It's 2019, baby! Word on the street is, this is going to be a good year. I've heard it just has good vibes, and that it just has to be better than 2018 and also my mom told me personally that 2019 has big things in store for me. So why argue with people? I'm embracing it. This is going to be a BIG YEAR for Gregory and his little Shipwreck Baby. But before I talk about all the things I have planned for 2019, I'd love to have a gander at 2018. Celebrate all the things I accomplished (and there's some real good ones in there). Talk about what disappointed me, and what I can do better right now. This my friends, is a year in review.
2018 was the year I quit my job and started working on Shipwreck full-time. But the way in which I left my job, had some baggage. I quit because the conditions of a job I had loved for a long time, had soured. Some of the people in positions of power, had made the environment pretty toxic. So, I took it as a sign that this was the right time to try the full-time, small business owner life. It was pretty exhilarating, but in January, after the initial high of being the MASTER OF MY DOMAIN wore off, I felt a bit unsure. With essentially the whole year looking me in the face, and no real set schedule, I quickly fell into a rut. I focused on Instagram. I worked on creating more content and figuring out how to grow my following. I experimented with post frequency, bought a class on how to grow my following, and eventually landed on a schedule and some principals that I still use today. And that strategy doubled my followers in 2018 (800->1600). Bravo!
But I quickly realized that my numbers didn't really add up. The ones that you can use to buy things, that is. Money numbers. I scheduled photo shoots, designed new stickers, signed up for craft shows, and eventually hired a company to help me break into the wholesale market. And all these things added up quickly. In the spring I realized, these may have been things I should have done before I quit my job. These are early days steps. The sowing of the seeds. And they are hard to pay for without a steady stream of income. And I had a stream! Only maybe it was more like a rain barrel. I did a lovely craft show (Greenpointers) with a couple new designs, and got a better response than I had in ones of the year before, but I didn't get the response to my new designs that I had hoped for. In fact, people didn't seem to take to it. Things felt good, but also very much the same. I had put in a lot of work, in the first three or four months, but none of it seemed even a single step away from increasing my income. And then came summer.
Summer was the breaking point. I had saved up quite a bit of money before quitting my job. And I felt, what is your savings for if not for giving you the flexibility to try and better your life? To take a trip, to cover a surprising expense, a move, an investment. And it was in the last one, that I finally pushed myself to take the leap with Shipwreck. But as investments go, this was a pretty loose one. Without concrete goals and sales-driven ideas, I was simply buying myself time to figure things out. And in June, time ran out. I had become so poor that I couldn't focus on anything. Every decision suddenly became an opportunity to turn things around, or to fully sink the ship. I was frozen. I had to get a job. It felt like a huge defeat.
My self esteem was very low. I was proud of my work as always, I knew that I was a talented maker, but I felt I knew nothing about business and what people actually want (despite reading multiple books and taking singular class!). I didn't feel like I could take a vacation, or sign up for another class or program or craft show or anything. I was completely stuck and about as anxiety ridden as I've been in years. It's hard not to take this business stuff personally sometimes. Especially when it's your livelihood.
But this is the thing. This is why I was so gung ho about quitting my job. Because without this sense of personal responsibility and well being attached to Shipwreck, it was just never going to grow into anything more than a hobby business. Who knows, maybe it never will, but by jumping into the fray I am committing to it. And this first real hardship of depression summer 2018 made me adapt. After some of the worst weeks I've ever had as an artist and business owner, I made several decisions all at once. And this is where the year began to turn around, though I certainly couldn't believe it at the time.
My sister visited when I was in this very low period and we talked about what I wanted from my life from a money perspective. And we landed on a way for me to make money by following one of my other passions, cooking. And thus Meal Ticket was born. I would cook food for my friends who wanted to eat better and save a little money and who just in general wanted to eat homemade food. At the same time, I finally found a job that seemed flexible enough for me to still focus on Shipwreck properly, I started cleaning apartments. And finally, I started the best thing I've done for Shipwreck so far, Shipwreck Circle, my subscription card business on Patreon. These three projects all started at the same time. And came from the lowest point of my Shipwreck career.
Would I have had this moment without being full-time and feeling the true financial pressure of a point of no return? It's hard to say, but I think not. I think I would have moved some things around, picked up more shifts, and Shipwreck would be miles behind where it is today. The rest of the year was a delightful blur. I cooked 14 weeks of food, cleaned countless apartments and I had a fairly successful launch and have since grown my Circle subscribers to 31, (which I think is really amazing!). I did another new show in December, the FAD Market, using the new designs I had made from SC and got the best response and best sales rate I have ever gotten at a market. And I felt so grateful for the squeeze of summer sadness and how it forced me to push harder.
Because looking back on 2018, I am surprised what I didn't get done. I did A LOT, in terms of very important things that have really shifted my life in a positive direction (see last paragraph). At the end of 2017, I was a server who did a stationery business part time, and felt sort of reserved about it. At the beginning of 2019 I am a stationery business owner, and I have a lot of big plans, a lot of new designs, a lot of momentum, and even some money I made selling things I made. Of course that's the most basic and obvious part of what I do, but it's a lot harder than it sounds. And having figured out how to better connect with people, I am reinvigorated by my decision to do this business in the first place.
I think the real reason I didn't accomplish so many of my goals in 2018 was simple. I hadn't really been tested yet. Without the test, I was just unsure. It was exciting to think in theory about where money would come from, and how the business would grow, but once 6 months passed and all my money with it, it was no longer exciting. It was a big old bummer. And so, starting 2019 with a better standing in all regards, and having made it a full year without going back into the service industry, having transformed the way that I think about myself and my business. I am confident I can accomplish much more this year, both because I am excited again, AND because I am sure. And you know what, I really do think 2019 has big plans for me.
Everything I have is going to grow this year. On top of having dozens more designs through Shipwreck Circle (my design incubator) I am going to travel to craft shows in different areas. I am going to do collaborations. I am going to tidy up my web presence. I am going to dip my toe into more video content. I am going to try teaching paper cutting and card making. I am going to update my line sheet to showcase my growing library of designs. I have been streamlining my cards so that they get ever easier to produce. I am going to find some more creative peers and spend time with and learn from and collaborate with them. I am going to re-discover my love for all this making. And I'm just going to make so much more than I've ever made and become the disciplined artist I've always dreamed of becoming. All while remembering to have fun.
A place for product updates, inspiration, behind the scenes stuff, and in general a place for mind meandering.