Last week I shared a bit of news in that it was a whole year that I've been a full time squirrel (note, I'm totally aware I'm not an actual squirrel). I had no idea that this little blog post was going to attract so much love, and I am so thankful for that, truly I am. Ta very much.
I mentioned that this week I'd pop back and write a more in depth blog about the last year, and although it does seem a tad narcissistic, I decided that yes I really should, because the reason my business has become successful is because of the support of all my customers and clients. So, it might be nice to tell you all a little bit more if you're interested!
That word, 'successful' is a funny one. Success means something different to every person, and I've spent a lot of today wondering what success means to me. I'm driven by funny things in life - and it pretty much is all the small things. When I look back on the last year and think of the happiest moment they're all pretty daft. There were the real business turning points like my first huge wholesale order, and when I realised it was time to start buying fabric by the roll instead of the metre. Renegade was one of the big ones, when customers told me they had been so excited to come and meet me, which seemed utterly ridiculous!! Everytime something wonderful happens I allow myself a moment to just enjoy it, because who knows when the next amazing thing will happen?! Not meant in a negative way at all, I'm just a believer that life is made up of small and special moments.
& that is one of the biggest things I've learnt, to really appreciate things. I was pretty cruel to myself last year, days off were rare and in some ways I "missed out" on important stuff. Don't get me wrong, I never missed a wedding or a birthday, even if it meant coming home and staying up until stupid o' clock catching up on orders afterwards. The thing is, I was so happy that it didn't feel like missing out at all. Ok, I haven't seen many bands or films in the last year, and my ability to cook lovely meals has pretty much dwindled to simply being a master of the toaster, but in the last year I feel many other things have enriched me and allowed me to grow as a person. Yeah sorry, I'm getting ever so soppy!
Spending so much time by yourself can be tricky. I have to tell myself to calm to f*** down a lot of the time, or simply just to go outside and get some air. Moving into the studio was the biggest change and has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Seriously. It also feels pretty bloody awesome to say "I have my own business and I work from my studio" - because I do! Pride can be a bit ugly, but I worked so hard for this so I'm happy to tell everyone!
Running a handmade business is tough. Having worked with Far East suppliers in my previous job I'm very much aware of the price difference of producing goods oversees vs. handmade in the UK. Having a good business brain beneath my ridiculous head of hair is the main reason I think I've managed to make this work. Most of the time I really enjoy the business side of things, however having to wear so many 'hats' when sometimes all you want to do is work on a crazy new idea you have is pretty tough. Recently I've had to spend so much time chasing up missing supplies, arguing about faulty goods delivered to me and do NOT get me started on all the fun and games I've had in the post office. These thing I don't enjoy at all, but it's all part of it.
Before I left my old job I sent myself an email reminding myself why I was doing this slightly crazy thing of jacking in a solid career for the rocky road of setting up on my own. I've never needed to open this email, but I know it's there. I used to feel very constrained in my previous work, my creativity was suppressed and I didn't feel that I could be myself at work. There were times where this made me pretty sad, to the extent where I would often have a bit of a cry on a morning on the way to work because I just was not at all happy. This is pretty personal and I totally get that might be an overshare, but what I'm trying to explain is just how much I wanted this to work!!
Life throws up so many challenges, and being very much into Mindfulness as a concept, I believe that if there is something in your life that makes you unhappy and you can change it, then you should. There are millions of people all over the world that simply aren't that fortunate. I could get run over by a bus tomorrow (I hope not, I have a lovely weekend planned!) and that would be that, so I want to know that I've done what I can to make my mark, and to be happy.
I don't know if I'd change much about the last year. Plenty has gone wrong! Unless it's a silly trivial moan I don't use social media to air any whinging as I think it's boring. I was pretty hard on myself with doing lots and lots of events last year and this was very tough, but that has paid off and means that now I can be more selective about what I do, and start to enjoy some weekends off. They are such a treat - seriously, when you don't have something for a long time then you get it back it is an incredible feeling! I made plenty of products that didn't quite work out too, so my advise for anyone who is disheartened with their handmade business, just be really critical and analyse your product and if it isn't working, get rid! Again, that's a big lesson learnt working for big retailers.
I'm not sure what I thought I'd be doing a year from when I started. Reading my old blogs makes me cringe a bit, which is quite sad! I genuinely didn't know how the year would pan out, but I had a plan and if certain things didn't work I was (and still am) ready to adapt. Financing a small business is the scary thing, and I have done this all by myself without any loans or debt, and if you approach it in the right way it really is possible.
I guess the message I'm trying to get across from this big old essay is that setting up your own business is possible, and if I can do it then I'm pretty sure most folk could! The thing you need most is determination, fuelled by passion and very hard work. If you're willing to work your absolute backside off, be receptive to change and critical feedback, and always have your ears open then you can totally do it. Also, stop comparing yourself to other people. Once you break free and just feel happy and confident in yourself and your own business it's a bloody good feeling.
I named 'Oh Squirrel' overnight when I had to quickly thing up a name. I almost changed it at the beginning of the year but didn't (clearly!). It's so funny thinking that silly name I came up with (and I can tell you exactly what chair in my lounge I was sitting in when I did it... and then persisted to handstamp 'squirrel' with two letter Ls for the next half hour!) is now my business.
There are so many folk who have supported me in the last year and I am so bloody thankful! Having customers who come back time and time again is the best feeling as it means I must be doing something very right, so to those I am extra thankful. Stockists and clients have been incredible in the last year too, and I've struck up some really wonderful relationships with many which is such a nice side effect! I'm also so ridiculously appreciative of my friends who have helped in so many different ways. I'm going to shut up now because it's getting like some stupid award ceremony speech, but seriously - THANK YOU!
The next year looks to be a good one! There's a huge thing going on that I'll be launching in a couple of weeks so that's pretty exciting, and then everything else is being planned carefully behind the scenes. I know there will be new challenges along the way, but that's just life. I'm hoping to do some more travel and open myself up to inspiration along the way. It's really daft but the other day I spent the afternoon strolling around London looking at everything and just felt so overwhelmed with ideas and inspiration, so I'm starting a bucket list of cities to go to before the end of the year!
I gave myself a year to make this work, and if it didn't I've have trotted off back to work. I don't know what I'd have done though - I may have gone back to university to study something else or who knows what! I hope in another year I'm able to write such an impassioned post about the current year! Most of all I want to still be this happy in my work, because the answer or what success mean to me is that - being happy.
PS - the images in this post are a tiny bit of a random mix, but I wanted to pull different things together from the last year as a sort of scrapbook. Oh I'm so twee!