Button and Blue is Three | 5 reflections on running my own business this year
Button and Blue is now three and birthdays always put me in a reflective mood! So here are five little reflections of the last year.
1. RUNNING MY BUSINESS AROUND TWO SMALL CHILDREN AND A NEW BABY
The biggest change this year was adding a new little person into the mix. I started Button and Blue with a three year old and a one year old and worked in their nap times and bed times. When my then youngest turned three and started pre-school, I finally had three days a week without any children at home to give to growing Button and Blue. One month into this new found freedom, I got pregnant.
I think the tiredness in pregnancy is like nothing else and I had hardly any energy to do anything other than lay on the sofa and eat quavers, so my big plans for Button and Blue were put on hold. I was quite apprehensive about what it would be like running Button and Blue once the baby was born as I imagined I would just be as tired and have as little energy.
I actually found that I got some energy back again once Luther was born, along with a whole lot of fresh determination to grow Button and Blue. It has been strange going back to working in nap times and at bed time but I've found it is possible to get a whole lot done in those times if you don't stop to eat/ pee/ move around too much in case you wake the baby up. It is such a jugging act and I am just, JUST keeping everything going (there may have been a library book 12 weeks overdue and I may have forgotten to hand in the forms accepting my daughter's school place). But mostly I am muddling through and I still love doing it!
2. RUNNING A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
One of the stand out points of the year and my biggest juggle was my Kickstarter campaign to launch my knitting kits. (My cardigan is actually juggling Luther's Grasp + Gather treasure basket, but it makes the point in a pretty way).
I wanted to get the knitting kits launched while I was pregnant, the plan being to have them up and running for when our baby arrived, but I just didn't manage it (as I mentioned above; sofa, quavers). I thought I had probably missed my chance with this idea for a while. Then when Luther was about five months old and we'd had a good run of sleep, and with Christmas around the corner, we had a moment of madness and thought I should just go for it.
It was the hardest and most intense months of my business to date. It was all or nothing so if I didn't reach my funding target, I would get nothing and my project would be forever labelled 'unsuccessful'. I checked the campaign progress as soon as I woke up and refreshed it throughout the day. Promoting it took up any free time I had alongside finalising the patterns and sourcing the supplies. Amazingly it all came through just 19 hours before the deadline and then I surpassed my target too.
Following this was a manic time of getting the kits ready, packed and posted in time for Christmas. It was such a crazy time and I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone but I learnt so much.
I am so grateful to everyone who bought a kit and was blown away by the support that flooded in. I still can't believe we actually did it and I don't think I'll ever do one again!
3. SOME EXCITING COMMISSIONS AND FEATURES
A highlight of this year has been some pretty fabulous press and commissions. There's been a couple of patterns published in Mollie Makes and a mention in The Independent's Christmas Top 10 Gift Guide which was very exciting. I've also just submitted a pattern to another magazine that I am very excited to be working with.
Each commission is such a rollercoaster. I say yes because I feel it would be crazy to miss the opportunity. What follows is a huge rush of doubt as to whether I'll be good enough. This is usually followed by it all taking over our lives for a while, as being a bit of a perfectionist, they take up a lot of my time and we usually end up with a bit of a washing crisis and no clean knickers.
But then it's such a proud moment when you get a copy of the magazine through the door and it's all worth it.
4. LEARNING HOW TO TAKE BETTER PHOTOS
Something I love about running my own small business is that I get to a bit of everything; designing, making, sourcing materials, marketing and more. One thing I've discovered I really enjoy doing is photographing my products.
When I first started, my photos never came out how I wanted them to look and after spending hours trying to photograph them and edit them, I was usually disappointed with the results. I used to actually iron a big white sheet which I'd lay on the floor and use as a backdrop for all my photos. I'd then edit them with the aim of making the background as white as possible.
I think this year, I've found my feet with product photography a bit more. I spent an afternoon styling some of my products with stylist and good friend Antonia Morgan and learnt a bit about planning for my photos by gathering up some props and backdrops in advance. I've also learnt to edit them to make the actual products look their best, rather than just making the background as white as I possibly can.
I am a strong believer in doing the best you can with what you have. I don't have a huge budget for photo shoots, so I take all my photos using big A1 pieces of card as a backdrop in my kids bedroom where we get the best light and finally most of the time they turn out how I wanted them to look.
5. PLANNING AHEAD
Now I've been running my business for three years, I'm learning the rhythm of how a year goes; when to plan for winter, when to approach retailers for the next season and when to put my head down and get making. It's taken me a while to realise the pattern of a year and in the beginning I felt like I kept missing out on opportunities because I should have had my winter collection ready about six months or more before it was actually winter.
This lovely bundle of gorgeous colours in my arms will be a new mini collection of knitwear for the Autumn and I'm really excited to showcase them in London next month.
Looking forward, I'd love to see my knitting kits and products stocked in some of my favourite stores. I also plan to keep turning my designs into knitting patterns and kits as seeing other people enjoy making them too has been one of my favourite things about this year.
Here's to the next year!