It’s been nearly a year since I made the fateful decision to leave the relative security of my day job and pursue Storied Threads full-time, so maybe that’s why the topic of taking risks has been on my mind lately.
I knew then that making Storied Threads my career, and my sole source of income, would be a big risk, and I’ve learned that the risk factor has never really gone away. It seems everything I do has at least a small element of danger to it — specifically, the possibility that I am going to end up wasting time and money.
That was the case this past weekend, when I vended a show that was, all things considered, a flop (I won’t name the event out of consideration for the friend who approached me to do it, who bears absolutely no fault in what happened). It was a small gaming convention, and this year the organizers wanted to try adding vendors. I was asked to be one of those vendors.
I am pretty picky about what shows I do. I generally avoid first-year events because, to me, they are too risky; there is no track record of attendance, and I believe I am better off staying home to fill orders and build stock for my next big show than investing time and money in a show that might not draw customers.
This event I thought would be pretty safe. The projected attendance was decent; it was a group of gamers, which are part of my target clientele; and the overhead was low thanks to a very small vendor fee and the fact I could drive home at the end of the day instead of renting a hotel room.
What I didn’t count on is the fact that the gaming activities were virtually non-stop, so people rarely left to do any shopping.
Sure, I technically made a profit, but it was thin and not enough to justify losing an entire Saturday in the studio — although, as fallout from taking a risk goes, this was minor.
I am trusting the second of my big risks of the season will be more successful. I was asked to participate in ARTsylum, a sort of artists’ collective and consignment store featuring the work of small, independent creators (including my friend Marrus, who I’ve often cited as an inspiration in my own pursuits) opening up in Lowell. I shipped up a staggering $1,000 worth of patches and accessories to this new effort, which could contribute to my revenue and expose my work to potential new customers.
I explored this opportunity quite a bit, and decided that in a worst-case scenario, nothing sells, all my stock gets mailed back to me, and I sell it at a show or online. In this instance, it’s a matter of nothing gained and, literally, nothing lost. I like those kinds of risks, but they’re few and far between.
And then there is risk number three…
As I mentioned, I am coming up on my one-year anniversary as a fully self-employed person. I took the leap of faith when I looked at my business and realized that it had gotten too big for me to handle working at it part-time. I’d prepared as much as I reasonably could for this move, squirreling away money to give myself a financial safety net (which, I would like to point out, I have not once touched) and waiting until the last possible minute to make the transition, but it was still one of the scariest moments of my life.
I’m facing a similar situation right now. Storied Threads has continued to grow. I’ve added more shows to my schedule, more items to my line, and consequently, I’ve added to my workload, and it’s almost more than I can handle. I feel like I’m starting to lose ground, and the only way to fix it is to hire some regular help.
That’s right: I need to hire an employee. Contracting out to my friend/back-up brain Kate can only accomplish so much. I need someone here, in my studio, to take care of simple prep work, do post office and emergency fabric store runs, to handle my online marketing — all the stuff that keeps me away from the sewing machine, where I need to be.
I’ve done as much prep work as I can. I’ve crunched the numbers to see what it would cost me to bring someone on, and it’s precarious. In theory, my sales will follow my projections and I’ll have enough revenue to afford an employee, but there’s no guarantee of that…and yet, if I don’t bring someone on, ideally before the Christmas rush begins, it’s almost certain I won’t increase my sales over last year’s, because I won’t be able to keep up.
I may just have to take another leap of faith.