So when better to reflect on the past year than on New Year’s Day? Here are the 2014 highlights in a nutshell:
– Left my full-time job to pursue my small biz dream
– Flew to NYC for the National Stationery Show!
– TV debut! We were featured on Toronto’s #1 Morning Show, Breakfast Television
– I’m named one of the Top 10 Greeting Card Designers in Toronto by blogTO
– We now have over 50 new stockists including CHAPTERS/INDIGO!
– Through our first pop up event the cards were on TV for the second time!
– We’re in FOREVER 21! What incredible news to end the year!
This post marks the last of my six part series about the National Stationery Show.
Here are the quick links to the previous posts:
Bottom line, NSS… was it worth it?
Pursuing your own business is always risky, you never know how it’s going to pan out. If you decide to leave your career for it, saying goodbye to a steady paycheque is even more terrifying, especially with a child in the picture so I would not recommend this route unless you have a safety net in place. (I explain why I decided to pursue a work-at-home mom status in Part 1: INTRO). I wouldn’t have been able to pay my bills if it wasn’t for my savings account but even that was dwindling too quickly after you saw my NSS expense report. If you are financially secure and have a plan, go for it. Working for myself is the most gratifying and toughest thing I have ever experienced, next to having my daughter. queenie’s cards is my second baby and I am so relieved I was able to see it strive and succeed (though, slowly but surely) this past year. A gigantic part of this is thanks to NSS — during those three and a half days in New York City, I made countless connections which led me to where I am today. Suffice to say, it was 100% worth it and I would do it again, without question.
Post-Show… now what?
When I arrived back in Toronto, I was in post-show recovery for a few weeks, maybe even months. For such a huge and expensive event, exhibitors planned and worked for months and months and after such an intense build up, it takes some time for you to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Your brain is still constantly in overdrive:
– Trying to figure out your next steps in that critical window to send thank you notes to everyone you met
– Fill orders to meet your delivery dates
– Respond to potential stockists, clients and mail them catalogues or whatever further info requested at the show
– Research future opportunities that were presented to you but still ongoing
– Restock inventory, rethink or add to product line, change/edit any existing items based on suggestions at the show
– All the while trying to reflect on and take in the entire NSS experience to determine what road you might be headed in the following months
It’s a lot to deal with. I honestly didn’t even think of any scenarios because I went in with no expectations, not because I didn’t believe in myself and my company but because I had no idea what the heck I was doing! I secretly was keeping my fingers crossed for one order, and that to me would’ve meant I succeeded. Thankfully I got more than one! During the summer I worked everyday to keep the momentum going and continuously added stockists to my list. The work never ends, processes are long and gruelling but you have to stick with it. For example, it took half a year for my products to be in a number of stores. I’m still currently working with several companies I met at the show before I can announce them as a stockist. There is a phone book’s worth of paperwork and logistics to sort through before any contracts are signed. You might also need to source new suppliers along the way, test new printers and rethink your product line. You need an endless amount of patience as a business owner, but let me tell you, it’s worth the wait.
Ask questions… all the time!
The one thing I learned about this entire experience, from the day I quit my job to right now, is that you don’t need a business resume for sole proprietorship. You need to believe in your brand, your products, and what they are worth. I minored in marketing in university but I honestly gleaned more from when I worked retail than any textbook has taught me. This may just be how I work, but I want to tell you incase you work the same way. Be smart with your choices, don’t say yes to everything, and ask questions. That’s what got me through a lot of uncertainty, I bugged the heck out of people who I thought would have answers for me. If they didn’t, they would no doubt offer valuable advice I didn’t think to ask. Always ask questions!
Where I am now… hello 2015!
There is always more work to do, even though I’ve had a tremendous amount of positive results this past year, I’m eons away from where I’d like to be. This is only the beginning and the overwhelming feeling never leaves. My brain is still always thinking and until the company is somewhat self-sufficient, I have to keep working and learning. I’m still an amateur in this small biz world and there is so much I have to go through before I can put my feet up and have that assistant I pine for (lol). Everything has been a lot of trial and error and that changes all the time. Everyone you work with is different and you will have to adapt accordingly. You will change. Your products will change. It’s an ongoing process and I’ve had so many headaches along the way, but it has also been the greatest journey and I cannot believe I’m on my second year! Here is my short to do list off the top of my head:
– Right now, I’m in the design phase with a top secret company that I cannot wait to announce if all things go well.
– I have to finish my 2015 catalogue for current and potential retailers, I’m uber behind because the holiday rush was insane.
– Valentine designs are underway, I’m late because of said holiday insanity.
– Re-evaluating my products because I want to add onesies and tshirts to the mix! And mugs, y’all love mugs.
– I have to get my tax documents ready… my accountant is going to hate me, there is a lot to sort through.
– I’m still not finished editing the hundreds of photos from my shoot a month ago, my website is in need of an update ASAP.
– I started a project on Instagram called #queeniemail, which is my version of #365daysofletterwriting and #52weeksofletters (so I’m not overwhelmed to send one card every day of the year but not limited to only one a week)
– I’m researching more Toronto shows to participate in because my first one was such a success. In the meantime, I’m signed up for OOAK (info below) and I hope to see you there!
ONE OF A KIND SPRING SHOW
March 25-29, 2015
Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place in Toronto ON
The mushy stuff…
It’s been a surreal adventure. Every step was a surprise, there were unexpected tears and many sleepless nights, but the smiles have outshined every struggle and all the hard work is most definitely paying off. The company technically became official at NSS so considering only 7 months have passed, I am one very lucky gal. There’s still a very long way to go but it’s reassuring I won’t be going through it alone. As cliche as this will sound, it really comes down to the support of my family and friends that any of this was at all possible. Without their encouragement and each one of them having my back from the very start, I wouldn’t have had the courage to pursue my dream. I work my butt off and I hope to make each one of them proud of me. So if you’re reading and you’ve been a part of my journey, thank you. Thank you so much, you have no idea how much I appreciate your support, truly.
Quitting my full-time job was the scariest thing I have ever done. I never ever thought I would do anything like this. But being a work-at-home mom has been the best decision I ever made, albeit being very challenging because my daughter only started preschool less than two months ago. I had mom guilt every single day, and I try so hard to balance the personal and professional life. I do believe that life has mysterious ways of working itself out and I’m so thankful it has for me thus far. The world is full of unknowns and I will never take anything for granted. I have big dreams for queenie’s cards and I hope this is just the beginning.
Thank you again for being a part of an unforgettable 2014. Here’s to 2015, may it bring even more success to every blogger, friend, mompreneur and small business, especially to the ones I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during this rollercoaster of a year!
Happy New Year again, everyone! :)