10 September 2015

Success and Significance

Ha.  Day two and I'm still struggling to find the words for this one.

I always struggle with words.

Alright, so maybe I just start at the end.

A few days ago, after a nearly seven month back and forth, after hours of sample making, stone sourcing, line-sheet creating, hoping, praying, sweating, and spending....  After a half a year of communication and in what was literally our ninety-ninth email exchange...

I declined a wholesale order from Anthropologie.

* * * * *

Alright, so maybe I start at the beginning.

I had this dream since I was maybe 18 or so.  I worked in a jewelry store at the time called Light Years- a lovely sort of hippie-boho shop with home decor, candles and incense, amber, and some amazing accessories in stones and silver.  This is when I first began learning my gems by name and hardness.  This is when I first opted to take up stringing beads and when I chose to become a jewelry designer.  I was in love with the Anthro aesthetic (I totally still am), and as the years wore on and my design school education commenced, continued, and culminated... the dream to design for them grew.  It became a bucket list item.

Like everyone, I've had a lot of dreams over the course of my little life and I've learned that some are a gift when they come true, and some are a gift when they do not.  Some, so glossy and gilt in their perception, upon closer inspection, turn out to be tarnished.  What was it Alicia Silverstone said in the movie "Clueless"? Something along the lines of, "It's a total Monet.  From far away, it's okay but up close, it's a big ol' mess!"  (I personally like Monet, but you see my point... I hope.)  Anyway, I've had a few amazing dreams realized.  Loves.  Success. Independence. My son as well, who was not a dream but a surprise, and yet turned out to be many wishes come true.

Fast forward the years.  THIS dream, this wholesale account with "Most Amazing Retail Store Ever" was still in full effect this past March.  I got the email while I was in Texas teaching what was to be, for the foreseeable future, my last workshop on the road.  How perfect was the timing?  I'd be lying if I said I didn't take it as a sign.  Unsure of what the future held or how I would make ends meet without continuing my stint as a road dog, I was suddenly overjoyed.  I had my answer!  I squealed and hugged Richard Salley tight, tearing up, and showing him the words above which was the subject: "Anthropologie Interest".  It was finally happening.  To boot, THEY had found ME!  I called home in a fit of manic bliss. I'm pretty sure I knocked back several margaritas that night.

Then I came home and got to work.  (After the rodeo, of course.  Let's don't be stupid.)

In May, I got engaged.  Thank you, David Coté, for loving me through my insanity enough to ask me to marry you, even while I was neurotically swinging hammers and snapping shutters on my pursuit of capturing THE DREAM.

"The Dream"....

As the months wore on, as things settled down and thoughts settled in... I suppose a bit of the flattery fell away and the business woman in me took over.  I won't go into a lot of the details because the opportunity itself was still an amazing experience and immensely validating in some sense... And burning bridges isn't wise.

Essentially... and I'm being extremely brief... I guess I just decided that, in the end, I was worth more. What they were going to pay me was never an incentive.  I suppose I thought the exposure might have been well worth the investment of time, money and energy, and that very well may remain true.  And yet, I have been successful in my life thus far... and now, as my father taught me... I want to be significant.


What is your worth, woman?

I ask because as a Bucket List item, designing for Anthro- having them sell my rings- seeing that "An Anthropologie Exclusive by Rosy Revolver" on their website would have lit up my life.... Absolutely it would have!  But for a short while. Perhaps, maybe, possibly... it would have been the start to a relationship that could have gone further into the future, offering some measure of greater exposure and financial freedom.  The last few nights, I've tossed and turned wondering, "But what if that had afforded you a honeymoon?  Or a college fund?  Or, I don't know... a savings account!"  These things are valuable, but what is their WORTH?

I would have missed you.  I would have been gone most of the time, making and remaking the same things. Missing out on play, missing out on experimentation. Missing the conversations and emails, the invitation from y'all into your lives via the request of something custom, meaningful and one-of-a-kind.  Therein lies the significance.  I've been so behind on emails and messages for the past several months- that would have only gotten worse.  I would have missed me... the creative drive repressed at the expense of fulfilling an order identified by a barcode.  I would have been a competitor with myself, selling my wares for either more than my competition (not good) or undervaluing myself in order to stand even with my own wares being sold through another vendor (also not good).  I would have skimmed through wedding plans, skimped on time with my boy, sold my time short.  I would have short-changed myself, I feel, in trying to build "more".

