Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Backbone, Boundaries, Acceptance

A friend of mine texts me today, and she is all full of self doubt.  Wondering if she has what it takes to do her job, and get to the place in her career that she wants to be.  (If you know me personally, please don’t text me and ask me who this was.  I won’t tell you.)
I think we have the tendency to look at others, in higher positions, and think they never sweat bullets, or did anything wrong, or doubt themselves.
I wager that they have their bad days.  We tend to be more forgiving of other’s mistakes than we are our own.
I’ve lost a little bit of the fire, myself, lately.  This new direction in life is pretty hard.
Running your own business, pretty much by yourself, is tough work.  You have to have an incredible backbone.  Be able to balance your life, especially if you work at home, so that it doesn’t take up every minute.  Draw the boundaries.  Accept the failures and disappointments along the way.  Find creative ways to market, but keep up with the demand that you already have.
I am not good at many of those things.
Marketing?  I didn’t like marketing when I was an accountant, and I sure don’t like it now. Granted, I’m better at it now.  I don’t mind sticking my head out there and saying, “Hey.” You never know what will drive business.  But, I’m doing it for me, and my family, now, so it’s different, I guess.
I’m still not 100% comfortable with it, and sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable enough, to brag on all this stuff I’ve created over the past several months, in front of someone.
“Look,” I say pointing at something, “How great am I?!”
I do it, anyway, though.  I find if I laugh and have fun, it’s so much easier.
Backbone?  If we’re talking: standing up to someone, yep, I’ve got one.  Hard.  Core.  If we’re talking: someone negatively commenting on something I created….  Ouch.
Balance?  I had this one in the proverbial bag when I was a CPA in an accounting firm.  The line was easy – if I’m in the office, I’m working.  At home, I’m me at home, with very few deviations from that logic.
Now that I work at home – I don’t think I ever stop working.  I’m posting something, reading an article, finding out a new way to do this or that, thinking up a new idea, sending an email, etc.  There is always something to do, and since I don’t have minions to do it…  I keep going…
(I’ll pause here to say that my wonderful husband does help me out, and I wouldn’t be where I am today, without his assistance, and everything he’s taught me.  His support is unwavering.)
Accepting failures and disappointments?  Oh, I suuuuck at this.  Capital S. Capital U. Capital C.  Capital K.  They’ll take me down for a week!  I don’t want to be all egotistic here and say, “I’m not used to failure”, because I’ve had my fair share of it in my lifetime.  But, normally, when I do put in my all, and give it that 150%, I do end up on the success side of the bar.
This weekend I realized, through very wise council, that I needed to stop seeing it as little failures.  I’m learning.  Nothing has failed yet, in fact, for a start up, it’s doing quite well.
Hearing the doubts of a good friend of mine, today, helped me realize that we doubt ourselves no matter what we do.  I think it’s just human nature.  I have doubts now, but they are just different than the ones I had when I was managing.
The advice was the same, though – You aren’t going to get everything right, but you have what it takes to make it better when it goes wrong.  If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, who will?
She has doubts now, but she just needed a friendly reminder, very much like I did, that she has what it takes to make it to wherever she wants to go.
And, she does.
So do the rest of us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Disappointment and Silver Linings

The bright idea wasn’t actually mine.  My grandmother died several years ago, leaving us with a gigantic (no exaggeration there) doll collection.  She purchased these for anywhere between $50-$200ish.  Fair market value today?  $10-$30.  Okay, obviously not a wise investment.  Not sure she bought them for the potential appreciation value, or if it was more about the expressions on their little faces.  The twin dolls that are “oh so cute”.  Or the myriad of different styles – laughing, crying, playing…some with open mouths, some with eye lashes…

