Wednesday, March 27, 2013

B.haven has her first birthday!

My little, tiny shop turned one earlier this month and I almost didn't notice! I'd like to say that it was because I was sooooo busy filling orders and creating artwork, but that simply isn't the case. No one wants to read about sadness and heartbreak over and over, so I'll spare you. Let's just say, my mind has been elsewhere. (click here if you REALLY want to know - WARNING: it's kind of heartbreaking)

The idea behind b.haven seemed simple: create fun stuff in my head, buy materials, make the stuff, sell the stuff and rejoice in being one of the lucky ones who gets to what she loves and make a living. I would use eco-responsible materials, never buy fabric from China, purchase as many things from local businesses as possible, make EVERYTHING by hand, and donate a good percentage of my profits to a different charity every month. I would work harder than anyone else ever has at something like this, and get better with every print. I would have wholesalers lining up for my splendid ideas and do a fair amount of custom work. I would make people smile...

Yes, I was naive. Yes, I knew that I was being naive, but until proven otherwise, I saw no reason to worry about what I didn't know. What I didn't, it was/is a crazy long list! I am not feeling sorry for myself here (usually a signal that one is about to feel sorry for themselves), but I do believe there are things you may want to know if you are contemplating doing something like this. Here's what I've learned:

  • Taxes kill me. Of the money coming in, about 40% of that goes just for local, state and federal taxes. For example, I pay sales tax on the materials I need to make the things I sell. I sell those things, and then I pay sales tax on the things I've sold. Hmmm, that kind of sucks. 

  • My prices are too low. Geez. I really wanted to make my work accessible to folks who may not have "extra" cash to spend on items that make them happy. While great in theory, I'm now struggling with low cash flow. Low cash flow (i.e. I have no money until I sell something) means I cannot afford to buy materials enough to solicit wholesalers, who typically buy in larger quantities. Plus, I am hard pressed to offer much in the way of a wholesale discount, because I'm at bare bones pricing as it is. (Insert the action of my slapping my forehead with my palm here.) I will never be able to sell my items for the same price as those items that are mass-produced or made in China. Why did I think I had to compete in that market, you ask? Because that is what you buy, silly pants! Think about it.

  • I underestimated shipping costs. I HATE paying shipping when I purchase things online so I wanted to keep my shipping costs low. While yes, the shipping costs are accurate, they do not reflect the box, packing material, tape, and the time it takes for me to trek to the post office. I lose "profit" on nearly everything I ship. Especially if I send it overseas.

  • I am the only one. Kind of funny that this was some big revelation, but you don't realize what that truly means until you are living it. If I don't do something, it does not get done. Things fall through the cracks (like buying toilet paper for the studio), and end up accumulating into a seemingly insurmountable mass of menial tasks. No, I would not rather take out the trash than draw, print, experiment, and produce, but who else will do it? If I forget a follow-up call, there is no one else to blame (geez, I hate that).

I still love creating the things I do. I love the fairs I've attended and the shops I've sold in. I do not love the business of the business. If I had my way, I would give away everything I make to anyone who likes it. Why, do I have so little value for my things, you ask? No, absolutely not. If I can brighten your day with what comes out of my head and hands, I'm crazy happy! 

So, a balance is needed. I've gone over my budget with a fine-toothed comb...uh, make that a fine-tipped pen, and it looks like I will have raise my prices a smidge. The only other major place I can trim costs is in taxes. I think I will request an itemized list of items that my tax dollars go for, and then cross off the things I don't want to contribute too. Think that will work?

Always learning the hard way,

p.s. And yes, I am now grooming dogs a couple of days a week to make end's meet. There's no place for ego in entrepreneurship. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Worst That Can Happen - a sad post

So you go about your day, paying bills, making dinner, worrying about things, etc. Then something happens. When "something" happens, I always envision the very worst, mentally prepare for it, and let it go, knowing I can handle it...with a few exceptions.

