Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Year In Review

Wow! I know it's cliche to say, but I cannot believe that New Year's Eve is tomorrow! I spent a bit of time on twitter today, and I saw a few year in review posts and I thought I would jump on that band wagon too.

While many exciting and wonderful things happened for Love Elaine, it was also one of my most difficult years yet personally and professionally. I have to admit, I'm going to be VERY happy to see 2012 in my rear view mirror.

The biggest coup for me this year was getting Love Elaine items into Hallmark stores. It was by far my largest wholesale order to date, and it really helped elevate the business to another level.

I also launched my new full line of aprons on Etsy in the spring. This was a first, as in the past I would only sell Christmas items on Etsy September-December. I far surpassed any expectations I had for the aprons, as they were a hit for Mother's Day! Around the same time, I also made a business decision to hire a photographer for all of my product shots - and boy has it made a HUGE difference! Not only did I find a great photographer in Callie, but I've also made a great friend! Be sure to check out her website if you haven't yet - she's talented and an amazing person too!

I also had my first tutorial published as a contributor for Sew, Mama, Sew! And, I formed relationships with Dear Stella fabrics and Cloud 9 fabrics - sewing samples for quilt market and writing my first downloadable pattern for my Elf Christmas Stockings!

As the momentum built for Love Elaine, my professional career came to a grinding halt in July when I was laid off. But, always one to make lemonade out of lemons, I dove head first into trying to make Love Elaine viable as a full time business. I spent all of August and September sewing samples, having a photo shoot, order fabrics in hopes of ramping up to my best holiday season yet. I launched new products, revamped stockings with new fabrics. Despite my best efforts, I learned one of the hardest lessons yet - in its current form, doing things the way I am now and have for the past 3 years, Love Elaine will never be a profitable business.

It was a really tough pill to swallow, especially since so many people have loved the products as much as I have loved making them. Actually, scratch that. I don't love making them, I love designing them and choosing fabrics and coming up with new ideas. What I do love is making gifts for those I love. What I don't like is production sewing - its too much time for so little reward.

So, as I look forward to 2013 I couldn't be more excited, as I got (another) new job! I start mid-January, the same week as my 30th birthday - I think its a good sign.

As I mentioned before, I'm going to take my time to figure out a new path for Love Elaine. I have a few ideas, one of which includes starting a new blog. I'll share more when I'm ready to launch, and I think this new direction is going to be a lot of fun. Thanks so much to all of my customers and friends for being by my side on this journey so far - I hope you'll all stick around for what's next!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Love Elaine Holiday - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Happy Holidays everyone! I can't believe that Christmas is less than a week away, and that we'll be heading to New Jersey to visit my family on Saturday - just 2 days away! I'm so excited!

The Good - All Christmas Orders are DONE!

As of last night, I finally finished all of my orders for Christmas - it was the best feeling ever, as this Christmas season was by far the worst yet. Why the worst? Well, I'll be honest - it just isn't fun or rewarding for me anymore. And, that was made brutally clear over the past 8 weeks. I singled handedly sewed 25 aprons, 35 stockings, 13 tree skirts, 20 placemats, and 10 bags - I can't believe I did all of that.

If you know a bit of the story of Love Elaine, you know that I started a business almost by accident - as friends and family started asking to pay me to make them something for a gift. It started with bags, then moved to Stockings and Christmas Tree Skirts, and then aprons. And, if you've been following along, you know that over the past 3 years, Love Elaine has been the "little business that could" as it was continuing to move forward with a minimal "effort" on my part to help it grow. To be honest, my marketing strategy has just been to make products and items that I love, list them on etsy, and then the sales come. Which, has been the amazing part to me - that people do love the products and like what I make. That part feels good.

The Bad

However, the reality is that I have put a TON of effort into Love Elaine - for the past three years I have been working 24/7 with very little time to for me to try something new, make something for myself, or just sit and read a book. What most people don't know who buy on Etsy is that I have a full time job in Marketing and Advertising - which is a job that takes a lot of creative brain power and is often more than just 40 hours a week. Over the summer, I was laid off for 3 months and gave the business a shot to be my "full time" gig - and I learned a valuable lesson that at my current pricing, it will never be able to support me because expenses are just too high and labor is too expensive.

The Ugly

So, at the end of October, I had the opportunity for a full time position again, and I jumped. After I had already committed to taking orders and ramping up for Christmas orders on Etsy - the perfect storm if you will of lots of orders and greatly reduced time all at once. I've been spending the last 8 weeks making up for that - staying up until 3 AM most nights sewing, spending my entire weekend ironing, sewing, etc. with no help - just me. And, people were very unhappy. Which, I understand, but the messages of gratitude I used to receive with how much my customers loved their items were quickly replaced with borderline harassment and threats over their orders. I've been called a liar, unprofessional, a scam artist, a thief - you get the idea. I tried my best to communicate regularly - but it really came down to spending valuable time in front of the sewing machine vs. time on the computer.

I'll be honest - I've learned so many lessons this year, and these last 8 weeks in particular. I've learned that I'm great at designing and making items, and I'm great at communicating with customers - I am just TERRIBLE at doing them both at the same time under a deadline. So, while I like to pretend I'm super woman, I'm only human.

So, with that, I wanted to let you know that Love Elaine will be on a bit of a hiatus for a while. If I'm going to move forward with this business, there are many changs that need to be made, and I with another new job starting in a few weeks- I just don't have the time or energy to make those changes now. My etsy shop and my fabric shop will remain open, as all items are in stock and ready to ship - but I won't be adding anything new for quite a while.

In the meantime, I'm going to take some time to sew for me, make a few gifts, try a few new ideas that I've had in my head for a while - and read a good book, take a vacation (hopefully!) and celebrate a new decade with my 30th birthday coming up. I'll be blogging and facebooking - so please do keep in touch.

Happy Holidays!