It’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.
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.