Beginnings & Lessons Learned
Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! Thought I’d share a little of what I’m so grateful for this season of the year. 🙂
I want to pour out my gratitude towards all who bought my Christmas cards this year! As you’ll soon read, I would certainly have given up if no one had taken the time, money, and love to order a whopping 121 Christmas cards. You all have no idea what it meant to me to have you like my work and choose to use it. My heart is brimming with gratitude for you, as your care spurred me on to keep persevering.
A big thanks also go to my parents, who encouraged me, designed with me, gave me opinions, drove me places, helped me figure out stuff, and above everything else loved me and believed in me enough to keep me motivated to do this. I love you!
Beginning this business and experimenting with things I didn’t know a ton about was a hard, tear-inducing experience, at first. Readers of this post will recall that I said the same thing about running when I started, so hang tight, because the end of this story isn’t a whole lot different from the end of that one.
The idea for doing the Christmas cards came out of my love for graphic design and lettering. I had something in mind to earn money towards, and so I thought, what could go wrong? It can’t be that hard, and surely I’ll make some substantial money. So I came up with some designs . . . and fell short. Nothing I was coming up with was anything that even I – much less other people – would put on my Christmas cards. Disappointed and discouraged, I kept working at it, and with the help of my dad, got my spirits lifted when we came up with one design. Just one. Yet it triggered many more designs, which I colorized and centered and fiddled with. Soon, we were ready for a visit to a print store. My optimistic side figured printing costs would be fairly low, and I would be able to find the size envelopes I wanted right away. In my mind, there was still plenty of room for a profit in this endeavor.
We arrived at the store, and found out that printing costs were shockingly high. Like, over half the price of each card high. On top of that, there were no envelopes in the size I wanted (a size we’ve now changed three times), and the test print we did turned out very dark, meaning I would have to recolor the design. All those dreams of moneymaking I had? They were slowly disappearing down the drain. That night, I was bummed, and so was my dad, but we figured we’d still try to do this thing. It was around the first week of November.
The following week, we recolored the cards, figured out a working size, and got stuff ready to put on my blog. On November 15, the “shop” went live, and I suppose I expected orders to be coming in like clockwork, because my balloon of excitement and expectation started to deflate as my mom put something on Facebook about the cards and still no one ordered. A full week passed before I got an order from my kind aunt, then another from my generous friend Lauren, and another from a family friend (owner of Live.Simple.Soap). Okay, I told myself, this could end up alright.
Well, the print job on that order turned out a little rougher than I would have liked, and cutting the cards was difficult, as they didn’t end up fitting in the envelopes at first. *insert shocked emoji* All in all, on those first three orders, I actually lost a teeny bit of money, rather than gained it, which left me pretty disappointed. Still, it was through that that I had to realize that business is rough, and if I were to go into it solely for the money, I would be sorely disappointed for right now. However, if my heart could be changed and I could begin to accept this not as a moneymaker but as an introduction to something that could become that, I could be enthusiastic and excited about what this experience could teach me. Such a realization and heart change turned around the way I looked at things. Though orders did not pour in “like clockwork”, I was content with the face that slowly and surely they were coming in, and those first thirty cards were being multiplied by a lot.
Now that it’s over, I’m able to look back on what I’ve learned. Some of these things I’ve definitely learned the hard way, but I’m thankful everything worked out like it did. Through this, I’ve learned a lot of things about printing, designing, cutting paper (aaaaaacccckkkk don’t talk to me about how much I dislike this job!), tying ribbons (lol), being a somewhat gracious salesperson, and accepting losses. Those are all pretty much physical, designing lessons, but on top of that, I’ve learned lessons about dreams and expectations and learning how to make a good product whether there’s much in it for you or not!
A book that helped me learn these lessons was Phil Vischer’s Me, Myself, and Bob. I picked it up (for the third time!) from the library during the whole process of starting this business, and was so blessed by it. Phil Vischer is the creator of VeggieTales, something you seriously should watch no matter how old you are 😉 His book is one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read. It tells the story of his dreams, his process, his almost-giving-up moments, his success, his failure, and his surrender. If you didn’t know, Phil is barely involved in VeggieTales anymore after the company’s bankruptcy in 2003. Read the really moving story in his book.
Me, Myself, and Bob has reminded me repeatedly that God can do amazing things through His people, but sometimes the things you think will happen or want to happen have to die. Or maybe they’ll sit in the back of your mind as if dead while you wait on God’s perfect timing. Whatever the case, the end goal is to do what God wants. This could mean starting a business and failing. It could also mean starting a business and having spectacular success. Or, like in my case, it just means you gain a little money and a lot of knowledge for the future. Phil’s book is the perfect example of all the sides of these kinds of experiences. Pick it up sometime.