I want to keep this short and sweet - mainly because I know there are so many yearly reviews that are published on blogs and social media that will be far better written and more entertaining than anything I can ever write, but I wanted to just sit down and think about all that I have achieved since launching this business in April this year.
Has it been easy? Nope. Has it been stressful? Yup. Did I ever worry that I was never going to sell a single invitation and people wouldn't like my designs and they would just tell me to stop making things because I'm wasting my time and it's getting boring now? Yes, on a daily basis. All of these things are true and luckily these were my own worries and not those of my clients or friends. It has most defiantly been hard to launch a business along side my full time design job, whilst also putting time and effort into my relationships with friends, create a happy home for me and my partner, make time to travel down to see all of my family in Devon at least twice in the year (which still never feels like enough) and also put time and attention into my mental health which always seems to take a back seat alongside everything else.
It's so easy for me to come to the end of this year and feel like I haven't done enough, because that is how I always feel no matter how much I actually achieve. So instead of making this into a blog post about all of the things I haven't done or wished I could have done better, I'm going to simply list all of the things that I have done, as I think it will make me not only pleasantly surprised, but also pretty smug. And you know what, I think it's good to not only be proud of yourself, but also pat yourself on the back as it's so easy to be over shadowded with doubt.
In April I pushed that terrifying but also exciting 'Go Live' button on this website. I had been planning, designing, photographing, editing, writing, scribbling, doubting and worrying for nine months and the time had finally come. There was so much relief when I finally put it all out there, not only because it meant people could finally see what had kept me from socialising and being a normal human being for 9 months but also because it meant I could finally stop worrying about it if was enough. Because it was live, and there wasn't much more I could do at that point. I can honestly say I never worked harder at anything in my life.
- MY FIRST BESPOKE ORDER
I had done a lot of wedding stationery orders at this point, but this was the first time someone had found me through the power of Google, visited my website and it converted into a sale. Any business owner will tell you how hard it can be to reach your perfect customer without word of mouth or recommendations or simply begging your friends and family to pass on your details with promises of discounts if their friend of a friend who might be getting married next year accepts. This was someone completely new! Someone who had no invested interest to ask me to design something that was going to be part of the biggest day of their life but simply because they loved what they saw. I cannot tell you how happy I was to read that email and hear that they could not wait to see what I came up with for them. Because for me, that was the point that I really felt like my hard work was starting to pay off.
- MY FIRST WEDDING FAYRE
In this industry it is pretty common to do a couple, at least one wedding fayre a year as it is a great opportunity to meet potential clients. Even though I am not engaged to be married I have actually attended a few for market research (once by myself which was actually pretty depressing and once with my partner who came along and instantly regretted it when vendors kept asking us when our big day was) I had it in my head that I was never going to do one because I actually hated the whole thing. Whilst walking around we were bombarded with so many flyers, special offers, free tastings, free demos and just people shouting over other vendors to be heard louder than the rest. But it actually gave me a pretty good idea of what not to do. This turned out to be simply giving the couple time and space to look at my stall without jumping down their throats, or thrusting a business card into their hand whilst shouting 'SPECIAL OFFER' in their face. My day was so successful that I had ran out of pretty much everything and gained 3 new clients. I was pretty chuffed with that.
- NOT ON THE HIGH STREET
Being able to sell my invitations on Not On The High Street was always one of my main business goals - I knew that I could compete with the Wedding Stationery vendors on their site and I felt like my products would be well received. I booked myself into one of their 'Pitch Days' which meant I would pitch my products to one of their experts to get feedback and ultimately one of their shiny golden tickets which meant I could be a partner and start selling my products with them. I can honestly say I have never been so nervous about a meeting in my life. This was the first time I was showing my products and designs to not only an industry expert but also the main retail outlet in the bloody country. Did I mumble my words? Yes. Did I make mistakes on my figures and projections? Yes. Was I horribly shaking and struggling to get out any form of sentence that made sense? All of the yes!! Why was I being so hard to control and make sense? Because I cared so much about my designs that I couldn't get this across properly without looking like some kind of lunatic. Luckily the lady I was speaking with was so understanding and above the horrible delivery she did want my designs for the site!! It was not all perfect and I would have to create more designs to be given the golden ticket but I was headed in the right direction. This was such a huge turning point for me that I honestly felt so incredibly proud of myself.
- MY FIRST BIG ORDER
Up until this point my orders had been coming in at a nice pace and at a decent size. Nothing was making me sweat and I was sending things off to print in a nice calm and delicate fashion. When I received an email from a new customer who had asked for the full works it was a great feeling - invitations, save the dates, table numbers, table plans, place name cards, RSVP cards, thank you cards, belly bands the lot! This was the kind of order that would really test my system and ability to juggle multiple things at once. Recieving feedback from my clients with how happy they are with their wedding stationery is honestly the reason why I work so hard and this big order gave me the confidence to know that I can handle it all!
I did say this was going to be short and sweet but writing all this down has been such a great way to notice that there is something to celebrate in all that you do. There are of course still things on my to-do list from this year and still things that need to be done and made even better for next year, but I can say with 2016 coming to a close I have done everything I possibly can to make my business the best I can possibly make it. I cannot thank all of my lovely clients this year for being so great to work with and for making my first six months such a joy.
I cannot wait for 2017 to launch all of the exciting and new products and to hopefully learn and celebrate more.