Last week, I started a new series called The Recession is Bullhonkey, where I’m planning on sharing stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. This is April’s Story, who I’ve had the priviledge of coaching and who I can say is one of the sweetest, hardest-working, talented designers in the biz!
In 2008, I was doing a job I enjoyed for a boss I hated. The anger and contempt I felt toward my boss were taking over my life, so I was looking for a way out. After a series of (very emotional and trying) events at the office at the end of the year, I was laid off in January of 2009. It was a huge relief to not have to answer to the boss anymore, but I was also scared. The first week I did nothing but watch TV and work on getting back to a happy state of mind. Then I started looking for jobs. When you’re on unemployment, you have to apply to at least 3 jobs each week. I had a pretty good resume, and even though everybody was getting laid off I thought I’d find a job quickly. I’d never had trouble getting hired before. After a month of no work and 0 responses to my job applications, I was getting really sick of applying. To break the monotony, I’d designed some valentines and opened an Etsy shop. And that’s how, in February 2009, Everything Little Miss began.
Throughout that spring and summer, I kept applying for jobs (at least 3 a week), but I had a new hobby / business to make it a little less boring. It was actually pretty fun. But then I started to get nervous again, because I was reaching the end of my unemployment and I’d applied for at least 100 jobs, been interviewed and turned down for 3, and hadn’t heard from any of the others. I really didn’t want to apply for an extension, but I was worried that I’d have to. So I wrote an email to all of my friends + acquaintances in the Boston area that said something like “You all know I’m unemployed and looking for a job, so if you know of one please let me know!!!” A guy I knew responded to that email and offered me a job. Essentially, I was hired as a secretary. Not my dream job, but I would get a paycheck and I’d be able to work from home remotely (yay for technology!), so I accepted with high spirits.
I started that job in late August, 2009. When I wasn’t answering the phone or responding to emails, I was able to do design work for my own business. That was pretty cool. At first. But the phone rang a lot, and the interruptions were killing my concentration. After awhile, I also started feeling like a loser. Why was I wasting time on a job that wasn’t a career and wasn’t making me happy? Of course the answer was to pay the bills, but it just didn’t feel right. I wanted to be focusing on MY business. So, I signed up for group coaching with Michelle (she totally didn’t ask me to put this in here; it’s just part of the story) and spent time refining my business goals and coming up with strategies to reach those goals. I loved my group, and felt proud of each goal I reached with their encouragement and support. The work I did with the group helped me realize how serious I was about my business.
Around the 1 year anniversary at that job, I was becoming more and more unhappy, and I was thinking about looking for another job. This time, I was only going to look for jobs that had something to do with the stationery industry. I applied to a job at The Paper Source, but hadn’t really found any other relevant openings when I got the best email ever. I belong to a local group that’s for women who work in design related businesses called Design Salon. A member of the group, who happens to run a stationery/letterpress print shop, sent out an email about a job opening; she was looking for a new Office Manager. I replied right away, and was called in for an interview.
You know this story has a happy ending, right? I totally got that job. I started working there in November 2010, and I love it. I am learning so much about stationery and the ins and outs of running a business. I’m being reminded how important kindness in the workplace is (thank goodness). My bosses are also encouraging of my own business, and they’ve taught me so much. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several trade shows with them, which has provided me with a crazy amazing inside look at the industry.
I got both of my jobs since my layoff through networking – in one way or another. It really is about who you know, I guess. In the long run, I want my business to be my full-time job, but for financial and practical reasons I need a full-time day job right now. My working-from-home job had advantages (no commute, time during the day to devote to my business), but ultimately it wasn’t a good fit for me and it wasn’t helping me reach my goals. At my current job, I’m learning so much, having a great time, and truly thinking about stationery all day everyday. But I have fewer hours to devote to my business, since I have a 1 hr 15 min commute each way and I’m 100% at work while at the office. So I get up early to work, and I stay up late to work, and I work on weekends. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. If I didn’t have a day job, just running my own business would be hard. Being a business owner is tricky. Period. But it is what I want to do, and so I continue to make smalls steps toward my big goals.
- I’ve gotten several local wholesale accounts.
- I’ve done indie markets in Boston and increased my retail sales tremendously.
- I’ve built out my line enough to fill a real live catalog.
- I’ve worked with custom clients and been featured on Style Me Pretty.
- I started advertising with Etsy’s new advertising feature, and it’s amazing. My sales on Etsy are better than ever before, and I haven’t had to increase my time commitment at all.
- I got an intern! My sister now helps me with the social networking side of my business.
- I’ve gained an understanding of the wholesale stationery timeline (Christmas/Hanukkah cards have to be designed and catalog-ready by April and stores will want them to start shipping in August – who knew?).
- And the biggest news? I’m attending the National Stationery Show in May! I’m going to have my very own booth, and I’m really working toward my goal of growing the wholesale side of my business.
If I hadn’t been laid off in 2009, I don’t know that Everything Little Miss would exist right now. I started my business on a whim, but kept with it because I love it. I feel so lucky, and as they say: the harder I work the luckier I get.