11 December 2007

The Quiet Time

As those of you who read my blog yesterday will know, I spent most of the last few days sitting with the littlest one on my lap. Lovely on the one hand as I not only got those cuddles, but time to think as well. Unfortunately the other hand provided the downside; this time to think meant my mind dwelt on the problem of what seems to be referred to in small business land as 'The Quiet Time' - specifically January and February. Now I have worked hard to avoid thinking about this for now as it has taken all my energy to get this project off the ground and keep up with the unexpected (but lovely) early success of it. This is not how I usually work. I worry over a problem until I come up with a few possible things to try, decide on the one that appears to offer the most possibilities and then give it my all. This time I think it feels too big or maybe I am just a bit tired; either way, I have swerved around the problem of The Quiet Time and left it well alone for the moment...or so I thought. Yesterday the Quiet became a booming noise insistently crashing in my brain, refusing to be quelled and demanding to be dealt with.

I wonder what other small businesses of a similar ilk do in these months when we all nurse our over-stretched purse strings? I guess established groups have long term custom that call for those gifts/birthday presents/treats that sell all year come what may, but when the business is as new as mine (still only 3 months) then this is unlikely to be the case. One avenue I hope may help a little is the NoTHs 'store' which I joined recently, but the bulk of their sales also come in the lead up to Christmas and so I expect a drop off there too.

Of course, this could be a wonderful time for exploring new designs for the Spring, a time to play with fabrics and let the imagination become immersed in the warmer months without the pressure of fulfilling orders needed in a hurry....that's if you live in the land of Country Living (where I would sooo love to live!) and have a hubby who works in the City or is a property developer or...well, you get the gist. Many of these people we read about have another string to the financial bow in terms of a partner with fairly substantial earnings. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle what these people do just point out that the risk is not the same. For us, as with so many of you, the business is a huge risk as we need the income. Should I be doing this or should I be going back to a regular wage? With the instant orders that rolled in it has been easy to believe I am doing the right thing - that was until The Quiet Time shouted in my ear.

I have a few things up my sleeve, one of which is going onto my website later today -my Heirloom Cloth (shown in yesterday's pics for some reason!). This has been something of a pet project of mine, tried and tested on a wide group of people in Cornwall and seems to have struck a cord in a way I hadn't quite expected. The notion was simple...a cotton cloth which I send out complete with indelible pen which your family/friends/whoever is around your table sign and which is then returned to me in the bag provided to have the names embroidered as a permanent reminder, as an heirloom to be passed down through the years. I sold some and was pleased with the reactions to the idea even from people who I admit I thought would not particularly want this kind of thing. Word spread a little and I sold a few more. Now I am beginning to think I am on to something as I have been asked by quite a few people for one of these cloths. Some want to know if the names can be embroidered in colours; others want to know if they can have messages. One lady wanted to know if I could scallop the edges and did I know how to do drawn threadwork (where you create decorative holes in the cloth). The answer to all these was yes and so the Heirloom Cloth was born and will bring in a tiny, but important nonetheless, income in The Quiet Months as these cloths return for their names to be stitched.

Just need to think of a few dozen more of these Good Ideas!!!!

Pipany xx

Ps. If you are after a gorgeous Christmas door wreath and can't make your own have a look at the ones made by Jane of Snapdragon; they are truly beautiful - the best I've seen - and there's still time to order!


Elizabethd said...

What a lot of planning ahead you will be doing.
I'm bringing you some Tana lawn when I come over in Jan, so start planning for that!

Faith said...

The Heirloom Cloth sounds beautiful. What a lovely idea.

I was just sitting here with my angel cards, as I just did some for Cait, so pulled you one. Sisterhood, Brotherhood came out. 'View humanity as your extended family and reach out wit acts of kindness to all you meet' Not sure how that fits in with your worry about the quiet time - but hopefully you will pull through, I feel you will!

elizabethm said...

I am afraid this is a bit of a contrast to Faith's comment - I want to say with my accountant hat on "Make sure you charge enough for the heirloom cloth!" It will be loads of work and a beautiful one off, hence its name. I suspect you could get enough orders for it to keep you going through the quiet time. very best of luck.

Pipany said...

Elizabeth - can't wait!

Faith - thank you. It's made me think and I can see where I can indeed reach out.

Elizabethm - you are sooo right. I have been thinking about this point for a long time which is why I haven't put it onto the site before. Working on the write-up now!

toady said...

The Heirloom cloth sounds like it should generate some good business. Have you tried exploiting it for say at the top table at a wedding as a gift the the happy couple, or for a Christening gift. Please charge plenty for them. This alone may justify a small ad in a posh magazine.
As for the quiet time I suppose the profits from Christmas are supposed to see you through the leaner times but as you're so new it may not have generated enough yet. Don't beat yourself up about not looking for a 'proper' job. You've already got your hands full.