So, my mom and I discussed sharing a booth and putting the dolls out there, along with a section for my little business.  Sounded like a really great idea, in theory.
Rustic Carvings didn’t fair too well at the craft fair.  I started doubting myself all over the place.  Are my prices too high?  Is the stuff not good enough?  Maybe I should paint them instead?  What am I doing wrong?
Didn’t help that everyone walked into the space and went, “Dolls!!!”, completely ignoring my items.
Okay, that hurts.  (Maybe I’m too sensitive about the stuff I’ve made, but man, that hurts!)
I had to get out of the space, and it was only around 11am on Saturday.  My feelings were hurt.  Then I walked around and saw that the fair was filled with food, soap, jewelry, and kitschy stuff like bird houses made out of laundry detergent bottles.  That dude said he made $400 on Saturday with them.
People are mean, too.  They say stuff like “I could make that”.  ”Why are you charging that?”  To one that is shaped like a Jerusalem cross, one woman said, “Does that really count as a cross?”  Hi!  (waves hand)  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a person, with feelings. It took everything in me not to say, “Do you really count as a human being?!”
I was grumpy.
Not to mention on Saturday, people were more impressed with the towel “cake” my mom made for display purposes, than with the wooden, personalized, wedding cake stand I crafted.  ”Oooh, you make those? Any color?”  I’d get excited and say, “Yeah, know anyone getting married?”  They’d say, “No, but where do you buy the towels?”
Next one…  ”I just love these, you know you can make them out of anything – diapers, towels, washcloths.  I used to make dogs out of washcloths for baby showers.”  I’d say, “Ma’am, I make the cake stand below the towels.”  ”Oh,” she’d say, and walk away, unimpressed.
Next one….  ”Did you make that?”  ”Yes,” I’d say.  ”I used to make them out of diapers.”
Sigh.  Sigh…. SIGH!!!  I eventually took it down.  It was so disappointing.
I talked to the few booths that had “real art”, or handmade items for sale….they were struggling, too.  It made me feel better that it wasn’t just me.  It made me feel bad for the world as a whole – not appreciating real handcrafted artwork.  There is a reason artists starve.
So, although a disappointment, I’m choosing to look at some silver linings:
1) Craft shows aren’t the place for Rustic Carvings.  It’s not that my items aren’t good, it was the wrong audience.
2) I had some really nice conversations with old men about woodcraft, tools, and how much they appreciate what I do for a living.
3) One of my longtime best friends came up to the show on Saturday, and without her sitting beside me, helping me laugh, I would have been bawling in the booth by myself.  We definitely got in some needed quality time.
4) A couple customers came by to see me, and I was floored by how much they appreciate what I’ve made.
5) Turning your table around to face the aisle can make a big difference on Day 2.
6) I got my business card out there, and talked to a few people interested in custom designs.
7) But, mostly, the really great part of the whole thing is that Mom sold so many of my Grandmother’s dolls!  It was awesome to see them go to people that would really appreciate them again.  Instead of the dolls sitting in a box in the closet.  I’m going to tally up the funds today and see how we did.  Craft shows, like that, may be the best means to get rid of them.  Ahem, I mean find them all “good homes” with “adoptive families”. 
Once I chose to look past my own circumstance, my mother’s smiles, as each “baby” found a new home, made up for my business disappointment.  For sure.  110%.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It’s raining. And cold. And, I’m rambling.

It’s 50.7 degrees outside, according to my WeatherBug desktop program.  According to my nose and toes, it’s freezing!  It’s also raining, and I want to curl up on the sofa with a nice cup of hot tea, and read.  Alas, there is work to be done.
Working out in the garage, err workshop, has been a dream the past month or so.  Nice 70-degree weather, breeze through my hair.  Okay, not my hair, because it’s usually tied back so I don’t accidentally chop it off with power tools, but there is a breeze none-the-less.
I made a trip to Home Depot today and discovered that they now make stain with polyurethane combined.  I thought this was cool.  And, then I thought, the things I think are cool sure have changed over the years…  I even said, “cool” aloud, and a couple HD guys ran over asking if they can help me.  No, I’m good.  Thanks.
The guys at Home Depot are always so willing to help me when my husband isn’t with me…  It’s so kind of them.
So….I get home, and I’m working in the garage, polyurethane-ing some items for a craft show I’m attending in the next couple weeks, and since it’s freaking cold, and raining, I have the overhead garage door shut, and the laundry room door open.  So, the dogs are roaming in and out of the house, to the garage, at their leisure.

Pete, yep, he’s pretty much at my side.  I’d say he’s an employee, but he sleeps on the job, and that’s not employee material for Rustic Carvings.  When I thanked him for helping, though, he wagged his tail.  He’s totally cool with taking the credit for napping.
He appears freaked out in the picture, but he really isn’t.
He had a towel draped over him earlier, when he was laying on the other side of the workstation.  Ya, the reason he’s spoiled, is pretty much my fault.
Raven, now, she has had abandonment issues of epic proportion since we’ve returned from the honeymoon.  Which, is surprising, because she’s always been a “love on her terms” type of gal.  Not very needy.  "I’ll come to YOU when I need a pat on the head, thank you very much.”  It’s getting better as the days go by, which we’re thankful for, because it’s super annoying when the 50 pound dog wants to sit in an office chair with you.
I think she’s taken the role of supervisor.  While I was working today, she’d wander in the garage every 10 minutes or so, check on me, on Pete, and then leave again.  I hope she doesn’t expect a big salary and benefits package.
The huskies, are, of course, nowhere to be found.  Probably holding down the sofa and area rug, as expected.
Until there is a crack of thunder, that is…….