Notorious S.M.A.L.L.

Fresh from the HaldeKilnIt’s the time of year when most of the handmade business blogs I read are all talking about making your plan for the year. Personally I am somewhat of a long thinker so I started planning what I wanted for 2013 in late November/early December of last year, but whatever. I’m a Libra — I need to weigh all my options, from all sides, for a long time.

What I like about what these blogs are saying is that your vision for what you do should be yours — something that, as the owner (and everything-er) of my own business, I can heartily get behind. HOWEVER. Then they go on to tell you how to grow your business exponentially, and most importantly (to them) how to wholesale. How to be not just big, but BIG.

And this is one thing I can talk to MyLaura* about for hours, because she also owns her own business and while her business is of a much different style (she’s a Planner, no, not a Wedding Planner; a City/County Planner) she has to make a lot of the same decisions that I do as far as what work to take on … or not take on. So we talk a lot about how in the start of your business there’s a huge pressure to take on work, any work, because my god WORK. But you also have to balance that with the amount of work you can do, the amount of work you want to do, the type of people who want the work done, how high-or-low-maintenance is the work (is it a small but time consuming job? Or a large job but you can take a long time to do it?), and is there an emotional cost that comes with the work that you might have to pay (and if so, is what you’re paying emotionally worth what’s coming in financially). And firing customers. Boy howdy, but could I go on for about 1000 words just on that.

BUT ANYWAY.

My point is that the more I read about how I should be aiming for wholesale, because “the point” of owning your own business is apparently to get yourself into as many retail establishments as possible, the more I don’t want to be big. The more I actively turn down becoming big. Last year I probably passed on four large wholesale customers, in addition to another three or four who never got back with me after hearing my terms.

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to be selling primarily wholesale, and I just listed them all out and deleted them because (a) it took about another 1000 words and as the kids say, “tl;dr” and (b) it boils down to one thing: I don’t want to lose the personal touch. I like that my customers sometimes become my friends. I like that my customers find me approachable. I like that I can fix things when they go wrong, even when the “wrong” is not my fault (I’m looking at you, United States Postal Service). I like the conversations we’ve been having over on our Ravelry group. I like that customers request things from me that I then bring in as a regular item and it sells out and people want more. I like the collaboration. I like knowing how I made someone’s mother’s birthday wonderful, or that someone’s wife got the best Christmas present she’d ever gotten.

If I get too big, if I go wholesale-only, I’m going to lose a lot of that. And I know from bookstore experience how unhappy that makes me. I loved working in the trenches at bookstores. I loved working the sales floor, talking to customers, recommending books, recommending more when they loved what I’d steered them towards previously. But my problem is that I’m motivated and love a challenge, and that means that I tended to move up the ladder to management, and the higher you get on the ladder the farther away you are from your customers. I love being so close to what I do, close enough that I can see the feedback (and sure, sometimes the fallout, when things go wrong). But if I’m selling to someone who is selling to customers, I’m going to lose that. And I don’t want that. Impersonal, distant, unapproachable… that’s not me. That’s not what I’m about.

So I guess what I’m saying is don’t expect to see HaldeCraft on an endcap in a Target near you any time soon. But hey! If you need a gift basket of soap with a soap dish painted in the same bathroom colors that your mom just redid her house in, send me a paint chip. I’m your gal.

* Marie dubbed her “MyLaura” because we also have had at various times KnitterLaura, SpinnerLaura, DrunkLaura, PregnantLaura, LauraWhoIsNoLongerPregnant, LauraWhoJustHadABaby, Lala, LauraD, TheOtherLauraD, CanadianLaura, and BlondeLaura. I know a lot of Lauras.

4 Comments

  1. nakhira January 19, 2013 5:40 pm Reply

    Same thing with Jennifer’s and Mike’s – they have to have descriptors, or you’d lose track of which one you’re actually talking about.

    It’s a generational thing – this time around, it’ll be Harry’s and Bella’s.

  2. miss m January 20, 2013 11:59 am Reply

    I hear ya. I’m in the position where a certain level of business is good and over that would be OMG BAD. Because I’m only one person making every single thing in the shop, I need to be realistic about the number of sales I can honestly handle. I found that out in December when I had over 100 orders (many with more than one item.) It was HOLY CRAP AWESOME financially, but also OH SHIT with not enough hours in the day. Now, that was difficult because of course, everyone had the exact same deadline (Christmas) which made it hard for both me and the customer, but still. There’s definitely a happy medium I want to get to where it’s steady and constant source of income, but not so much that I can’t keep up with it since it IS just me.

    http://www.giveneyestosee.com/blog

  3. Catherine January 21, 2013 2:50 am Reply

    I am glad you like the things you like about your business, I like them too. From a selfish standpoint, I would hate to lose the “personal” touch if you were more wholesale or BIG.

  4. Bonnie January 23, 2013 2:00 pm Reply

    I enjoyed this post a lot. Thanks for writing it. If I had my own small business, I would throw up until my stomach exploded. I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress. I am so grateful that there are a ton of talented people like you who do not have my fear of self-employment. You get to do what you love, I get to buy your stuff, WIN WIN. :)

    http://www.peaceableliberal.blogpost.com

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