Each December I look back and review Yardia's highlights, finances, operations and changes. My reflection was guided in part by Susannah Conway's fantastic Unravel Your Year journaling prompts, as well by reflections from my experience in the Revolutionary Rising program.
Word of the Year: Ease
My word of 2021 was ease, and it guided me through my year more than any word I've chosen in the past. Every time I made a decision in 2021, I considered how ease played into the choice. "How would this action make my life more ease-filled?" "How could I approach this problem with more ease?"
With ease, I started with the three goals I set for 2021: do more of what's working well, slow and intentional marketing, and simplify operations. What ended up happening, though, was instead of finding business strategies in ways that worked best for Yardia, the year gave me time to become more at ease with myself so that my business could flourish in the ways that worked best for me.
This wasn't work that was necessarily easy, but it opened myself up to understanding ease in a new light.
In the spring, I invested in a six-month decolonization-informed coaching program for WOC entrepreneurs, Revolutionary Rising, where I worked on self-acceptance and using my voice in the way that was easiest for me--through my art. I developed a much more comforting relationship with my intersectional identities, and found joy in connecting with other women of color bosses on similar paths. Getting in alignment with my racial identity created space to explore and discover my neurodivergent identity, which was something I had only an inkling of understanding prior to this time. I learned more about what I needed to run a business that works best for me, and through experimenting I learned that what works for me is often different from the standards I'd previously absorbed on how businesses should be run.
I worked through mindset blocks until I could let go of needing to do it all, and began entrusting others with taking on some of the work. I hired a marketing consultant to set up systems to make my email marketing process a lot easier and more intentional, and then hired a part time employee to help me with packaging products and fulfilling orders. In doing this, I bought back time to create a more simplified production release cycle system, and got ahead of my next collection, instead of anxiously producing new work at the last minute before a tradeshow like I usually ended up doing in the past. This was especially helpful since supply chain paper shortages made the printing and production time about twice as long as it usually did. And now I have my new cards in hand, ready to release in 2022!
Ease meant allowing myself to shine as I am, and to accept myself in my identity as the leader of my business. I became more intentional about rest, and about noticing my emotions and needs. I'm proud of all the naps, runs, walks and gardening time I took for myself! Ease meant recognizing that I don't need to change myself to grow, because I'm already enough as I am, and that I've already built a life for myself that I love, in a place that I want to stay for a long time.
Now onto some more concrete reflections. I had no idea what to expect when it came to Yardia's finances for 2021, since 2020 was such an anomaly of a business year. Looking over 2021, Yardia pretty much followed the path of the pandemic--sales shifted from online retail to wholesale as people began to venture out into the world to purchase from stores in person again.
Overall, gross revenue increased by about 17%. I gained 58 new stockists, participated in one holiday craft show (Renegade Craft Fair) that exceeded my pre-pandemic craft show sales record by about 28%, and participated in two virtual trade shows (Noted and Faire Summer Market) and one in-person trade show (NY Now). At Noted, I was selected to pitch Yardia as part of the Makers of Color Pitch Program, and my line was picked up by three of the four stores with whom I shared my story.
Here's how Yardia's 2021 revenue compared to 2020:
- Online Retail: -30.3%
- Wholesale: +50.3% (notice the shift from folks buying online to going out in the world again)
- Craft Shows: +44.4% (one holiday show in 2021 compared to two smaller shows in pre-pandemic 2020)
- Licensing: +416.5% (This data increase is a bit misleading because it basically went from close to zero in 2020 to ongoing royalties for two new licensing deals in 2021.)
2021 Revenue by Category:
- Ecommerce: 27%
- Wholesale: 64%
- Craft Show: 6%
- Licensing: 3%
This was the first year in which wholesale made up a majority of my revenue, which was pretty exciting! I love working with independent stores and I look forward to continuing and growing my relationships with my stockists in 2022.
In 2021, I experimented with the timing, pace and themes of collections I released for retail and wholesale. I decided to release several smaller collections throughout the year, instead of the standard half-year or quarterly wholesale release schedule.
As I became more at ease in my intersectional identities, my artwork and products began to reflect that as well. I created collections designed for Loving Day to celebrate those of us who identify as multiracial and those of us in interracial relationships, and I released a collection to honor my Chamoru heritage on Liberation Day. I expanded my Multiracial and Flourishing design to encompass many more identities in the Flourishing collection.
I felt as if I could much more authentically express my whole self through the products I created in 2021, and it was especially satisfying to see so many people who look like me at Renegade Craft Fair visit my booth and get excited about seeing products that were designed just with them in mind. It was so fun to chat with so many CHamoru 'cousins' at the show! I felt gratified to be able to create the kind of representation I so often longed for when I was younger, but rarely was able to find. I'm glad that I'm now in a position to be able to create that for myself and for many of you as well.
In 2021, Yardia released:
- In The Garden Spring Collection
- Loving Day Collection
- Guam Collection
- Flourishing Collection
- Holiday collection
- Clothworks limited edition licensed fabric collection (after a 2020 delay)
I mean, most of 2021 felt like an unexpected extra, from getting vaccinated, becoming an auntie, traveling again, doing NY Now, pitching my line virtually, and getting to do a craft show again...while also further happily sinking into my understanding of how much I love having a job where I can stay at home by myself to create, plan and build my business on my own terms.
In 2021, I started reading books again! This was mostly made possible by my local library reopening so I could check out paper copies each week. Here are a few favorites that made an impact on my work and life (I mostly read nonfiction).
- The Properties of Perpetual Light by Julian Aguon
- Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption by Rafia Zakaria
- We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation by Eric Garcia
- Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally by Emily Ladau
I also found a new favorite podcast to listen to while working: Maintenance Phase. It reminds me of the criticism of the wellness industry found in The Dream combined with the humor and empathy found in My Favorite Murder (two other favorites).
And on a really practical note, I finally bought small business insurance, something I've been meaning to do for over a year. I went with a Business Owners Policy, which includes liability and property, from Next Insurance. I also pay for workers comp insurance through Washington State. Getting this task checked off my list makes me excited to take care of more "getting my house in order" to-do's in 2022 that I've been putting off.
This year was all about stepping into a new identity as a leader and all the growing pains internally that go along with stepping into a larger space than what I was previously used to. I became more confident in the kind of work and message I was creating, and I produced a ton of art this year. I felt creatively fulfilled and on fire with inspiration.
Goodbye 2021, I'm grateful for this period of time in which everything stayed the same and everything changed, where it felt like it was all baby steps, but the continuous motion of walking carried me across a long distance in the end.