Today I thought I'd try my hand at writing a review of the year; you know, really looking back at it and well, having a sort of an annual appraisal I guess, like I use to have in my day job, which I quit this year. To avoid keeping it completely one-sided however (i.e. just a conversation with myself), I'm going to chat it over with a few people because a second opinion and a fresh pair of eyes are always invaluable.
Start of the year
Ok, so, where to start? Well, I guess it makes sense to go back to this time last year when I cycled into the day job (a librarian at Leicester hospitals) feeling utterly exhausted from having to balance work and running my business at the same time. The insanely busy period of Christmas sales, living on my own, keeping up with everything and receiving some horrendous news, which meant my business and future plans were now uncertain, had completely knocked me for six.
On the 31st December 2015 I felt unbelievably drained, wobbly and anxious and as soon as I'd got home at 5pm, locked my bike away and tried to decide what to wear to a NYE's party, I promptly had a panic attack. I then did what I now know I shouldn't have done. Instead of letting myself get calm, I drove to a party shaking and promptly had a horrific night. I realise now, with hindsight, that I should have said no to the party, had a relaxing bath and gone to bed with my book. It would have been ok to do that. No one would have thought less of me and well, if they had, then they would not have been worth knowing. So, 2016 started with me as a jittery mess; a state which had been building up since life took a of nose dive at the end of 2012 due to various personal, health and life problems, situations and issues. That was a flipping long nose dive that just had to end.
In hindsight: it's ok to say no. In fact, some times it's healthier to do so.
Changing things around and making plans
Like a little dormouse hibernating, for the rest of January I retreated back into the warmth and took a step back from certain pressures, so that I could reassess what changes I needed to make as life couldn't go on like this. After numerous lengthy phone calls with my truest and dearest best friend, my Mum, and lots of trips down to see her in Somerset, I'd made two pivotal decisions. I then sent one essential email and made one crucial phone call.
The email went to my dear online friend, Sophie at Onetenzeroseven to ask if she would be able to help me re-shoot all my product photos. If I didn't make serious changes to my business due to certain shakeups then everything I'd been working so hard towards would have been wasted. It was just the tonic so-to-speak and if I could recommend one top change you make to your business, it's investing in decent product photography.
The phone call was in fact several phone calls to local estate agents. I had made the decision to move to the south-west and grab a new chapter by the horns. It's something I should have done sooner. By mid January my house was on the market and within a month I had accepted an offer, was starting to pack up my belongings and was finding the courage to hand my notice in at my day job and say goodbye to the most wonderful neighbours a single girl could ask for. Esther, Marina, Charlie and Oscar the dog were unwavering in their friendship, kindness, and support towards me. I felt safe, secure and relieved knowing they were just on the other side of the wall and if I could have plucked their house up and brought it with me, I wouldn't have hesitated. I don't think I'll ever have neighbours like them again. They're one of a kind and were the most sincere, true friends to me in my time in Leicester.
In hindsight: be brave, make a change, follow your heart, don't waste time on people who aren't sincere but do treasure those that are.
A new outlook
On Wednesday 11th May, I pulled up at my Aunt and Uncle's house, with my life in a van just behind me. My new temporary home and studio had arrived and I was welcomed with incredible warmth, hugs and love. And so began a spring and summer of moving on from a period of negative people, taking daily walks along the canal, planting seeds and watching them grow into beautiful colours and delicious food, day trips to Bristol, Birmingham and Oxford, holidays in Sark, Cornwall and Italy, dancing and laughing my head off with new friends, and working flat out as my shop orders went through the roof to make it my busiest period on record since I opened my online shop. It was the best start to a new chapter and I only wish I'd made those two decisions sooner but then everything's a lot easier with hindsight, right?!
In hindsight: say no to negative people, treasure those friends who never leave your side, you can find new and wonderful friends, enjoy the unexpected, grab opportunities and enjoy those simple, happy moments when they come your way.
