I sent you an email asking if you wanted to see a 2014 year review of my handmade jewelry business, Tiny Hands.
I've never exposed so much of my business like this before but it can be helpful for you to have this insight into another creative business!
I received an overwhelming response to do this financial review so here it is.
My hope is that it will help you feel inspired and motivated to know that a small handmade business can really thrive and prosper.
And that you don't have to work at a 9 to 5 corporate office job all of your life.
I'll be talking about what worked and what didn't for me in 2014, and that can give you a better idea of how you may want to map out your year.
You don't need to reinvent the wheel with your marketing. Just learn from me :-)
So here it is, the screenshot of my revenue, expenses and profit!
Patience and perseverance
First, there is no such thing as overnight success and get rich quick schemes.
Let me bring you back to where this all really started.
I went full time in 2011 but spent most of the year developing my art, product line and brand.
I picked up a web design job on the side that I found on Craigslist. It allowed me to work from home while being paid a monthly retainer. Most importantly, my part time job supported me while I was still figuring things out!
At this point I already had dreams to build a thriving business.
But I wasn't exactly sure how.
In 2012, I started creating systems within my business. I worked on documenting my processes on how I make my jewelry.
I calculated my costs and prices, and came up with a piece work rate system that I would eventually use to pay my contractors.
In April 2012, I hired my first production assistant.
I ‘graduated' her to work from home after she completed her training with me. Unfortunately, her work became so sloppy and I didn't set the right expectations. We went separate ways.
I spoke with a mentor, someone I admired. Her advice to me: hire more people than you think you'll need, because half of them are going to drop out.
In 2013, I started to ramp things up:
- February: I hired two new production assistants
- June: I hired my two wholesale sales representatives
- June: I created a business mastermind between two friends
- September: My husband quit his job
- October: I hired two more production assistants
- October: I started my Necklace of the Month club
I made about $80,000 in revenue this year. But my profit was nowhere close to what I wanted it to be for all the late nights I worked.
I quit my web design job. My husband and I start a new venture together.
All the time and energy I invested in my business finally starts to pay off. Yay!
Let's have a close look at 2014:
Do more of what works
2014 was the year of social media for me. In January I had 4,400 Facebook fans and 900 Instagram followers.
I started tracking my sales more closely and found that both Facebook and Instagram were bringing me sales. More and more customers told me they found me on social media!
That was when I decided to go full swing on building those pages. I currently have 25,000 Facebook fans and 11,000 Instagram followers.
Facebook is now one of my top referrers for business!
The key with all social media is to focus on curating amazing and share-worthy content to your fans.
For the three months I did very little promotional content and only published posts that I thought my audience would enjoy.
I also paid very close attention to what kinds of posts my audience likes and made sure to do more of that.
They'll soon grow to love your brand and will be more receptive to your sales posts.
Invest in yourself:
I also invest a fair bit in education. Taking e-courses, reading books, attending workshops are all important for keeping up with Internet commerce.
I could have learnt the ropes myself, but learning curves slow down progress. It would have taken me so much longer to get to where I was heading.
Find a support network:
Every two weeks, I meet with two friends who also run handmade businesses.
A great support network or mastermind group is super fun – I look forward to our meetings all the time!
When the shit hits the fan, I can talk to them about it. When I've reached a milestone, they'll celebrate with me.
I also get some majorly lucrative ideas from them, such as my Necklace of the Month Club. Which leads me to…
Diversify income streams:
I have almost 100 subscribers in my Necklace of the Month club, which generates a nice, consistent pay check for me.
This subscription model is great because you don't have to guess where your next sale is going to be!
I also take every opportunity I get to sell in new online marketplaces such as Opensky, Vault, Amazon and Reddit, in addition to Etsy.
It's important to me that these marketplaces don't take up extra work to manage. So I spend almost no time promoting those sites.
I send everyone to my main website, TinyHandsOnline.com, where almost 3/4 of my revenue comes from!
I also sell wholesale, which helps expose my jewelry line to new markets.
In April 2014 I signed the contract to work with Soldsie which is yet a different way to sell online.
Using Soldsie to sell on Facebook has made me $22,000+ in revenue!
Freedom from the handmade production ceiling
I knew that to grow my business I needed to stop being the only person that crafted my product.
I considered factories and alternate production methods like 3D printers…
It felt impossible to outsource production of something so incredibly niche like scented, handsculpted food jewelry.
When I started the process of offloading the production of my jewelry to someone else, I struggled especially when training new people.
At times when my assistants made something less than perfect, I always thought:
“If I just did it myself I could get this done so much faster.”
But with the right hires, the positive attitudes and with a lot of patience and commitment, those thoughts went away as my team became more skilled.
Now my assistants work from home and only stop by the studio to get inventory updates, pick up materials and drop off finished products.
In October – November, my husband and I made the crazy decision to take a 5 week vacation.
We went to Disney World, Florida for the first time! Then to New York, then to Malaysia for our wedding reception (we never officially had one yet) and then to Hong Kong.
The coolest part: I was completely hands off in all physical aspects of my handmade business.
Business was as usual during my absence. *wink*
I work an average of 20-30 hours per week. To make a six figure income from that is a dream come true!
Keeping up and evolving
It broke my heart to leave my web design job – the company was a small local business of 4 people and they really needed my help. Plus, they were so lovely to work with!
But I knew it was the right thing for me if I wanted to clear mental space and time to focus completely on my own business.
For next year I may work on lowering my expenses in advertising and finding better suppliers for my materials.
I'm aiming to divert more of my time to this blog and on the Craftivity app.
For all of 2014, I let my sales reps and my website generate wholesale sales for me. I could play a more involved role to increase my wholesale revenue!
Now that I feel comfortable with social media, I would love to tackle celebrity and TV show placement for the new year.
The freedom my team gives me allows me to continually promote my business.
Thanks to the talent and genius of the amazing people around me, Tiny Hands is all grown up!
I'm so excited for what 2015 will bring.
What about you?
What are you excited for in 2015?
What are you celebrating for in 2014?
How will you spend your time in your business?