Here at The Sunday Issue we are passionate about sharing our experiences about running a small business; the good, the not-so-good, and all the other stuff you would never have expected we deal with (Hello! Pouring our own candles in the studio). Today, we are sharing a post our friend (and frequent The Sunday Issue contributor), Catherine Spinley, wrote after launching her own print shop.
Three weeks ago I piloted selling prints of my photographs on my website. It was something I’ve dreamt of doing but could never muster the courage to actually do. It was a “Someday I will…” thing. I always found a reason why not: I didn’t have a logo or custom packaging, I didn’t have time, I wasn’t sure which vendor to use, etc. One day I decided to end the dress-rehearsal and go live. My network is so small I didn’t have much to lose. Why not try and learn?
When I went live, I called it a “pilot.” If things didn’t go well, if I screwed something up, if no one was interested, I could always pull the plug I reasoned. After all, this was just a test. The terminology created a safety net of sorts, which was a way to ease my fears.
That wouldn’t be the end of my insecurities. Here’s what I experienced and learned:
- Google It. My friend, Ashli Stockton, founder of the lifestyle brand Sunday Forever told me stories about starting her brand. I channeled her many times over the past 3 weeks and the one thing that helped the most was this: Never underestimate the power of a Google search. She taught herself 100% of what she didn’t already know from building a website to sourcing textiles to supply chain management and logistics. When I was confused or just had no clue, I Googled.
- Shipping Logistics. I am creative not analytical and I didn’t take into account the exorbitant cost of shipping for a small business. I “estimated” the price of shipping rather than researching the costs and logistics that shipping photographs entail. I eventually found a way to ship without having to raise the cost of most prints but I lost money on some of the orders. That is not to guilt anyone who ordered a print. That’s to be open and honest about starting this venture. Had I done one iota of research, I would have understood how to keep shipping costs in line with print prices. So I lost a little money? I learned a lot, solved my first problem and the victory of doing both was sweet.
- Procrastination is Not My Friend. I operate in an Anxious Denial zone. A proof for a new print came arrived and rather than open immediately, I put it away and decided to deal with it the next day. That evening I had a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach and a tightness in my chest. When this happens, I stop and take a moment to figure out what is at the root of the feeling so I can address it quickly and move along. That night it was that boxed print sitting in my living room. I got out of bed, opened it and took a look. The print was perfect and the unknown was now known. I was free to fall asleep without stress and able to ship the print the next day.
- My Name and Work is My Brand. It would be much easier to ship prints straight from my printer and I thought about doing this while thinking about launch the website. What would be gained? Customers would get prints faster and, to be honest, I would make more profit. What would be lost? My ability to personalize each package and the proofing I do on every single print. I would be horrified if something arrived damaged or not colored correctly. My name and my work is all I have and I refuse to do anything to compromise this.
- I Have a Lot of Wonderful People in my Life. I’d guess half of the orders came from people who didn’t need any new pictures in their home or office, but they ordered simply to support me. In this emotionally and economically difficult time, people felt strongly about supporting something I created. I can’t articulate how much this action means to me.
Thank you isn’t enough. But, thank you. I am working on some new prints and can’t wait to see what comes.