Therein, too, lies the significance.

Tonight, I look around the studio.  I have all the stones here.  Agates and Amazonites all over the place.  I had the metal in my shopping cart.  I had the plan.... but... I just don't love the dream anymore.

So slowly, deliberately, and after much consideration and thought, I released the younger version of myself- dreams and all- into that lovely realm of "I know better now", and sent the conclusion I'd come to through cyberspace.

The hundredth email... was the canceled order.

* * * * *

And so I ask you again, what is your worth?  What is worth your time?  What is worth your happiness?

This is not arrogance.  This is not "I'm too good for wholesale" or "I'm too good for Anthro" in the least.  If anything, I have been immensely humbled and thankful that they somehow found out about my little southern studio.  This IS about growth- both emotional and mental.  Business growth.  Maturity.  For me, the cost was too high.  The return-to-investment ratio was skewed.  I choose my day to day, uncertain, often obscure and unknown Rosy Revolver life and brand.  That's just me, and in no way a judgement call on other artists, on Anthropologie, etc.  For me, it was simply choosing to remain...


I would urge you to hold fast to dreams, certainly, but also find the resilience and flexibility to alter them, compromise with them, or otherwise let them go altogether.  Everybody has something that they once wished for- something that now makes them cringe or balk or laugh.  It's growth, I guess.  Some people will think I'm crazy.  I might be.  I'm also honored.  And I'm also sure.

After dreaming a fourteen-year-old dream, after all the preparation and powering through...
I declined a wholesale order from Anthropologie.

It feels pretty good.


15 July 2015

Minding My Business

Hello stranger.  I realized when logging on today that it's been about seven months since I've stopped by this page.  Shameful!

A lot has changed over the past couple of seasons.  No longer a road dog, I'm becoming domesticated.  We have a vegetable garden in the sunroom as the ancient oaks here don't allow enough sunlight on the property to have anything fruitful grow outside.  (I always get sideways glances when buying grow lights at the local hardware store.)  We have.... I'm thinking..... let's see.... twenty-nine chickens.  Yes.  Twenty nine.  The coop and the run are in full swing construction, I have ten babies still in the bathroom brooders, and six in the studio brooder.  Aside from the chickens, the garden, and the wedding plans, I've been spending much more time at the bench- creating, taking on custom work, and teaching both small workshops and private lessons here at Westover Oaks.

Life is grand.  And busy!

Also in the chaos and change, I've shifted gears online.  Since the new year, I've been selling exclusively on my independent site, www.rosyrevolver.com, and the experience has been an educational one to say the least.  Overall I've immensely enjoyed the feeling of being somewhat free and set apart from the super-saturated and emotionally-soluble circus that can be Etsy.  The new site, powered by Big Cartel, is wonderful to work with, but in trying to assess things from a "manager" role, I find myself struggling with which one is the avenue best suited to my needs.

Lately, after feedback from a few customers and a lot of thought, I've been debating on returning to Etsy, at least in part. I thought I'd share my thoughts with you and perhaps you can offer up some of your own experiences in ecommerce!

While I'm sure there are many, many more points to consider, here are a few things I've noticed that differentiate Etsy from Big Cartel in terms of my small business success:

Etsy Pros:

* I have to admit, they make the bookkeeping, the stats, shop trends and order info pretty accessible and simple. 

* As a community website, it's fairly easy to gain fresh exposure and find new potential customers.  Their system of tags and material labeling has certainly helped me in the past.  I would definitely say that exposure on Etsy seems much easier to gain than on Big Cartel.  However, I also am not a marketing guru, and do most of my advertising on Facebook and Instagram.  I'm sure there are ways to promote independent sites aside from these two social media outlets that would perhaps bring the exposure levels of both Etsy and Big Cartel into roughly the same arena.

* Everybody knows about Etsy.  Right?  

Etsy Cons:

* I have some moral/ethical/personal issues with what Etsy has become.  I miss the original spirit of Etsy.  Whereas I used to feel I was part of an artist community, I now feel I'm a cog in an enormous machine.  I don't feel loyalty from them and I certainly don't feel loyalty to them.  It was a great platform to begin my little business, don't get me wrong.  It kept me afloat for years.  But over time, I feel an undercurrent of greed and grandeur that somehow sucks away the "shop local" and "buy handmade" soul of artists' works.  Maybe I'm wrong, but hey, that's just me.

