Y’all, this post isn’t meant to be negative. It is meant to be real and honest. I have been broken and rebuilt by my business and this is my moment of acceptance.
This year took me on a roller coaster of uplifting lessons and crippling failure. I started 2016 with a new business name and a heart full my love for fused glass, excitedly ready to burst into the community. I overwhelmed myself at three weekly markets, volunteered for community events, and sought after one-on-one classes in the spaces in between. I tried to juggle motherhood and business so heavily that all started to fail. During my moment of chaos, my kiln, my lifeline to the community, broke.
The broken kiln forced me to take a step back. I attempted to reach out to the community in other creative ways, taking on different crafts to try to keep afloat. The stress was devastating, forcing me to quit two of the three markets that I was so proud to be part of. That release was a blessing waiting to show itself. I was able to grasp on to motherhood with both hands, finally giving myself permission to sit, relax, and reflect on who I am as a person and who I want to be in the community. I learned that I didn’t want to be stressed to the point of mental breakdown. I deserved to be in the community because of my heart, not because I was forcing myself to be there. My interactions were to be easy-going and organic, not a rehearsed speech trying to get people quickly interested in my work.
Even still, I was panicked by the slow pace I was trusting my business with. My booth at my sole, slow, small town market rarely had visitors. When it did, it was often because the line at the coffee booth was long and I was something to look at until the line passed. Gratefully, with those passer-bys, my business cards began being picked up. Other vendors reached out with their understanding hearts and attempted to send shoppers my way. The local newspaper wrote a story about the market and mentioned my business. With every interaction, my stresses faded and a new confidence grew. My heart was finding the community, and the community was finding me. If people were going to just stop in to “look”, they were met with my true, smiling personality (and a dash of adorable from my four year old daughter).
Looking back, it is easy for me to see what I once considered my failures. Instead, I choose to see that in my first year on Etsy, I have had 17 sales. My art in 15 states. I have art on display in a thriving local store. I have fired over fifty pieces of glass that were handcrafted by children in the community. I was able to buy Christmas and birthday presents from my profits. Most valuable to my business, I was able to make relationships with other small business owners, something I would have overlooked if I was still stressing over three markets and countless events. Small business looked out for small business and held each other close through slow days. We all encouraged each other, shared experience, and celebrated victories. My year may have been a roller coaster, but now that the ride is over, I can proudly say I am closer to the community than I could have imagined or done alone.