2023 End of Year Reflection

In December, I like to look back and review Yardia's year in business, including highlights, finances, experiments and changes. This was a year of intentional learning, contentment with the way things were, and yet unexpected massive growth for Yardia.

Word of the Year: Root

In 2023, I selected the word Root to guide my year. To be honest, this word showed up most visibly and loudly in my personal life, but it did come up for Yardia in the sense that the business felt really rooted in what worked best for it and for my relationship to it.

There was a sense of confidence that I could make choices for Yardia without stress or worry. This was my fifteenth year since starting Yardia as a side hustle, and my fourth year running Yardia as my full time job, so I felt like I'd been through enough shifts and years in hustling that I now understood on a deeper level what worked and where to spend my energy in the business.

As a result, there was a huge sense of ease and spaciousness in work and in the business, so that I didn't need to overextend my energy, time or focus on worrying about it. (I want to be realistic here though in that the year overall wasn't perfectly easy. All that focus, energy and time were unexpectedly required by other parts of my life, so Yardia's spaciousness was truly something I was grateful for.)

When I think about the word root, I think about a more internal growth in a deep way over branching out. Over the course of the year, Yardia got back to its roots in focusing on what was most important and authentic for the brand, and in doing so, experienced a sense of contentment and ease.

Read more about my word of the year.

Listen to my podcast interview on Choosing Business Contentment Over Business Growth.

The Numbers

I wasn't sure what to expect financially for 2023, especially with unpredictability in the world at large, chatter about recession in the US, and continued price increases in paper, supplies and manufacturing. So I was surprised to discover that I had my biggest year of financial growth, in spite of making some intentional choices that I'd initially thought would bring about a step back in revenue.

Here's how Yardia's 2023 revenue compared to 2022:

  • Total Gross Revenue: +34%
  • Ecommerce: -5.3%
  • Wholesale: +44.5%
  • Craft Shows: +22.6%

2023 Revenue by Category:

  • Ecommerce: 12%
  • Wholesale: 67%
  • Craft Show: 19%
  • Other: 2%

Quitting Social Media

Quitting social media also helped me to get to the root of what truly inspired me. One of the biggest experiments I tried this year was quitting Instagram and TikTok. I deleted both apps from my phone in January with the thought that I'd take a brief break, but I still haven't returned to either.

The biggest lessons I learned from this ongoing experiment included that, at least for my own business goals, social media wasn't as much of a requirement or even necessary at all for growth and success. Without the constant scroll of images and videos from folks in the industry, I didn't struggle with comparing my business goals or path to those of others as much as I normally did. Without the pressure to create content, I gained back time and energy that would have been previously been filled with idea-creation, shooting timelapses, writing captions and engaging with comments.

Instead, I was able to spend my time and energy on other sales and product strategies that had a lot more visible impact on my bottom line. The two areas that I focused on instead were learning about overseas manufacturing and expanding and automating wholesale outreach.

Social media tends to have the biggest possible impact on direct-to-consumer ecommerce sales, and I did see a decrease in this branch of my sales by about 5% compared to 2022. However, with the increased focus on wholesale strategies, the wholesale arm of my business grew by 44%, far outweighing any lost revenue from ecommerce sales.

Read more about my experience with quitting social media.

Automate and Expand Wholesale Outreach

With the time, space and energy that arose from quitting social media, I decided to spend the first few months of the year diving into expanding my direct sales outreach for wholesale.

Having researched a thousand stores in 2022 that I wanted to reach out to this year, I first set up a CRM, or customer relationship management software (I chose Pipedrive), to organize and track my outreach to these leads. I also spent a good amount of time and a lot of trial and error to set up automations to help smooth out and systematize my outreach process.

This felt like a huge success for me, with semi-customized email outreach sequences sent to a little over 800 cold leads over the course of the year. I had a little over a 6% order rate and gained over 50 new wholesale customers specifically from this process (in addition to the new customers that came through trade shows or organic traffic online).

If you're a business owner looking for a CRM, you can use the following affiliate link to get an extended free trial of Pipedrive.

Products and Manufacturing

tea towels

For art and products, I started focusing most on my nature identification art prints as the core illustrations making up every product, instead of trying to create different illustrations for things like cards. I started each collection with the art prints I wanted to illustrate, and then used those elements as the basis for all my other product designs. This really simplified my creative process, and helped me to feel like each of my product lines were more connected to one another in a more cohesive way.

In January, I decided to take a class on overseas manufacturing, something that I was interested in, but didn't feel confident in my ability to responsibly navigate. As the class went on, I began to realize that if the entire world of manufacturing was now open to me, what kinds of products did I actually want to create and put out into the world?

I decided that going forward, I wanted to focus on products that were easy to store in my limited in-home workspace, unbreakable for easy shipping and sustainable in materials and for their post-use afterlife.

I started with sourcing organic cotton tea towels and biodegradable sponge cloths, and I was happily surprised to find that both product lines were an immediate hit, especially with the wholesale market. Since taking that class, both tea towels and sponge cloths became a core part of my product line, and with the next wholesale launch in January, I'll have nine styles of each product in the line.

Other Highlights from the Year:

  • I exhibited at two local trade shows and had my most successful *Noted trade show to date in San Francisco.
  • I vended at eight craft shows (four larger shows and four smaller one-day events).
  • I was interviewed on the Proof to Product podcast and shared my business story.
  • I served as a judge for the Greeting Card Association's annual Louie Awards and volunteered on the GCA's committee for planning the *Noted tradeshow.
  • I took on a temporary contract job for the first six months of the year as a Community Leader in Proof To Product's Labs program, a role that scratched my teaching itch and helped me to feel more connected to my industry and fellow maker businesses.
  • I hired a bookkeeper and an accountant, as well as a virtual assistant to help me with a one-off tech project on the back end of my website.
  • I (finally) applied to register my trademark, a process that I'd been putting off for years because I had a misconception that it would take months of work and thousands of dollars to just apply, when in actuality it took me under an hour and cost less than half of what I was expecting. A good reminder to stop procrastinating and get the thing done!
  • With the help of my accountant, I'm in the process of shifting my business to an S-Corporation, which is mostly just a tax designation, but marks a milestone in the growth of Yardia that I'm personally pretty proud of.

Wrapping Up 2023

And that's it for 2023! I'm really grateful for all that the year has brought with it and helped me to discover, and I'm looking forward to another year of unfurling the core root of Yardia in 2024. Thank you for being here with me along the journey and for all of your support throughout the year.