* Um, can you say FEES?  Etsy fees and PayPal fees could put me up towards $600 or more a month at certain times of the year, and at that point in time as a single mother, that was hard to swallow.  Hell, it would still be hard to swallow.   

* I dislike how every time my shop is empty, it no longer shows up in the search engine.  This prevents new and returning customers from even being able to see your previous sales and body of work unless they have a direct link.  It's as if Etsy is saying, "Good job!  You sold out in this last shop update!  As a reward for not having anything else left in your store that could make us money, we're going to prevent potential customers from finding you!"  Excellent.  Thanks, Etsy.  

Big Cartel Pros:

* I pay a flat $20 a month to have as many as one hundred products up for sale at any given time.  Twenty bucks.  Sure beats a twenty cents listing fee and a pretty percentage of sales.

* As I mentioned before, I feel free.  I feel like an independent artist, working on my own terms, laying out my own shop, sort of taking the long way around at times but finding pride in creating my own little web space and learning how to do things myself.  

* I love their helpline.  Everyone I've called or emailed with questions about setting up the site, managing listings and orders, etc., has been extremely kind, has responded promptly, and resolved issues quickly.  Can't claim the same for Etsy.  Just saying.

* It's simple.  I don't feel overwhelmed when I look at my dashboard.  I don't struggle to find where certain information is located.

Big Cartel Cons:

* Unless you can code, there are limits to how you can set up your site.  They do have several templates to choose from, but you'll have to spend some time going through them carefully in order to select the one that is best for you and your products.

* Items that have sold do not get relocated to a separate page or gallery, so unless you manually remove these listings, customers can get frustrated, seeing "sold out" on each thumbnail and having to search through your pages and categories to find what is still available.  You can manually arrange your listings so that all the sold-out items are at the end of your catalog, but that's something you'd have to stay on top of each day or with each sale... and I have not been very good about that.

* The photos.  For my template, all my photos have to be square.  I don't mind square photos- it actually can be nice when pulling images from Instagram; however, sometimes I make a long lariat or want to put a vignette together of several pieces, and the square format doesn't always lend itself to the types of photos I want to post.  This isn't an issue with Etsy, where it's easier to take photos in proportions that will lend themselves best to making the jewelry more appealing.

* The exposure can be tough.  I've had to start spending a bit of money to advertise on Facebook. (That kind of negates being excited about not paying Etsy fees, though I still shell out way less than I used to.)  I've been blessed to have many repeat customers and many have followed me over from Etsy, but I rarely get a new customer now, and that's not so good for growing the business and brand.


For the record, I'll probably think of more points and comparisons after I hit the "publish" button on this post, but at least you have some food for thought, and maybe you can understand why I've been fluctuating on this decision.

Here is what I think I'm going to do:

I am going to use Etsy as a place to keep all of my production pieces.  It will be a place for made-to-order items.  This way, the "selling out" of each listing isn't an option as I can keep the quantity up and just fill orders as they come in.  With items always available, my shop will stay in the search engine results.  Meanwhile, I'll put up a message in the Shop Announcement section (I hope people read those things) saying that all of my one-of-a-kind and art-to-wear pieces will be over on www.rosyrevolver.com.  By keeping the more expensive, elaborate, and frankly, artistic pieces on the Big Cartel domain, I avoid paying Etsy's fees on the higher end items.  It also maintains the feeling I need of being a bit more "grown" in my business and creative ventures. Finally, I'll keep posting preview shots and direct links to new work on the Rosy Revolver Facebook page so that there is a central hub to all this division and madness.

Does that makes sense?

I do worry about maintaining two outlets for sales, but fortunately for me, I have an amazing assistant who keeps my paperwork and orders straight.  I may have to open a third store for chicken sales if things continue to escalate as they have around here.  No, really.  

Where are you selling right now and what do you like and not like about that space?  As a disclaimer, this is not meant to be a blog post giving you business advice, and I am learning everyday myself how to run my business a little better.  I'm also eager to listen if you have thoughts to share.

I hope all is well with each of you.  I'm going to try to make more time to spend here sharing life and love and art with you via words as much as metal. 

Hugs to you, pistols.