As soon as autumn arrived I was a bit short on breath, metaphorically speaking. I felt stronger on a personal level but the business plans I'd intended to achieve over the spring and summer hadn't materialised because I'd simply been too busy with orders to even consider putting them into action. I was also trying to alimatise to being full time on my business and honestly, I was finding it quite difficult. I thought I would get more goals ticked off the to-do list because I now had a whole week to throw at it but in fact, I was only just managing to keep my head above water. Don't get me wrong, I was over the moon to be so busy with orders because I'd only dreamed of getting to that point but I was handling it all wrong and with a slight panicked approach.
On a particularly lovely, long summer's evening stroll along the canal with my Mum, I talked it through with her. We discussed about being more prioritised with work, splitting up the day to focus on different but essential tasks both on a business and personal level and restructuring the working week, so that it was more ordered and less of a bull in a china shop type approach. It was then that I introduced a cut-off point for orders each day i.e. all orders received before midday would be made and posted within 2 days. That meant I was now making and sending out orders in the morning, leaving my afternoon's free to work on admin, marketing, freelance blogging, photography and product development. Despite still dealing with the same level of shop orders by restructuring my working days, I had given myself time to work on other essential areas of my business. It was only then that I was able to design and create new designs, including the Bow Tie Necklaces, Bow Hair Accessories, Adjustable Bow Ties for women and a range of new handkerchiefs.
Feeling focused and having explored more of the south-west, I also made the decision to start researching places to live because living temporarily, firstly at my Aunt and Uncle's and currently at my Mum's, can't go on forever. I need a home to call my own and so that property search has now begun, which is very exciting!
In hindsight: don't approach busy periods with panic. Step back, restructure and re-prioritise.
End of the year
Towards the end of autumn I moved into my final temporary home, my Mum's place, while I hunt for my own home in Bristol. I set up my studio overlooking the garden and focused on work, weekends away, walks, reading, drawing and getting to know my new temporary town.
Business over this period wasn't quite what I expected, which surprised me but meant I had time to focus on finishing a new design I'd been playing around (the Personalised Dog Neckerchief), hiring an accountant and getting my finances ship-shape, practising my photography, joining groups, networking and making plans for 2017.
After a wonderful Christmas with my family, I am so excited to start 2017. I have big plans in terms of moving my business forward, hopefully making the last house move for a while (come on Rigthmove, send me an alert for THE flat! ;) ) and continuing to build on this new chapter in Bristol where I am already feeling welcomed with open arms and I haven't even moved there yet. I won't lie, I am a little nervous but after a year of making big changes and finding courage to do things I wouldn't have dreamed of doing last year I'm totally ready for it.
In conclusion: expect the unexpected, be true to yourself and always aim high.
So, it's been quite a year but I've learnt so much about myself, my business, the world and other people and it's safe to say that these points really stand out for me:
-Learning when to say no
-Taking time to find calm
-Being brave and having courage to start over
-Treasuring old mates and family who are constant in your life and don't leave your side.
-Leaving bullies and negative people behind
-Saying yes to opportunities
-Understanding that you can make new friends at any age and there's some flipping lovely, incredible people out there.
-Seeing that it's good to step back every now and then to re-assess and restructure.
-Always, always aim for the very best
-Always be true to yourself
So, there you have it. A review of the year, which I have found really refreshing to write and is something I'm going to do every year from now on. Have you reviewed your year or written down what your proudest 2016 moments are? I hope you've had a good one and have an even better 2017.
Due to this post going on a little longer than I'd originally realised it would, I'm going to write a separate post about my goals for 2017, which will be up on the blog tomorrow.
I hope, however you're planning to celebrate the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, that you have a happy one and that the new year brings you wonderful moments to be treasured. I'm going to share the beginning of the new year with my Mum. Tonight we're going to cook up a heart warming stew, pour a large glass of red and watch a film. Tomorrow we're going to start the new year with a walk and a spot of lunch with family. I can't wait.
Happy new year everyone and thank you so much for reading my blog and supporting small, handmade businesses like mine this year. You rock!