This time last year, I was preparing for a new year in a relatively new position at work and settling in to my new married life in a new home. That September, I had created the first burlap tote bag, one month prior to my wedding and one month after a life-altering diagnosis for my husband's mother and his family. I'm not sure what compelled me to start sewing in the midst of what felt like chaos in my personal life, but by the time the year ended, I had one sale (to one of my husband's work friends) and several other bags sitting in my home, without much of a plan.
In February, I decided to sign up for a local craft fair, which was a personal goal I had for many years. This was the chance to display the burlap bags and possibly sell a few. I prepped for several weeks during nights and weekends as my days were busy at work amid a product launch. I spent an entire Saturday at the fair and loved being able to watch people look, touch, and comment on my bags, but left with no sales aside from my thoughtful girlfriends who stopped by to support me. It felt good to have completed this goal, but I knew that it didn't mean much in terms of progressing much further with Lina and Vi. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next.
Several friends and family had encouraged me to start an Etsy shop around that time, and I was stubborn and decided that it wasn't the way I wanted to go. I wanted to focus on building Lina and Vi locally, and I didn't want to spend my free time on the computer, as I was doing most of the day at work already. I just wanted to sew. As you know now, I decided to give it a try on April 1st. I spent the first month and a half without a sale, gradually feeling that I-told-you-so attitude creep back in. I sat down one day and came up with an idea to create a look book to improve my Etsy photos. I grabbed a few rose bouquets on sale at the grocery store and started styling my bags with flowers and props. I had my first sale at the end of May on Etsy, and I was thrilled. Since then, I've had ups and downs as I learn about how Etsy works and become more successful in managing an online store.
In June, I was approached by a local boutique in Plymouth, Michigan called Birch Wood and asked if I'd be willing to display my bags in their store when I had stopped in one day to do some shopping. That same day, I went home, created an inventory worksheet and came back to the boutique a few hours later with a few select items, a stack of business cards, and the product detail worksheet. When I saw my bags on display at the boutique as part of the Art in the Park Plymouth craft fair in July, I felt so accomplished. I would never had thought that I'd do anything beyond checking off the box on a craft fair this year, and at this point, I had sales in an Etsy shop and a display at a local boutique, both of which are still happening today.
In September, I decided to leave my job for a much smaller company in a slightly different, but related, position. I came to realize that my 'dream job' wasn't what I had thought it would be after a tough year launching a product that I didn't fully believe in. At that same time, I lost my mother-in-law to pancreatic cancer after a year and one month since her initial diagnosis. There were a lot of changes at once during that month, and in some ways, I think that sewing for Lina and Vi help to keep a sense of normalcy and familiarity for me during that time.
If you know me personally, you likely know that I tend to be very goal oriented with a to-do list or plan written in a journal or notepad somewhere at all times to keep me on track. With the year ending, I'm starting to write down some new goals for Lina and Vi, but not without first reflecting the successes, disappointments, and lessons from this past year. I started the year with only one sale and am ending it with nearly fifty. It's incredible, and I'm so excited to plan for what's next in 2015.
I have a lot to learn, many improvements to make, and years to continue to grow. Thanks for being a part of this adventure with me.