New Year Reflections
2018 was a pretty amazing year. It was my first full year of working full time on the business, I had no paid day job getting in the way, and both boys were at school full time, so I had 6 precious hours each day to work on Cotton Clara. I still don’t take this for granted, most days, it’ll dawn on me that this is my job and I feel a flutter in my heart. I feel like this is what I was meant to do, even though it’s not easy! So, reflecting on that year I’ve got three reflections or learnings from 2018.
I started the year off knowing I wanted to consolidate my product range, I had previously worked on a very haphazard basis, of designing something I felt like designing, often leaving ideas half done. It meant that my range of products didn’t look very coherent. I was also nervous that I had a whole year ahead of me and I didn’t want to just coast, and not achieve anything. So after some consideration (although not a lot, I don’t really go for thinking things out in too much detail!) I decided to book in to a trade fair in London. I knew I wanted to grow my wholesale business, and I hoped that if I could develop my collection of products, I might be able to do this. And Pulse, at Olympia, in May was the perfect goal for me, to focus my mind and set myself a target.
I think I decided this late January, and with the trade fair happening in early May that gave me 3 months! I mapped out what I needed to do, and tried to give myself deadlines for each part of what needed to happen. I needed to redesign, and add to my existing range of products, design new packaging, produce a wholesale catalogue and plan a trade fair stand. It was daunting. I’d given myself a lot to do, but I think this kind of pressure works for me, so I was quite happy!
May came and I just about did it, lots of late nights, and tough decisions, but I managed to take to Pulse a much more professional offering than I previously had. I’m trying to keep this short, so in brief, Pulse was great, a really brilliant experience. I met some amazing people, got really inspired by my fellow stand holders, learnt ALOT, and made some great contacts that lead to orders. It cost me about £1000 possibly a bit more all in all to exhibit, but I made sales directly linked to the event for about the same amount, and got lots more contacts for the future. All in all, it was a great experience, a) for focussing my mind, and b) for the contacts made and lessons learnt. I’ve not decided whether I’ll do it again this year, I might wait another year. What I know is that if I hadn’t set myself this goal, I don’t think I would have achieved as much in such a short space of time. I don’t have an equivalent goal with an external deadline this year, but I’ll be thinking about this over the next couple of weeks as I plan for 2019.
My second reflection, isn’t very deep and it’s probably obvious to most people but this year I learnt that professional photography (or help with photography e.g. models) is never a waste of money! I was lucky enough to have a shoot for Not on the High Street, for the Christmas catalogue, an all day shoot at my house which meant I got access to lots of great photos. (If you need a good photographer, Ryan Cardiff is brilliant.)
I also learnt a lot more about how long it takes to get a few good shots! I already knew it took me about 100 shots to get one good one, but this day showed me it isn’t just me and that even with a professional shoot, the amount you can get done in an day is less than you think.
I then later on in the year paid for another similar all day shoot at my house, with the same photographer. The photos from these two shoots have made Instagram so much easier, and I think really lifted my product shots (there is still a long way to go however with those!) So from now on, I’m going to invest a lot more in photography, is about the size of it. I’m planning on taking a class, so I can get better myself, finding a local photographer I can work with regularly, and having a professional shoot maybe twice or three times a year.
Learning, Growing & Investing in yourself
So my final point, and really the main reason for this blog post is a comment on learning, self-development and believing in yourself. I read a book earlier in the year that really changed my thinking and was a massive breath of fresh air to me You are a Badass by Jen Sincero .
I’ve listened to it over and over again this year and every time it makes me laugh and makes me feel like I can do anything! Jen is funny and down to earth, and the book is full of practical ways of basically living your dream life, it is sooooo positive and encouraging. It’s almost like having your own personal coach in your pocket. I would say this has been the best book I’ve read all year (and the associated ‘You are a Badass at Making Money’). It’s so easy for all of us to get disheartened and give up on dreams, it’s like we as humans swerve towards giving up, or settling, unless we are given regular doses of inspiring encouragement. I know i am a positive person, but I regularly struggle with feeling like it’s all too much hard work, I’ll never be as good as them etc., We get discouraged and then we take our eyes off the goal and it’s a vicious cycle. If you’re feeling a bit like that then I highly recommend this book, I’ve been telling everyone I know to read it!
Since reading this, and also discovering Audible, so I can listen while I work, I’ve become obsessed with learning and reading. This for me is inspiration and encouragement, and everything I’ve read or listened to has inspired me and given me a boost, and sparked an idea, or helped me think about a problem in a different way. I’ve linked to my Amazon page where you can find some of the books I’ve listened to this year. I loved the Nike story by Phil Knight and Start with Why by Simon Schama.
This also applies to events. I’ve wrote before about The Congregation of Inspiration and how good that was, and what a worthwhile investment of money it was. I’m going to make it a priority to invest in other events like this as well as continuing to search out books and podcasts.
Most recently, i’ve been listening to and implementing the principles of The 5am Club, which is written in a book by Robin Sharma. It’s been life changing so far, I love the effects of waking up earlier, (so far, 1 week in) and all the gems of wisdom in the book on productivity and how to live your best life. I think/hope this is going to make a massive difference to my 2019 and I’m excited to see what happens!
So to sum up, my rather haphazard practical/spiritual musings, set some goals, hire a photographer and read read read!!!!!!!