To me, the absolute Worst That Can Possibly Happen is seeing one of my loved ones struggle or in pain, knowing there is nothing I can do. This scrapes away all the daily b.s. and hits me right at my core. 

My daddy's cancer is trying to kill him, painfully and without any mercy. And there is nothing I can do about it. 

Those that know me well, know what my daddy means to me. He's a good man, a hard worker, pure of heart, and simple in his needs. If he can, he will help those that need it, and sometimes those that don't. He's a strong-willed man, but not overbearing in the slightest. He brings light and joy to those that have the pleasure to know him. The sheer amount of people that love him is overwhelming. He's been my model and mentor on how to live a good life -- one of strength, love, goodwill, and happiness. 

Now this evil thing, Cancer, is taking him away. Slowly, painfully, and without any consideration of how good he is. I'm helpless and heartbroken. Watching him struggle with the pain and realization that he may not be able to conquer this thing, is about to break me into little, tiny pieces, and causes me to wonder if I am truly as strong as I believed I was. I go back and forth between being overwhelmingly inspired at how many people truly love him -- a testament to a well-lived life -- and bitter with the thought that to Cancer, it simply doesn't matter. I struggle to find any measure of comfort and go from wanting to collect people that love me together and hear their kind words, and wanting to wall myself off in a dark, little hole and speak to absolutely no one. 

He sent me home and I know why. He doesn't want to be the cause of my pain, and knows that I need to get back to my daily routine in order to prove to myself that my life will go on, regardless. I'm not sure how I feel about it -- guilty or relieved? There IS nothing I can do but look at him and ask, "can I do anything?" if I were there, both of us knowing there isn't. Who wants to be looked at with eyes filled with pain all the time? I understand. 

My love for my father goes beyond blood. It's an honest respect, an admiration, a deeply felt gratitude that he has made me a better person, a stronger person, and one with instinctual and practiced goodness. 

It's insulting to me that life goes on, that bills have to be paid, that my young business needs attention to grow. I'm really trying to get past this resentment and care. Really. But you will have to forgive me if I'm lax in this area. I'm struggling in the most basic of ways. I'm simply heartbroken. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Training for Spring

Surprise Stadium, Kansas City Royals Spring Training, Surprise, AZ, 03/02/2013.
 And what's a game without peanut shells in your flipflops?

The Budweiser Clydesdales
were at the game!
They always make me happy.

My New Year's resolution of blogging more often has fallen away and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about it. Sorry. I know I should, but geez, with the way things have been going lately, something had to give!

I went to Arizona this weekend. My hubby's job took him there last week. C (my beloved stepson) and I joined him on Friday to stay the weekend. A more perfect weekend could not have been planned. The weather was gorgeous, the actual trip there uneventful. And as those of you who have traveled to/from North Dakota in the winter, that was a true miracle! 

We only had two days but we managed to do most of my all-time favorite springtime things - spring training with the KC Royals (they won) and going to the racetrack (I won). A bunch of hubby's family from Kansas, Missouri, Washington, and California were there too, making the trip even better. 

And then it was over. Landing in Bismarck did not disappoint by being the polar (ha!) opposite of Phoenix - snow, wind, and cold. All the issues I had left here, were STILL here and my crankiness returned. And then I looked around with the same eyes I had viewed the newness and beauty of the desert with. And saw beauty.

Not the same beauty, but beauty, nonetheless. The issues I had left now have fresh eyes, and my heart KNOWS the sun still exists and will show up when she's ready. My feet still know how to wear flipflops, my eyes can still see when the sun is out for the entire day. I can still function with a single layer of clothing. My lethargy and depression can be wiped away simply by changing my outlook and refocusing on the beauty and good of my life, rather than the seemingly insurmountable problems that I tend to create in my head. 

Some say that a spring trip can make the winter seem longer. I say that whatever you need to do to recharge yourself, should be done whenever and wherever possible. 

Spring is coming, people! I feel it!