The new year is a great time to reflect on the successes and failures of the previous one. And we read recently that March is an excellent time to make resolutions. Alex Hughes of Wandering Paper Co. shares what she learned from her small-business goals from last year, and offers a sneak peek at what's next for her globally inspired paper goods business.
Well, it’s a new year, and that means new goals! Yes, I realize it’s a little late to write a “New Year’s” post, buuut one of my goals this year is to “get more rest” so you could say I’ve gotten a jump on that one. :)
Anyway, before I write about my goals for 2017, I want to go back and revisit my 2016 goals. Here is a quick summary of last year’s goals, and ways I’ve addressed them:
1. Implement Systems to Maximize Efficiency and Minimize Costs
One of the big ways I’ve done this is by buying materials in bulk. This has forced me to address my fear of commitment, because now that I’m sitting on one thousand each of envelopes, packaging, and shipping materials, I’m forced to come to terms with the fact that I’m in this thing for the long haul.
Another way I’ve done this is by keeping track of my inventory and sales throughout the year. Now that I have a year’s’ worth of numbers under my belt, I can make educated long-term decisions about how many supplies to order, how many prints and styles to make, etc.
2. Create a Thorough Accounting System & Maintain Organized Financial Records
Ugh. Let me be the first to say that numbers and financials are not my strong suit. The mere talk of numbers makes me tired. That said, I think I did an okay job with this one, and learned more than I ever thought I’d know about Excel (let’s just say they don’t teach you about spreadsheets in art school.) Huge thanks to my friend Will for getting me started, or as I like to call it, pro bono work for the mathematically challenged. Anyway, here are a couple things I did that were helpful:
- Opened a separate bank account for my business
- Made a spreadsheet of all business materials and expenses and used this to calculate wholesale and retail pricing.
- Made a spreadsheet to track sales and inventory
- Used accounting software (I used Wave Accounting, which is free) to track expenses and profits
Having these systems in place helped me identify expenses that were hurting my bottom line, as well as to figure out where I could afford to invest. The graphic designer in me really wants nicer business cards and packaging, but the numbers hold me accountable and force me to grow slowly. It helps me ensure that I have a healthy profit at the end of each month, which is pretty awesome.
Okay, enough talk about money. On to more fun things!
3. Explore Additional Sales Avenues: Craft Shows, Farmers' Markets, Wholesale
Check, check and check! This year I tried out lots of different craft shows, and sold at our neighborhood farmers’ market as well. I was excited to learn that the prints sold really well at both the craft fairs and farmers’ markets, but my favorite thing about doing these events was meeting other creative people. Some of the friends I met even turned into wholesale relationships!
4. Make Prints That Give Me Joy
I’m really glad I had kept this as a goal last year, because when you’re selling your work, the temptation is always there to make products that you think people will buy. This goal has helped me carve out time to make prints for their own sake and to experiment more. I’ve found that the unstructured “fun” projects are where I generate my best ideas or discover new and exciting things. These projects keep me excited about Wandering, because I am challenging myself and growing creatively.
Big thank you hearts to Alex for letting us see behind the scenes! Head over to the Wandering Paper Co. blog for more small business tips and to shop the collection of colorful multicultural paper goods!