I started my small online business in September of 2014. I was worried, frustrated, and somewhat confused about selling my handmade crosses online. I survived the first year and have enjoyed ever year since. The best part for me is the creative part of business. Unfortunately the other “stuff” (ie; finances, social media, marketing, shopping, ok maybe not shopping since it’s fun too) all come with the job. I have learned so much and have never been as frustrated with myself all at the same time. So much of what I have learned is from customers, other sites, competition, and trial and error.
I try to learn new ways of creating because I want to improve on my product and make the buying experience enjoyable for my customers. Today I took a trip down memory lane and looked over my past catalog. Yes, it took an hour. I have sold over 5000 crosses since my start in late 2014 and have made no two alike. My crosses are 100% one of a kind
So as I’m looking through I notice a few things about my designs. Maybe I have paid too much attention to my competition and haven’t always stayed true to myself. Is better always better? While trying to keep up with volume have I lost my nerve to be more creative? Is was worth the trip down memory lane. I learned something new today, to stop and think, “is this really my best?”
Six years ago my daughter gave me a gift that transformed my life. I realize that is a bold statement but I genuinely feel that way. The gift was an iPad. Now understand that I learned windows on a desktop with lots of tears and bad words. I could email, look at the internet, and do some graphics but nothing like my iPad. It was easy to use, I never felt like the iPad would blow up if I hit the wrong key, and no tears were involved. No I understand you might think that my daughter helped me learn but no she told me I was on my own after setting up my email and cloud account and showing me where I could find apps to download. I taught myself and opened up an online store. I worked social media and with three different printers over 4 years I could master anything. I do almost EVERYTHING online. The reason I tell you this rather long winded story is this: I’m not young. I cringe when I have someone tell me that they can’t learn computer, they can’t keep up, or they don’t want to. I cringe because I am the same age as the people telling me this and all I hear is fear. I help when they ask a question in regards to “online questions” and I even go so far as to do a lot of things for them online which I don’t really mind at all. I do worry how isolated seniors will feel as technology flies at the speed of sound these days. Each year a senior doesn’t learn the more they will not understand what the generation below them is talking about, the more they won’t understand the world and how to function within it, and the more they will be afraid.
I never enjoyed New Year’s Eve when I was younger (BC – before children). Every New Years Eve it seemed that something went wrong. A couple would be fighting or someone drank to much ruining the evening for the group. I learned to like New Years Eve more after having children. We would stay home watching movies, eating popcorn, and banging pots at midnight. That was a lot more fun than going out.
The worst New Years Eve of my life came 20 years ago when my younger brother died. He was my best friend growing up. The two of us stuck together no matter how bad things got in our lives. We always looked out for one another and kept each other’s secrets . After his death New Years Eve was just another day to avoid.
What I did learn after his death was to celebrate the beginning of another year. I like the idea of starting fresh, a clean slate, a new opportunity to make a difference in your life, another year of living, which we all take for granted. I’ve tried to concentrate on the new and not the loss. It took a few years but I can honestly say that I like the New Year. I’m not big on resolutions but I do like to make a list of goals each year and if I accomplish even just one thing on the list I feel my “new” year was a success. Three years ago I set a goal of selling my crosses to the public and that was a goal on that list I am very proud of.
This year I have decided on three list items. One of the items on my list is to take better care of my blog. I have enjoyed creating the blog and I enjoy posting to my blog. My consistency however, is not what it should be and my effort is weak. What I am hoping to accomplish by starting with this post is a public commitment helping me along the way.
You can ask anyone “what is the hardest thing you have ever had to do?” And the answers will be as unique as the individual you are asking. I have had many times in my life that have been a challenge. There are two that are very intertwined and I have grown as a person the most from.
I have lost many loved ones in my life. I had lost my childhood in the passing of my brothers and my parents by the time I was thirty-eight. The most challenging was a nine month period in which my father, mother and younger brother died. I can’t remember feeling anything but scared and numb.
Scared and numb were the same feelings I had (although in a very different way) when I decided to share my memorial crosses with others.
Would anyone want them?
Would anyone buy them?
I was sure that I did not require the knowledge needed to open an online shop. Like many times in my life I just told myself to try.
Just like that moment in time when my family was dying one after the other I just had to believe that things would get better if I just tried to take life a day at a time.
Learning social media, SEO, photography ( still learning ), how to set up websites, graphics, PayPal, and the list goes on and on. All these new trials and tribulations have been scary and mind numbing but I’ve managed, and suceeded.
What have been the hardest things I have ever done have also served as the most personal growth in my soul.
Small talk can be one of those awkward or uneasy moments that we use to pass time until the moment we want arrives. Now I enjoy small talk, I’m a talker so that’s no surprise. What I enjoy the most is meeting and talking to others. If you listen you might be surprised at what you learn. I have also learned over the years that I must have a look about me because people love to tell me their troubles. I’m never uncomfortable in these situations and everyone needs someone to listen to what they have to say.
Such conversations include those while waiting in line at the post office. Now I only live a few blocks away from my neighborhood post office and I enjoy dropping of my packages in person. (a little “control ” issue I suffer from) Yes I know that this is 2017 and there is no need to drop off packages at the post office when they will come pick them up. Yes, I purchase my postage online and print it off myself but I just have to follow through with that final step.
When I go I am usually just dropping off which is an in and out errand, but the times I’m waiting in line the small talk starts. Someone will notice that I have several packages and after some conversation about the line and how much it grows each time we come, or maybe how they have less staff than the time before, the questions I expect is ask.
“Do you always have so many packages to mail?”
“I sell online”
“Oh, what do you sell?”
Now, this is the part where I know my answer is probably going to surprise, shock, confuse the person asking, or end the conversation. I am very proud of my work, and the customers I serve so I smile and explain that I make cemetery/ grave crosses.
“Oh” is usually the reply then silence.
I smile and move along in the line.
I like small talk so it’s a little sad for me that I end it every time with my answer.