This year can be summarized in one word for me: re-centering.
Let me back up a bit. The year before this (2011) was a really exciting and challenging time for me. I released my book, which I’d spent almost two years working on. Business was growing, and we were constantly fighting to keep things running smoothly.
At the end of that year, I felt I’d accomplished so much, but I also felt myself stretched as thin as possible. Do you know that feeling? When you can just feel the seams are almost about to come apart, your edges are worn, but you just have to keep holding it together?
This, I’d told myself, is the life of a small business-person. Oh well.
Now, I’ve never been the single-minded workaholic type, not in my heart. I do love working hard on things I believe in and love, but I also really value my freedom, and I like a lot of variety in my life. I have a hard time being creative if I don’t have a lot of other inputs and some time to relax. Most of us mere mortals are probably like this.
So in 2012, I made some changes so that Colette Patterns reflects the way I want to work and live. It isn’t so much about slowing down (in fact, I’m working on two brand new types of products for this year, which I’m extremely excited about), but refocusing my energy and making more conscious choices.
Stuff I’ve Learned
Here are some things I’ve learned this year. Most of them are really obvious, but I still had to learn them for myself:
- Say no. Do it with kindness whenever possible, but do it. I am a people-pleaser by nature, so this has been tough.
- Value your work. When someone asks you to work for free, politely decline unless you actually truly want to do it. If they mention all the fabulous promotion you’ll get out of it, that’s a huge red flag. Refer to this graphic, which pretty much sums it all up.
- Integrity is important to me. I’ve learned that the most important quality in the people I choose to work with can be summed up by the word “integrity.” I like working with people who honor their commitments, keep their promises, and value other people and their time. Kenn and I were talking about this the other day. Things like “honor” and “integrity” sound like such old fashioned values to our ears today, but they’re qualities that we both really cherish.
I’ve been lucky to work with a bunch of people that fit that description, so I thank them most of all for teaching me this.
- My life is not your life. Like so many of us, I have a tendency to compare everything I do to what I see others accomplishing. I find this a self-destructive and rather pointless tendency in myself. Since other people tend to put their best face forward, it always leads to feelings like inferiority, fear, or resentment. So silly! My life is not someone else’s life. My business is not theirs. My goals are not theirs. My job is to always do my best, period.
- There’s no substitute for meeting people face to face. Doing all the events this fall was super. I especially loved how it strengthened my friendships with the fabulous shop owners who do so much to support us. Really getting to know people is so much more valuable to me than meeting tons of people for a few seconds at a place like Quilt Market. I’d like to do more of this.
Stuff I Did
Let me also take a second to recognize all the cool things we did this year, especially since so many of them were behind the scenes:
- Moved into a much larger and swankier studio and set it up really nicely. I really owe you guys a full tour.
- Built a mini photo studio within it, with studio lights.
- Brought Kenn in to work almost full time. He has done an amazing job streamlining our logistics so you all get your orders faster.
- Added some amazing new retailers to our family, including Liberty of London and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
- Created our first companion guide for a pattern, which I think is a really cool way of supporting sewers on more complicated sewing projects.
- Got most of our patterns available as digital downloads (still a work in progress).
- Went on the road and met tons of you in person, including some really lovely shop owners.
I’d also like to take a moment to once again thank Caitlin, who put a lot of work into this company and was there with us from almost the beginning, working at my kitchen table. It was sad to see her go. I’m sure her tiny little new boss will be a bit more demanding.
This leads me to 2013…
My number one goal for this year is to make Colette Patterns a fun and rewarding workplace for other people too. More and more, I’m realizing that creating really great jobs and a great team of people is something that’s valuable to me, and a big part of what I want to get out of this company. That means I need to step up and learn how to create that sort of workplace.
I’d also like to do more face-to-face stuff this year, particularly in Portland. I’d particularly like to start some sort of discussion/support group for other women with small creative businesses here (so if you’re reading this and interested and already run a business, let me know in the comments!)
I hope you all have a beautiful and fulfilling new year!