It feels wonderful to see my business gaining some momentum again. Although I know it still has a way to go, it is a good feeling to see that I am gaining ground, even if it is just a little bit every day. it is a huge change from what I have experienced the past couple of years. Things had really slowed down and I had some personal things going on and had some people around me that were great influences in my life that only looked at the monitory side of things and it really sucked the life out of me. About a year and a half ago, there was a crossroad in my life and it came to a point where I had to make a ‘do or die’ decision regarding my business. I had to either attack it with 110 per cent commitment, or settle for a job with no creativity at all, as the employment opportunities in my area are very limited at best.
You all know which path I chose.
These past years haven’t been easy, but they have been immensely satisfying. The first time around when my business achieved success (about 10 years ago) it seemed to come on its own. I had developed a new line of scroll saw patterns called “The Forest Leaf Series” which were a set of (what turned out to be) about 70 plaques of forest wildlife in a leaf shaped frame. Scrollsawing was really gaining popularity at that time and the series took off like wildfire. People didn’t want just one or two or even ten – they wanted the entire series. They were a great series of patterns because they took only a couple hours to cut, yet were attractive and had a wide appeal. They were great for gifts and craft shows and they were just one of those designs that came out at the ‘right time’. They still sell to this day, after ten years of being on the market.
I started with 16 of them and kept making them until I got really tired of it. They were still selling when I decided to stop, but after doing them for almost a year and not designing anything else, I felt I was getting stale. Perhaps it wasn’t the best business move I could have made, but I didn’t want the quality of my designs to decline and I wanted to get out while I was on top and try other things. I would probably do the same thing again if I had to do it over.
I recently have been marketing a new set of leaf designs featuring endangered wildlife. Actually my partner is the one who has designed these. He had some ideas to further the series and I thought a fresh set of eyes would be great. I like the set he drew up and they are selling pretty well considering how new they are. They have yet to be brought into all of our outlets for sales so we will see.
But getting back to where I started today, things are starting to pick up. Yesterday I had a couple of calls from customers, both with orders and questions and also some nice orders from my site. The candle trays have only been available since Friday night and are already doing good. I had a request for a new ornament that someone was looking for and I helped someone else find a pattern they needed from another source. I actually FELT like I had a business.
My editor called me and had the sales of the See Creatures that he sold in an ad in the magazine and they also had a respectable showing. They didn’t set any records, but seeing that this is our slowest season traditionally (mid-summer) they did well and he was happy. I also made contact with a large vendor that is under new management over the past couple of years and is rebuilding. She owns two companies – one strictly dedicated to scroll sawing and the other with more scrolled/painted items like the See Creatures. I used to sell through the company when the former owner had it, but when hands changed they reorganized and decided to go with all in house designers. She is just now branching out and starting to consider outside designers. I understand that they are doing quite well in both companies, despite the economy and are the up and coming distributor. Also, they can be trusted, which is quite important.
My editor had told me to try again at the ‘new’ company to see if they would sell the See Creatures. I had sent her a full catalog in March and she said she wasn’t quite ready yet for new designers, but would consider it in fall. I sent an email to her and reminded her of them and sent pictures and patterns and told her they were doing pretty good. About two hours later, I received an email. She said that when she got my email, she was thinking that she just closed out her autumn catalog and there would be no place for them yet. But she went on to say that as she was doing the final check of the catalog, she had mis-numbered the pages and was short a page. She needed to fill that page and would try six of them, along with about eight other of my designs if I could get her the materials quickly.
I gathered up the pictures and patterns and had them to her within an hour. What a wonderful opportunity this will be! I am a believer in Karma and I couldn’t help but notice that timing was everything here. I had considered sending her stuff soon, but I didn’t want to appear as if I was pushing her and if I hadn’t had the phone call and encouragement from my editor to try again, I would have missed this opportunity. Perhaps things do happen for a reason after all.
I am excited because now I have three companies distributing my patterns, as well as my own site which is gaining momentum every day. And I also have the exposure with the magazine, which is as they say “priceless”. The magazine is in the process of redeveloping their own website and will soon be selling patterns on it too and can be another valuable distributor, so there is some hope on the horizon.
These small steps are really going to add up. I believe in this type of business, there is no such thing as an overnight success. There may be products that do extremely well, but I have seen many companies and designers come and go even though they had some sensational ideas and projects. I think it takes a lot of trench work and a lot of days of trying when you don’t see progress to get to the point of being successful. I know I have a long way to go, but even the fact that things are getting better (no matter how small the progress) in these very difficult times where people all around are folding, is very encouraging to me.
This is not the type of business for short-sighted people who want instant payoff. I believe it takes true dedication and love of what you to do make it in any type of creative or woodworking business. I think if you hang in there long enough and keep your focus, it will happen eventually.
Am I there yet? Not really, I think. I am just about even in the operating/living expense verses profit department. But the important thing to me is that I am no longer losing money and it seems that I have been able to stop the roaring train and start moving in the opposite direction. With the fall and holiday seasons upon us and everything in place, I can’t help but have my ‘pink cloud’ optimism that things will get better. I am a firm believer that hard work and perseverance will pay off.
I am really happy I have hung on. :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"