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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

sashes part two, lessons learned from the big debut!

The first and foremost purpose of sashes will always be to provide biblical encouragement to all women. Ellen did that so beautifully last week. Our second purpose is
providing tips and tricks and lessons learned the hard way (maybe the easy way) for women endeavoring to do something big on their own. Bloggers, small business owners, crafters, photographers, writers, endeavorers of all kind: our heart is for you. 

So in that light, I'd like to share what I learned from my big debut! 
Last week's open studio

Some backstory: I tried a few years ago to start doing graphic design work from home. The customers weren't there, the time wasn't there, the inspiration didn't come. My designs were bad and the whole thing was frustrating. When Glory was in the hospital this past spring with epilepsy, the idea for the Psalm 46:5 print came to me and it was the first I made. A few weeks later, I got brave enough to put some on the etsy shop and my hope was that maybe I'd sell a hundred in a year. I didn't anticipate selling 100 in a month and I was so encouraged by the whole thing! 

Then, sweet Ellen offered to let me do an open studio with her! A chance to pool all our communities and show them what we had for fall. I thought, "sure, why not?!" and had no idea what I was getting into. The first time Ellen and I met to discuss it, I was blown away with how little I knew. I hadn't though about business cards, display,  signage, receipts, having change... shoot, I hadn't really thought about ANYTHING. I spent the week before the open studio scurrying around like a chicken with, you know. Printing a gazillion prints, picking up last minute supplies, etc. etc. etc. And this was just a casual-at-home-open-studio! I can't imagine if I had been prepping for a show or market in the real-world! 

But here are some valuable lessons I learned, that I hope are a blessing for you. 
1. Do you first debut with an encouraging friend. 
I don't have any friends that are straight up discouraging, but it was incredibly beneficial for me to walk through this with someone who absolutely believes my prints need to be sold. And likewise, I am a massive fan of her work. I would absolutely encourage anyone I know to spend money on the items that she makes and I know she would say the same for me. We still oooh and aaaah over each other's new things and it's not superficial. I would highly suggest praying for and finding a friend like that, and moreover, BEING a friend like that to someone else if you're endeavoring something on your own. Or even if you're not. 

this is Lauren, not Ellen. She is also encouraging! 
2. Define success in realistic AND optimistic terms. 
I had two different mindsets about the open studio and honestly, I needed to function in both of them. My super optimistic lady in my head said something like, "pray that you'll sell out and make xxx amount of dollars! plan accordingly! prepare for business boost!". The nice little realistic lady in my brain said, "get excited to show people your product and stand behind it, thankful for what He's done in you! minister to those who come to the open studio and be glad for each and every word of scripture that you have a part of putting in someone's home!". Of course, the actual outcome of the open studio was a combination of the hopeful and the realistic plan. I had some sales and it was a boost to my business, but I had to let the wise and realistic voice coach the optimistic voice off the couch the next day. I could've been discouraged that I didn't make a billion dollars or sell out of all my product, but instead I was overly greatful that I'd exceeded my realistic goals. 

I think we need both those ladies in our head and heart. Dream big in the faith that God can use your endeavor however largely He wants to, but celebrate when He does it in realistic, tangible, normal ways as well. 

3. Determine that the work of your hands is profitable. BEFORE the doors open. 
I've really wrestled over proverbs 31:18 that says "she perceives her mechandise to be profitable". I love my little prints, but I worry that they're not as good as I think. I've had assurance from the Lord time and again that He wants me to make them, but I think I still really readily look to others to answer that question for me. Unfortunately, I think I went into our open studio with a big question mark on my heart. 
"is this work good? is my merchandise profitable?"
My only true regret of the night was not standing on what the Lord has done and giving Him glory for what He is doing through my business. I had a hard time letting close friends actually PAY me, and I wanted to write off compliments and encouragement. In hindsight, I wish that I'd looked at the work of my hands and seen: this is something the Lord has done. Creativity that He has given. If people want to pay for it, that shouldn't make me balk or want to hide! It's His work. My hands. Done & Done. 

So, those are tips from a newbie. 
- Get a good friend (and be a great friend). 
- Shoot for the stars & keep realistic goals all at once. 
- Conside that work good, sister. Cause it is. 

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