Blossomcottage said...

I agree with elizabethm, do not under sell it, I know what a lot of work goes into handmade things.
Good Luck with all you are doing.

kathleen said...

The bags are lovely! And a lovely way to fill the quiet time. I'm sure you will have plenty of orders to work on!

Suffolkmum said...

I do understand how you need this to work for you, it's not some sort of hobby. I think the idea of working on designs for the spring is sensible for Jan/Feb and I think those heirloom cloths will just fly - I'd like one and I can think of a couple of friends who would too. I'm sorry about the awful couple of days you had (and please don't rush to get my order sent off, as long as it arrives before Christmas Eve, that's fine!)

Milla said...

I agree with the cost of the heirlooms - p&p springs to mind, too. But the terminally broke but eager to own, could always embroider their own - otherwise you could be inundated! And is the idea that the wretched cloth keeps flying back to you after every dinner party as more and more names stuff in? And what about them getting lost in the post, shudder!

Two Crofters said...

ah - the same thoughts are rushing through my head at the moment.
in years gone by i have enjoyed a profitable christmas in the shop, and then made more pennies from the january sale.
this year will not be quite as comfortable!!!
like you i have enjoyed orders from NOTHS but i just have this feeling that it will all dwindle to nothing as soon as the 20th arrives!
at least we are in this together!!
love the tablecloth idea - beautiful x
speak soon
tracy x

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I suppose there are downsides to every business. I know just how you feel as we have far too many downsides in the farming industry but I won't harp on about that.

You are talented enough to get through it though so don't doubt yourself.

Crystal xx

Frances said...

Hello Pipany, you wise, creative lady!

All that others have already written to you is very good. Let me add my comments from a slightly different vantage point.

The company for which I work began over 20 years ago, with a clever notion from one smart lady.

Now she has a mini empire. There are shops all across our country and a successful website, and perhaps a European venture soon.

So, weekly I now feel that I can barely keep up with the demands of the business; yet I am encouraged, Strongly, by the corporate beings, to come up with more business enhancing notions. I would just wish for enough staff to do service to the business we do have.

My point, and I will get there eventually is, when challenged to come up with times of the year when our regular business may be quieter than usual, I do see Feb and Jan. But in our world those are months that give us a chance to to recharge our batteries, perhaps take a day, or even a week off. Maybe just to send some thank you notes to our best customers.

It is impossible to be going full throttle for twelve months of the year. Enjoy the quiet times for thinking. Designing, doing the tasks that slipped through the cracks in the busy times. Set up/update your mailing list. Look for more beautiful fabrics.

Look at winter nature and its beauty, for designs that you can develop into new products.

Etc. xo

KittyB said...

The cloth sounds a great idea, but very labour-intensive for you!

Just read about the tree and croup below! Wow, you've had a full life recently! H had croup once, it's awful, I really sympathise.

Jane said...

Thanks for the link Pipany. What a co-incidence - I do a similar type of thing to your heirloom cloth for brides - everyone signs good luck messages on a linen cloth at the reception and then I embroider over them, ideally by the end of the honeymoon.
Someone did this for me on my 21st Birthday and I still treasure it. I would say though that it is very very labour intensive - I stress about the cloth getting grubby while I am working and I never can charge enough to properly cover the work. Have a good think about what it costs to make before you settle on a price.
With the quiet time - well it is quiet I find - I use it to sort out lots of admin stuff that I haven't got round to and I try to squirrel away money from December - but it is tight, often very tight.
Valentines???? Mothers Day??? I have traditionally been shut for these - but this year I shall see about doing something!

Cowgirl said...

Hello Pip,

Have just read your blog and am pondering your situation. My first thought is that the Quiet Time would make an excellent time for research. As you say, into designs, and maybe into trends past and present. Also good to spend time on your admin - fine tuning sales process's, after sales care ie follow up emails to past customers advising of a new product or range etc, newsletters with the all so important human interest angle - everyone is like me and nosy as about where you got started with it all, the milestones along the way etc. Just finding time to get all those standard letters and replies formatted and filed for easy use can be hard, now's the time. Take time out to cast a glance over your figures and analyse them a bit - start to build a picture for future reference. I make all manner of comments in my accounts book about peoples stays, the why's the wherefores, anything that went wrong and why, the purpose of their visit etc not to mention the all important "how they found me".

Discounting often has a sense of desperation not desirable, but what about a bonus gift with two or more purchases (nothing large, just a tiny token)

And then if still Quiet, what about some volunteer work for an hour or so a week? What goes around comes around - sevenfold.

Sorry to preach - listen to me! yadda yadda yadda! But love this stuff, and love having the chance to stick my beak in!!!!