I've been considering a really big decision for the past year or so, and have finally come to a grand conclusion. And wow, has it been a journey of faith, patience, trust, sweat and tears. It's hard to make decisions about your business, especially when they are founded upon deep and lifelong dreams, your personal family income and your creative needs as a person. But these past few months, as I've battled anxiety, stress, indecision and fear, I've learned to listen to God, my heart and my instincts, and I'm moving onward, ready to enter into a new phase for Sarah Jane.
Gosh. Writing that down so simply doesn't really seem to be a big deal. Maybe it does. But to me, it's a conclusion I've considered for a long time, but wasn't ready to try until now.
Let me back up.
5 years ago this month, I sat on my bed, wondering where I was going to get work with 2 babies under 2, no family in town, 1 car and a husband who was working full time and going to graduate school at night. In tears, I finally got my answer: Start selling my art work on ETSY. I had a very strong goal of becoming a children's book illustrator and a textile designer, but without any art schooling I had no resume, networks or resources. So starting an online shop made sense for 2 reasons: it would bring in a little cash to offset the demands of my husbands graduate schooling, and it would build a portfolio that I desperately needed to start putting myself "out there" as an artist.
In the back of my mind, I also dreamed of branding an online shop with all my creations...a high quality children's brand with decor and soft goods for children's spaces. And so as my shop grew, I made that the natural direction of Sarah Jane. I wanted to have a place where people could come and find products for their home that would inspire simple childhood.
But, as my shop grew, it became too much for me to handle. So I got help. And more help, and the business finally grew to the point where we couldn't handle the orders in my own home, and we decided to fulfill our orders outside of my studio. It was a big move, but I knew what I needed to stay happy and balanced, and running a business this size at home wasn't one of them.
But something else happened that I didn't expect. There is a gap between LITTLE creative business and BIG creative business that I got stuck in. By taking the leap into bigger business, I was forced to be making huge decisions that weighed on my mind far more than I wanted them to. This business isn't a hobby...it is a necessary part of our family's income, but going from small to big took decisions and planning that were far more than I wanted to handle, and I found myself more stressed than I had ever been. I had turned into a business guru and a marketing expert....and I wasn't spending my time getting lost in creative pleasures and projects like I needed to. I wasn't able to tap into that place all artists go to when they need to get inspired. The best part of me...the part of me that is an artist...was getting squashed by the demands of growing a business. I knew I was losing the joy and the charm, and I didn't know how to get it back.
But I'm a hard worker. I'm a "figure it out-er." A dreamer, believer, and I don't quit. I had some really great things going, and opportunities with promise, and I knew that I could figure this out. After all, it was what I always wanted, right?
But I started to see that maybe the dream I had of the charming children's boutique filled to the brim wasn't creating the lifestyle that I craved. I was building something that I had dreamed of, but as I got closer to that dream, I realized I didn't want it after all. Which is a hard fact to face. Because you believe that with JUST a little more hard work, you'll figure it out. Someday it will balance out, ease up, get easier, sail more smoothly. But I wasn't seeing the horizon. And I was thinking that running a printer out of my bedroom was actually when I was happiest and most creative. Ouch. That was a harsh reality. Was all this growth for nothing?
How do you climb down a ladder you thought was getting you to where you wanted to go?
I realized that by answering the question: How do I wan to feel every day? How do I want to feel in 10 years? And what daily choices will achieve that? stopped the train and made me take a serious look at what I wanted out of all this. Logic was telling me I needed to keep trying harder, find clarity through experience, learning and research, get more business experience, etc. etc. But after all that, I still felt like I was missing something really important and I came to realize the answer was inside me all a long: I need to provide an income for my family, but I'm going to do it in a way that brings me the greatest sense of purpose and power. And accept that in my head, a full shop with pretty things was what I thought would get me there. But it wasn't.
So this change is ultimately putting myself in a position to make fewer business decisions, and more artistic ones. And as much as I fear what will be in store, I actually have faith that because I've made the right decision (as hard as it was!) I will be far better off in every aspect of my life. Since coming to this decision last week, I've been more inspired, more creative, more free and much much lighter. I can't wait to see what comes of all this. And hey...I've earned an honorary business degree, learned how to balance and manage a lot of things at once, figured out the difference between when to push and when to let go...and most importantly...I've come to realize what I really want out of it all.
Looking back, I started my shop to open up freelance jobs in publishing and fabric. I guess I figured I could run a growing business, mother 3 children, keep house, serve in the community AND illustrate books and fabric too. I felt compelled to try it, and for me the answer was to stick to what I do best & am most passionate about.
And so that brings me to now.
I've made the choice to let go of everything in the shop except for art prints and downloads.
No more paper embroidery patterns, cards, holiday calendars, gifts tags, bookplates, or journals.
We are going to sell out, and when they are gone, they are gone! I will sell through the holidays what is currently in stock, and after Jan. 1 the shop will only be shipping prints, and emailing PDF's.
What that does mean however, is more books, fabric, downloads, art prints, tutorials and creative sharing.
I'm really excited for this new change. It's a little scary, but I love the idea that I'll be able to illustrate more books and design more fabric, and take more artistic liberties.
For all of you who have been with me since the beginning...I love you! Thank you for being on this journey with me! I share it, in hopes that if there are others out there who are in that battle ground of figuring out how and what they want out of their creative business, that you will find the support and encouragement you need. Cause changing course can be hard to do, especially when it requires looking deep into your heart and examining closely.
But for now, this is where I am. This is where I've arrived in order to shape this next phase for me.
Love to you all, and excited for this new chapter!
PS: the above quote is for you too.
and PPS: I have a brand new collection of prints launching tomorrow. Nautical prints and new sizes to play with. I can't wait to show you!