Last week I had the honor of speaking at 406 Creatives, a morning lecture series here in Bozeman.
I spoke about balancing business and creativity. You can watch the whole talk here.
To get ready for this event, I took a little trip down memory lane, starting with where I was when I started my business, moving on to Bozeman and my first retail store, and then getting so overwhelmed that it finally reached a boiling point.
I remember the time I was Etsy's featured seller in November of 2009. Hattie Rex was still a part-time job for me then.
The featured seller spot generated 500 orders in 2 days.
It was mass chaos.
I had to cut off Christmas orders before Thanksgiving because I was so unprepared. I brought my sister and a couple of her friends on board to help me get the orders out. With no training, we all sat in my spare bedroom and worked to ship these packages before I left for Christmas vacation. I didn't check to see what the final product looked like on many of them -- I just needed them done.
It didn't go well.
My Aspen vacation was ruined by emails. "Where's my order?" and "I want a refund" were recurring themes. Some of the requests for refunds included pictures of the products the customers had received and I was mortified by what went out the door without me even noticing. I felt like a huge failure.
Looking back, it was absolutely a learning experience. For those few weeks, I let my "control freak" tendencies go, and it was a mistake. That mistake shaped the next few years for me when it came to my willingness to hire help -- and then to micromanage them.
In 2012, now full-time Hattie Rex for 2 years running, I opened my first little retail store.
It was a dream come true...until it wasn't.
I talk about this time in the video, so, spoiler alert.
But, I went from having a totally flexible schedule to being married to a retail schedule. I was used to having to bust my ass before I went on vacation and again once I got back, but now I found myself unable to even go out to lunch with a friend.
And, fortunately, the retail store was fairly busy. I didn't anticipate getting many in-person customers (Honestly, all I wanted was a studio space that might pay for itself), and soon I found myself overwhelmed with work. I had 100 orders in my queue at all times, and my turnaround time was 2-3 weeks. I was making money, but I was losing customers.
And I was burning out.
My Hattie Rex products are all made to order, so when a pet tag order comes in, it's not totally a creative process. Not totally creative in that I'm recreating an existing design, just with a new name and number on it.
And lots of my orders were for Montana Love necklaces.
So instead of it being a creative business, it felt more like factory work.
I was craving some space, both for my own well-being and for the satisfaction of the creative inside me who needed to create something new, without the confines of orders and retail hours.
I was completely out of balance.
Eventually, I hired help, which allowed me to get back in balance a bit. Let me have time to create things. And one of the things I created was a more efficient business. I started with reevaluating my product pricing, then my production systems, and finally, my website and inventory management systems.
And now, 6 years later, those systems work so efficiently that I've worked myself out of a job. Hattie runs without me. And that's ok, because my passions have moved on.
Now, what excites me is creating order out of chaos. Streamlining systems to save time. Removing the systematic middleman that eats up our time but with no real purpose.
I'm passionate about helping small business owners have more freedom while growing their businesses at the same time.
About being a helping hand to creative entrepreneurs who are so busy working in their business that they don't have time to work on their business.
And about helping business owners finally find that freedom they were seeking when they initially started their business. That freedom that seems like a joke when you're tied to your work 24/7, and no one can do it but you.
Right now I feel like the timing is right, on the heels of my reflections for the talk, to tell you about a new product I'm going to be offering, beginning next week.
Because it's something that fits so well into my new passions, which means it can help creative entrepreneurs (and the not-so-creative, as well) ditch that overwhelm and start living a life they love.
I'll be sending out an email after Thanksgiving with big discounts on my first launch, exclusive to my email subscribers. It's for Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both of which are super fitting.
So, if you're not yet on my list, get there. You won't want to miss this.