2019 Year In Review

Word of the Year: Abundance

In 2019 my word of the year was abundance. Every year I expect to learn something from the shadow side of the word that calls me and this year was no exception. I took away from the year a new shift from a scarcity mindset to inching towards more of an abundance mindset. The biggest lesson I learned from abundance was to trust the process. 

The most surprising lesson of abundance was that in quitting what I'd previously considered to be a steady day job for the uncertainty of self-employment, by the end of the year I came to more fully understand how working for myself provided a different kind of financial stability. Being employed by a company, my earnings were limited to my salary, so I felt a sense of scarcity in when deciding what to spend money on and when to be frugal. Now, I know that if there is something I value, I know exactly how to earn more money to afford it, and my earnings, in theory, are limitless. I'm in control over how much or how little I'd like to create and sell, and because of that, I feel a much stronger sense of security.

Business Goals

Craft Shows: Participate in 2 markets per month

I participated in 31 retail markets or 37 days, and 2 regional wholesale trade shows or 5 days, in 2019. This was an average of 3.5 days of markets each month, and the vast majority happened after I quit my day job in June. Markets were a pretty predictable source of income in that I could usually know how much revenue I could expect to earn at each one based on past experiences. There were only a few surprises--one fairly bad show based on my location (hidden with three other makers in a separate room from the other vendors, with no signage to indicate that we were in there), and two shows that were record-setters for me and far better than what I'd expected. I learned that my favorite two ways to sell my products are via in-person markets and through my wholesale partners, so I'd love to continue to focus on this revenue stream in 2020. I'll be able to continue to increase my craft market revenue in 2020 simply by increasing the number I participate in during the first five months of the year.
Invest in a market tent for outdoor shows and get over fear of setting up a tent:

Success! I asked for tent recommendations from an online group I belong to, invested in a tent that was the most recommended, and did enough outdoor shows to be able to learn how to set up and take down my tent by myself. Usually, though, other vendors would see me in action and offer to help, and I always accepted since it's quite a bit faster to do the process with two people. This was definitely a mindset success more than anything else because each time I felt scared to set everything up, I reminded myself that by the time my last scheduled show came around in August, I'd be over my fear. And I was!

I had a goal of having my work carried in 100 stores by the end of 2019. Instead, I went from working with 40 stores at the beginning of 2019 to a net of 94 independent retailers in the US and Canada at the end of the year. There were more than 60 new stores added, and some that I removed from my list of partners if they hadn't ordered in a year (and a couple I'd given up on who ordered again!) I'm very proud of this growth and hope to continue to nurture my relationships with retailers in 2020.

Online retail orders were an interesting experiment this year. I made some changes to my Etsy shop, raising prices to align with their raised fees and pressure to offer free shipping. 2019 was also the first full year of having my own online shop through Shopify separate from Etsy (I opened my main store in late summer of 2018). What I saw was a transition from Etsy to my main store for many orders. My Etsy revenue decreased by 10% and my main store's revenue increased by 247%. Overall, online retail sales increased by 23% in 2019.
Focus on inventory, step back from drop-shipped items:

I didn't fully keep this commitment, but cut down on the number of items that were drop-shipped from my printing partner, discontinuing items as they expired on Etsy and discontinuing all drop-shipped art prints and camp mugs on my main website, to focus on inventory only. I released one collection of phone cases that were only available online. Again, however, I found that managing orders that included both drop-shipped items and items I kept in inventory to be confusing and a shipping challenge, so I've discontinued all drop-shipped items for 2020.

Financial Goals:

I had a goal to double my revenue and reach a level of bringing in six figures in gross sales. I increased revenue by 83%, but I did meet the six figure goal, so I consider this a success. I also set a fairly unrealistic goal of tripling my profit, which I doubled instead. Considering I had more expenses after quitting my day job, I consider this a win, especially since my profit grew more than my revenue. I feel like I predicted my finances fairly accurately and am on track to continue to build my business at a steady pace to provide myself with a sustainable income.

2019 Collections:

Tamanawis: rivers and fishing theme
Art prints and the Southwest
Holiday Collection

Mini releases:
Parks and Trails art prints
Phone Cases (limited release)

Stats for reference:

Instagram: I started with 1506 followers and ended with 2163. Follow me on Instagram here.

Newsletter: I'm not sure how many subscribers I started with at the beginning of the year, but I'd like to track this for the future. I ended 2019 with 493 subscribers (after culling somewhere between 50-100 more who either hadn't engaged in a while or appeared to be bots.) I also upgraded my email marketing provider from Mailchimp to Klaviyo on the last day of the year. I'll probably explain more why I did this in my 2020 goals blog. Want to sign up for my newsletter? You can do so here.

Time off: I took a 5-day vacation in February, and then fully closed my online shops, email and social media from December 18th through the 31st for a holiday break. I also scheduled a day off each Thursday after quitting my day job (after years of not really having any days off). In 2020 I'd like to do more time tracking, so I'll use these numbers as a starting point for reference.

Unexpected Extras:

I quit my day job, which was not something I'd set out to do at the beginning of the year, but I'm so happy I made the leap with intention, deliberation and trust.

I secured my first licensing deal which you'll hear more about in mid-2020.

I rearranged my home to create my company headquarters in the basement with an inventory closet, office space and shipping zone. It's so much more functional now than when I had business items stored all over my house!

I attended Paper Camp in September, which was a pretty big investment for me, and worth every penny for the education during the weekend, advice from a sales rep, and continued learning I receive from the online community. I'm looking forward to further implementing what I learned in the new year.

The week of Black Friday, my most popular product, the Trees of the Pacific Northwest art print, was featured in the Sunday Seattle Times. While my work has been featured there before, it never really made a difference in the past. This year though, I saw a huge bump in sales and felt incredibly grateful throughout the Christmas shopping season each time a new collector at a craft show mentioned having seen my work in the Times.

Thank you so much for all of the support throughout 2019. It was transformational and I'm thrilled to see what's in store in 2020!