I remember fondly at the opening of 2020 I had the following goals:
Invest in improving my products and services
Build my social media knowledge and presence
Grow my target market audience
Generate $52,000 in Gross Revenue
Leave my day job to work for myself full time
I was so confident at the time, I had every reason to believe or imagine I could meet those goals. My business had a very promising start in 2019. I had started with a detailed business plan, filled with cash flow sheets, break even points, and multiple revenue streams. I had a successful Summer Test Launch. I won prize money at a Startup pitch competition. And I, who can hardly operate my cell phone, successfully built and launched a professional looking business website. All these things contributed to an immense feeling of momentum and inevitable success.
I could feel the chains of my day job loosening. I liked to imagine I could even hear the chains dropping to the floor. And then BAM!!! I ran headlong into the Pandemic Wall. I was so stunned I felt like I could see stars just like one of those characters in the Saturday morning cartoons.
My very small business wasn’t even a year old yet. I did not have a page or even a paragraph for a Pandemic in that formal business plan I was so proud of. I never knew a pandemic was something I would need to plan for, living in a “First World, Developed” nation, as I do. If aliens had come from outer space and landed on my front lawn, I doubt I could have been more shocked and disoriented.
And forget about the so-called “stability” that my soul sucking day job was supposed to provide. I, the reliable, never complaining, never sick employee was the first one they set adrift. So much for all of us being “in it” together. I was so over it. Why do we give our time, talent, and energy to companies that have absolutely no loyalty to us?? I suppose it is the necessary cost of living indoors, LOL!, but I digress.
The point is, my world, like many others around me, was spinning and I wasn’t certain how things would end, but then sewing saved the day. Miraculously, I was able to pivot. I had to shut down my commercial classroom space, but quickly found myself busy making masks, and even busier still teaching other people how to make masks. It all sounds rather enterprising now, but at the time I likened it to falling off a ship into the ocean, and finding out you could actually swim. I was not drowning but I was still desperate to make my way back to dry land.
And the whole time I was “swimming" I was plotting. I promised myself as I swam through some pretty tough waves that the next time I found myself in a squall I was going to be the captain of my own ship. And thus began the reinventing and reimagining of Made By Me Academy.
First I moved away from group classes to offering primarily one on one appointment style sessions tailored to individual student needs and schedules.
Second I abandoned a commercial space model and opted for a home based setting, bringing students into my designated sewing space, where they can see how a real artist and designer gets things done with home sewing.
Finally after much deliberation and deep contemplation and a 13 week study course I switched target markets. Initially I had assumed my target audience was going to be young people ages 8-17 who were looking to get into sewing, and by extension their parents who are often the ones looking for these classes on their kids behalf. What I found to be more prevalent, especially during the Pandemic, is that there are a number of adults, young and old who really want to learn how to sew. They either have design ideas they want to create for a business, are looking to get into a new hobby, or want to be able to enhance their self care skills by learning to sew. So I really started rethinking my class menu and trying to come up with projects and ideas that appeal to the aspiring adult sewist.
One can never be sure how new changes are going to be received. Even so, just with those changes, the fortunes of my budding enterprise began to turn around; not overnight, but slowly and steadily. Such that, by the end of 2021, I had nearly dug myself out of the pandemic hole.
And at the beginning of 2022 the studio actually started to make money. Not a lot of money, pocket change really, but enough to be encouraged. In the Spring I was commissioned to make custom dresses for prom and weddings. By the Summer, I found myself working to produce an inaugural “Emergence” showcase for students and other new local designers in the Fall. When the 2022 Winter Holiday season was upon me I sold my uniquely crafted goods and creations at a curated shopping event for the community, with rave reviews.
When I look back and reflect on all the times in 2020 - 2021 when I thought, “Maybe I should just give up.”, or “Maybe this just wasn’t the right time.” And “maybe I just have bad luck.”, I could almost cry. How many people and businesses didn't make it through the Pandemic? How many other dreamers and makers had to close their doors and never got to open them again?
The Pandemic took more than people’s lives, it took their livelihoods, which I think is worse. When you are passionate about something, that’s what makes life worth living. Being denied the possibility to pursue what you were made for, is a certain kind of death. Your body is still breathing but I think your heart is quite broken.
So yes, even though I still have one of those distracting day jobs (at a different more appreciative organization), I am so lucky and so grateful, because I still have my studio, which means I still have my hopes and dreams. There’s still a chance that I can leave my life of answering someone else's phone and filing someone else’s paperwork, and do what matters to me full time: Sewing and inspiring others to sew as well.
Thanks to my ever growing student and support base, I feel like that time is growing ever nearer. I can see the goal line and I am going to make it. I will break through.
Thanks for supporting my Personal Legend.
Best Wishes & Straight Stitches