff?  Not so much.

Might be time to take more advice from Dr Seuss when he says  “You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.  So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.   Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.   And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

Time to retune the Great Balancing Act that is my life.  Time to read back over the blog to see what has reinvigorated me in the past.   And time to remember that writing to you here is good for my soul.

To finish on a more positive note, Autumn is sneaking in very slowly this year on the farm.   We haven’t required winter clothing yet and haven’t had to light the fire.   But the colours are changing, and today we have had rain, so the feel of Autumn is slowly taking hold. The chicken coop has been cleaned out in preparation for cooler weather, the sheep are down in the home paddock eating the grass while we have it, and my parents have been busy gardening to keep our gardens looking beautiful.

Autumn Rose|a little bird made me

The continuing warm weather means that the rose garden is full of luscious blooms.

Yellow roses alway make me think of the Debra Conway song.

Yellow roses alway make me think of the Debra Conway song.

 

 

 

Making stuff!

I have been back at the machine making stuff this week.  And it feels good!  I am itching to get back to making bags – it has been too long – but for now I have been working on more baby accessories to meet demands in the Shop Handmade.

A couple of weeks ago I starting playing with sewing plastic to make waterproof bibs.  Many hours, and frustration later I realised that I needed a different approach.

Crooked bias binding, uneven stitches, lots of swearing, and slipping layers......

Crooked bias binding, uneven stitches, lots of swearing, and slipping layers……

And of course the answer was simple – use the laminated cotton that I already have!  Doh!

Would have been better if I had looked at the direction of the pattern when I was cutting it out!

Would have been better if I had looked at the direction of the pattern when I was cutting it out!

So a series of waterproof bibs, with soft bamboo lining so that they are still comfortable for a baby to wear, are now stocked in Shop Handmade.  And I have made a few with pockets on the bottom.

Waterproof bib|a little bird made me

I remember thinking that pockets on bibs were weird, until I had my own children and realised how handy they can be for little ones to scoop out the dropped biscuit, grape, spaghetti, etc that they have dropped!  (Good thing these are washable!)

I suspect that I didn’t share with you the other product I made for the Shop a few weeks ago – hot water bottle covers and heat packs. (Well, it is almost winter you know!)

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Handwarmers|a little bird made me

I have also been working on some more nappy change mats to restock in the Shop.  Loving all the bright colours!Piecing together nappy change mats|a little bird made me

I am also a little bit chuffed to be the featured designer on the Handmade Canberra website this week.

Now to get back to the machine!!  I hope that you are having a productive week.

Clicking into place

I had a moment yesterday when I stopped to think about something for a minute and realised that life is pretty perfect at the moment!  Lots of little things clicking into place, working out, and finding their rhythm.  Times like this need to be celebrated!

My chicks have settled into the school term well, and my boy has managed to attend school for full days on a number of occasions now. This is massive!!  All the hard work that has gone into building stability for him, helping him to develop strategies to cope, working with the teachers and executive staff, and his doctors, is paying off.   (And while part of me is touching wood that it continues because we have had these ups before, followed by big downs, this is definitely something to celebrate!!)

Enjoy life |a little bird made me

The younger two chicks are also happy to spend time with their father more often, so we are slowly, slowly, working towards a regular routine for that too. Another milestone!  (The fact that he has a new puppy at his house is certainly helping in that regard!!)

And, wait for it, it looks like we might have ADSL broadband internet within the week!  After four months on mobile broadband and constantly measuring out little packets of data for the kids, and keeping enough to keep working (and then having the kids completely shape the plan with a Youtube session and paying premium for the rest of the month – $10 per 1GB!!) this will give us all the ability to breathe out!  Homework research can be done, TV viewing can be caught up on, and life can return to it’s 21st century first world normality!

I have also had a busy couple of weeks socially – tickets to shows, dinners, and amazing behind the scenes peeks at a show about to start.  I have to pinch myself – all of this has come about because of my decisions to apply for the Human Brochure last year. My circle of friends and contacts has grown, and I have been able to experience things I would never otherwise have been able to do.

Even better, we are falling into a routine at home that sees me having one to two days a week where I can focus on my business!  I have been developing new products, designing pieces I have wanted to make for years, and starting to build up stock.  Absolute bliss!

I also have a wide circle of friends who are creative, generous, and talented.  I can now recommend awesome craftspeople to my friends when they ask for a referral to have a chair fixed, a lampshade made, a dress designed, a website built.  I love being able to share the love!

Other's opinions |a little bird made me

The irony of this is that in an exchange with my ex-husband last week he told me that those who read my ‘internet stories’ tell him that I make it appear that my life is hard and that I am a victim.   As this couldn’t be further from the truth, I hope that anyone reading this appreciates that I am delighted that all the hard work, difficult choices, and rearranging of priorities over the last few years is paying off, as I always hoped knew it would.  The challenges that my children and I have faced over the last few years were tough, but we were never victims – we are and always will be, if I have anything to say about it, survivors.

I hope that your life is clicking into place for you this week too, and that you have something to celebrate.

Following through

After posting my list of gadget tutorials on Friday I was a bit inspired, and finally made a cover for my iPad!  I have owned it for about 6 months, without any cover on it, so this was very overdue.

And then because the pattern that I designed worked well, I made a few more!

These ones have all been delivered to the Shop Handmade where I stock my products, but I plan to make more this week that will then be stocked in my Etsy shop.  I made some to fit the iPad Air, and some to fit the iPad mini, so my next task is making some to fit the other iPads.  I love technology but why do they have to change the size slightly every time they release a new model?  Then again – it does give designers a chance to make new products each time, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain!

It felt good to be back sewing again.  Before I could get back to work I had to clean up the room.  It had become a dumping ground for anything extra in the lead up to our trip, so required some cleaning out, and tidying up.  I should have taken some before shots so that you can appreciate how amazing the after shots are!

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In the process I decided that it was time to be a little ruthless with my scrap boxes.  I suspect it was the result of my childhood training but I find it hard to throw away scraps of fabric – they can always be used in some sort of project, and so many of my scraps are from just delicious prints.  However 4 boxes of scraps was getting a bit ridiculous, particularly when I have so many larger pieces of fabric these days.  I was feeing resolute but guilty, and posted on Facebook about my decision.  And voilà – problem solved.  A friend who makes beads will take my scraps and make fabric beads from them!  Much better than throwing them away!

Cleaning up my room also meant that I had room to put away all the new fabric I bought in Hawaii, plus some more that arrived from Spoonflower too.  And that meant I could finally sit and catch up on custom orders.  The first was a library bag for a young woman in Grade 4.  She enjoyed picking her own fabrics and I am thrilled with the way her combination turned out.

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Over the weekend I also made up a custom order for a nappy (diaper) bag.  I am very happy with the way it turned out.  The fabric was chosen by the customer from Spoonflower, so is different from what I might have chosen myself, but it came together really well and completely suited her style.  I have a couple more custom orders to complete, and then can get back to designing.

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It is definitely time for some new bags – all that gorgeous fabric is sitting there tempting me!  I also need to update my Etsy shop – I have a couple of boxes of bags at home that are not listed there yet!  Time to get organised!

I hope that your week has started well, and that you have found time to do things that you enjoy!