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The Fears of Running a Small Business

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my journey with Gingiber. When I was a little kid, all I wanted to be was an artist, or a professional softball player (what can I say, A League of Their Own had a profound impact on me). I remember being in high school, quietly sketching portraits of friends and family. I still thought that maybe I could go to a great Art Institute and figure out how to make this "art" thing work as a career. On holiday breaks, my parents would have me carry around my "portfolio" of work to show off for relatives. During college, I was determined to be the best art student that any of my professors had ever encountered.

But after college, I lost focus. The reality of being a young, married adult sucked the color right out of my life. Then one day, I listed some illustrations on Etsy. Eventually I got my first sale. And slowly, I found so much joy and fulfillment in being an illustrator as my sales grew! It was then that I realized that maybe I could become a successful artist on my own terms.

I quit my day job almost 3 years ago. And the past 3 years have been filled with incredible highs (hello Land of Nod collaboration!) and several lows (failed product launches, stalled sales, etc). I'm about to have my 3rd child, and lately I have been wondering if Gingiber can last. Do I have what it takes to navigate the changing dynamics of online sales? How do I keep the brand relevant? How do I reach my customers and compel them to purchase?

You see, I feel like all of us small businesses are in a "rat race" of sorts. We are all driven to have better websites, better product photos, and exude all of the confidence in the world to our audiences. But you know what? I think that in reality, none of us feel like we can really show our cards. I will openly say that I get scared. I run a SMALL business. It is me, my sister, and a production assistant. I am the only full time employee. Daily I wake up hopeful that sales will be good, that I will pursue the right opportunities, and make savvy business decisions. Yet by the end of the day, I if I've only had a few sales (where last year I would have had 20-30) usually feel defeated. 

I don't know what the answer is. Is my market overly saturated? Do my customers no longer connect with me, the person behind Gingiber? Do the glossy photos and the apparent "success" of the brand no longer compel customers to make purchases? 

Daily I pray that sales go up. I hope that my holiday yields a dynamic season. I hope that I can pay myself. Pay my employees, and pay those pesky taxes. But most of all, I pray for longevity, and that 20 years from now I can still be creating and living this crazy, hard, ever changing dream of being a successful artist.

Do any of you ever feel this way? Surely I am not the only small business owner out there feeling a little lost? Like the old formula just doesn't work anymore? Are customers not buying? Because all of the affirmation in the world feels empty if you can't move your inventory. 

Posted by Stacie Bloomfield in artist, fear, gingiber, small business

10 Comments

Oh, I love this. I want to reach out and give you a hug. Because I’m totally with you. We put our best feet forward, with all the hope and passion we can muster, and we don’t have a guarantee of how it’s all going to turn out. If I’ve learned anything, is that ebbs and flows are part of the process. And it seems like that when things are slower, it’s a chance for me to reassess, and renew and refresh. I wish that the world realized how much we do, and how little we make:) I don’t know a single professional creative who doesn’t feel this way. Thanks for your incredible honesty and candor. You are amazing.

Posted by Sarah on April 08, 2015

Hi Stacie:

Thanks for this candid look into your small biz. I left the corporate world last April and I’m gearing up to strike out on my own. As for relevance and saturation of what you offer: I just purchased some wholesale items from you because I found them timeless, soulful, and different from what anyone else is doing. I am a fan!

Posted by Tina on November 04, 2014

How refreshing to hear an honest account of what it’s like to run a creative business. Thanks so much for sharing your trials and fears. However I only discovered your site after hitting the ad on www.goinghometoroost.com. After checking out your designs, I bookmarked your site realising this is the perfect example of what I aspire to – a neat site, cool designs, great presentation and all done with personality and aplomb! So I really have to congratulate you and it was an eye-opener then to read your latest blog post.

After far too many years as a wage slave, I have finally got the chance to make a start doing what I have always wanted to do – which is a creative business just like this. But it’s obviously a very crowded marketplace out there and demands lots of time and energy. I have to give it a go though – and I suspect an awful lot of creatives can’t switch off that desire either. Whether it can provide a living wage or not has always been the challenge. I hope the coming holiday season returns a bumper sales period for Gingiber. Unfortunately, with import duties and taxes, never mind the cost of international postage, I can’t contribute to that but wish you all the best. I’ll be following with great interest – please keep us posted!

Posted by Helen on November 04, 2014

Thank you for sharing your very real fears and allowing yourself to be transparent. I am looking at launching my small business in the same industry some time in the near future. I am currently working a design job with very tight deadlines where I am expected to be brilliant and on trend with each new design.I was burned out and discouraged when I stumbled across a book that has been very helpful for me as a designer. I hoe it will be a resource for you as well.Here is the link. http://www.accidentalcreative.com/theaccidentalcreative/
I had the privilege of meeting you at the National Stationery Show this year. Your designs are wonderful and I have no doubt that in 20 years you will be doing very well. I wish you the very best!

Sincerely,

Susan Labrum

Posted by Susan on October 21, 2014

Thank you so much for this post – I too am experiencing a less than banner year compared with previous years and have been consumed with trying to build up a following off of Etsy in hopes of resurrecting my growth. Being a small business owner can be so isolating at times, and reading your post today felt like listening to someone who really gets how I’m feeling. You’re inspiring.

Posted by Sydney on October 15, 2014

Stacie, I totally feel you! Except you’re the type of small business owner I look up to and wish I could be as successful as! I’ve started a while but because of college, it’s been hard running the store at the same time. I’ve recently expanded to a few more stores, gotten into new shows, and even made my first wholesale order! But as much as I see myself improving, I see how others seem to have been catapulted into success in a shorter timespan. It’s disheartening because I wonder what I’m doing wrong or whether I even have a good product. But keep at it, girl! You are an inspiration for us small, small businesses! I wish you the best!

Posted by Gina on October 15, 2014

Thank you for this! I’m about to finish up my 1st year as a small biz owner and it’s been full of highs and lows. Sometimes it’s just nice to know we are not alone with these feelings and fears. Xo

Posted by Shawna on October 15, 2014

I needed this post! I’m a fledgling Etsy biz, making jewelry. I was lucky to have great photographs and social media savvy, so my sales started to pick up. It was a great feeling, to have 1-4 sales a day, a file of receipts, etc.
But lately, my sales just dried up. And it could be a slump, but I’m terrified! I’ve lost motivation and confidence. Now I fret over ever IG follower I lose! It’s really good to hear that a business as successful as yours has lows, bc it must mean that its normal!! There are highs and lows, and I feel the same way, wondering how I can continue to grow and sustain my business, 20years from now.
Good luck on the rest of your pregnancy! It’s a joy to follow you on Instagram, and I know your products will continue to do great things!

Posted by Megan on October 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing this ! While I’m sorry you are feeling that way, it’s also comforting to know that even owners behind brands that look successful (like yours) are having some doubts once in a while.

I also am a very (very!) small business owner (I make quilts and pillows and everything else people want me to make – for now anyway) and I see so many shops that look successful and so I start not believing it can happen to me anymore.

There’s a good book I read that kind of made me believe in myself and that if I set my heart to something, I can accomplish it that I highly recommend. It’s The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. Everytime I have some doubt, I pick it up, read a chapter or two and I feel better after.

Like Blü said, you make really lovely things. Keep doing something you love and believe in and people will too !

Posted by Marika on October 15, 2014

Thank you for sharing your heart- I’m feeling overwhelmed with it all too- but if God is for us who can be against us? And if He has called us to do something then He will provide the way to do it! (Preaching at myself)-
Anyway you make lovely things and you are a talented woman!

Posted by Blü on October 15, 2014

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