Inside the Small / Family / Crafty / Handmade / Diy / Maker / Struggling / Mom&Pop Business.
It’s a new year! Hoorah!
We resolution that running your own business is downright hard and it’s time we talk about it.
In 2016, once a month, Happy Bungalow will be pulling back the curtain on the wood shop to show what life is really like owning a small business. Well, that’s not totally accurate. Small business doesn’t quite describe us.
How about instead we call it a small / family / crafty / handmade / diy / maker / struggling / mom&pop business (further referred to as SFCHDMSMP business). We plan on showing everyone our accomplishments, just as we’ve always done, but we want to give some consideration to the struggles, disappointments, and hard work that is required to be successful (whatever that means).
It’s easy to find the glossy images and blog posts that highlight the success of the SFCHDMSMP business. A few well composed photos hide the clutter and dirt. Instead they show owners ditching work on a sunny afternoon for a beach-side picnic. Happy kids helping with the making of another product that just flies off the shelves. etc. etc. And never does a picture show the emotional toil, lost sleep, self-doubt, and the arguments.
And it’s so easy to present the image of the SFCHDMSMP business as being a full-time full-income generating operation. When many SFCHDMSMP businesses are moonlighting side-jobs, with the intention (serious or not) to take it full time in the future.
But quite a few SFCHDMSMP businesses aren’t that at all, instead they’re just hobbies with no intention of running it full time, without a serious concern for the business to return a profit.
So what? You’re just a bitter jerk?
No, not quite. Well, sometimes, but. Keep reading.
When I started this company, Happy Bungalow, I looked at these same pictures and accompanying blog articles and thought – “WOW! This looks great! Can’t wait to get there.” Then six months, a year later, I thought, “This is so hard. What am I doing wrong?” Two years in, “I must be a failure.”
I gave serious consideration to quitting, giving up picking up the kids from school, having a FLEXIBLE schedule, the occasional nice-afternoon ditching of work, etc. etc. because I wasn’t making the MONEY like it seemed everyone else was making.
I stuck with it though – more from stubbornness than factual analysis. And my wife, Liz, bless her, said I should keep on trying at a time when she could have thrown in the towel and I wouldn’t have argued. I was selling some online, but not a lot.
Because at two years into this whole SFCHDMSMP business I had no faith in myself. It turns out my expectations were different than who I was comparing myself to.
I’ve traveled the art and craft show circuit, first local and a bit regionally. The plan was to spread the word of handcrafted wooden toys. People would buy toys, they’d tell their friends, and their friends and so on. And those who didn’t buy would ask, “do you have an online store?” Sure do! It’s right there on my business card. They’d buy later, tell a friend, who’s friend would tell and so on.
It would be a classic case of word of mouth advertising. I’d read all about it. Every third SFCHDMSMP business advice article is about generating word of mouth. Another third of SFCHDMSMP business advice articles are about guerrilla marketing.
You know, guerrilla marketing.
Pin up business cards on community boards, comment on blog articles, participate in online forums, like, comment, and share other SFCHDMSMP business’s products for sale, etc. etc. Build your product line, but focus on a single market.
So I do all this. I was doing well enough at art and craft shows, but not what my peers seemed to be making. I would ask people, how did you do? “Great!” “Best show ever!” “Really well, how about you?”
Uhm, ok, I guess.
I changed tables and displays, built new display furniture, added back-drop banners, new business cards, postcards, email signup lists, and on and on – but the sales didn’t to change all that much. One year I did something like 40 shows, convinced from online forums and show conversations that I could make a living that way.
But the SFCHDMSMP business word of mouth wasn’t generating many online sales. Some, sure, but not like I expected.
Like I said, had Liz thrown in the towel, I wouldn’t have argued. I would have gone back to an office job (humbled and broken no doubt).
Now though, we’re four plus years into this and I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. Despite not making the money that my bank account tells me I should. Despite not knowing how much money I’ll make next week or month. Despite still not thinking myself as the success I should/need to be
All those glossy happy SFCHDMSMP business pictures are [expletive]!
Mos of those SFCHDMMP business blog articles are written not to educate, but to convince the author they’re right. Write?
Most of the businesses are just a hobby supported by a full time day job, so success for them is not the same as for me.
Most of the “advice” you read is written by people with little or no experience.
So in the interest of, I don’t know, telling it like it is. Of transparency? Or perhaps just in the name of helping out some other SFCHDMMP business owner who’s wondering if it’s them.
Or just because I can gosh-darn-it! I made up this business, this website, this blog. That’s one of the perks of a SFCHDMMP business – you can do whatever you want. For good or bad.
Once a month I’m going to write about the realities of this SFCHDMMP business. These 12 articles will show what happens when you pull back from that instagram perfectness to see the big kids fighting on the couch, the spaghetti sauce burning on the stove, and the baby?!
Where’s the baby?
The baby’s fine. Don’t worry. He was just under the dining room table. So yeah, once a month, we’ll tell it like it is.
Like the idea of this? We have a newsletter that will deliver this series of articles (and nothing else) directly to your inbox (before it’s published anywhere else)! Sign up below.
And this isn’t a sales pitch. I’m not trying to sucker you into some online training course, ebook, or facebook support group. When I figure out the secrets to success I won’t be selling it because:
A. It won’t be really aplicable to you.
B. I will have purchased the information at too high a cost to resell it.