At the end of 2018 we decided to do something a little different. We invited you to follow along as we build an actual handmade business from scratch. Our big goal was to grow the handmade business to the point where it has generated $100,000 in revenue – no matter how long it takes. We would share every single step and document our weekly activities for the blog.
Over the last few months we’ve launched our hand illustrated print business – Boldlie & Co – and shared our growth strategies, plus lessons from our big wins and small blips.
But, over the past few days we’ve made the decision to end our journey here.
Why we’re ending our Handmade to $100K journey
I’ll start things with an embarrassing admission: we never made it to $100,000 in revenue. We barely scratched the surface, actually. In fact, last month was our best performing month yet and altogether we sold about $600 worth of prints.
I’m also a believer in business growth not being linear. On previous businesses, I’ve slogged away for months – even 2 years once – before growth was consistent. Of course, I think the same thing applies for Boldlie. In our business plan Boldlie isn’t just a print shop. We envisioned it to be a homewares brand that celebrates Ash’s hand illustrated designs. We would make and sell wall decals, textiles goods and soft goods for nurseries.
We were just at the very beginning.
So, why are we giving up when it feels like there’s so much potential?
Well, when we first started Handmade to $100K, we had two goals in mind:
- To share genuine lessons and advice on growing a handmade business. Instead of writing blogs like, “12 tips to market your handmade business”, we wanted to show you how. In real businesses following a set list doesn’t guarantee success – experimenting until you find what works does.
- To help Zibbet grow so we can do more for you. Even though Ash and I both own and run Boldlie & Co, our primary day job is Zibbet. We work on Zibbet’s products and we create tools that make running a handmade business smarter. Handmade to $100K was a way to grow awareness of the Zibbet brand in the handmade community so that we can fulfil that mission.
We took a long hard look at our goals and asked ourselves – are we actually achieving them?
Honestly – we don’t think so.
Fail #1: Sharing genuine lessons and advice on growing a handmade business
We didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing listicle blogs and telling you the right way to run a marketing campaign. We wanted Handmade to $100K to be a raw reflection of what it really takes to start, run and grow a handmade business. We feel like we ticked off that part.
Releasing updates on a weekly basis meant that we were planning the development of Boldlie & Co on a checklist of topics. One week we were talking about generating ideas, and the next – we were talking about product development, marketing hacks and starting a website. We didn’t have time to breathe and let these activities sink in. We weren’t able to extract meaningful data from a marketing campaign because success (or failure) doesn’t really show itself until a few weeks later.
Although we were writing about real activities we were doing – sometimes the true lesson is patience.
We thought about how we could fix this. Should we change our updates to a monthly schedule? Should we keep up our weekly cadence but focus on one topic for a few weeks before we move onto the next?
In the end, we were afraid that if it was a monthly update we couldn’t include all the little actions that played a part of our results. And, focusing on a single topic for a few weeks might isolate followers that aren’t at the same stage of running a business that we’re in.
The truth is: no matter which path we pursued, our lessons would no longer be genuinely useful for everyone.
Fail #2: To help Zibbet grow so we can do more for you
As a company, Zibbet is here to help creative entrepreneurs run their business better and smarter. For the past year and a bit, the team has been busy plugging away on creating a multi-channel platform that lets you sell everywhere. Handmade to $100K was just a small part of a larger narrative. We saw it as a tool to help you propel your business forward whether you’re a Zibbet user or not.
The problem here was balance.
The more we worked on Boldlie & Co, the less time we had to document our activities and work on other initiatives here at Zibbet. It was a bit of a catch 22. In order to share our lessons on building a handmade business we needed to build a handmade business.
But we we’re constantly struggling between our ambitions to grow Boldlie & Co while growing the Zibbet audience at the same time. Sometimes our content would suffer because we couldn’t give it the amount of attention it deserves. Other times, our business suffered and we weren’t able to operate it as if an owner might.
We came to a realization: the time we spent on Boldlie & Co could be better spent making Zibbet a better resource – for you to be a better entrepreneur.
So, what’s happening now?
When you first start your business, it’s all about experimenting. It’s about trying as hard as you can, reading about every single strategy, testing them and see what works.
Sometimes experiments don’t work. Sometimes they do but it’s not sustainable when it comes to time, money or resources.
Other times, you stumble upon your gold mine and everything comes into place.
We just haven’t found our gold mine – and that’s ok. We’re going to keep trying.
Over the course of the last few months, we’ve grown a little attached to our shop so we won’t be shutting down Boldlie & Co. We simply won’t be documenting our business activities anymore. You’ll still be able to read all our Handmade to $100K posts and apply our strategies to your business but we won’t be publishing anything for a while.
Instead, we’re taking some breathing space away from the Zibbet blog. We’re going to go back to our drawing boards in order to create something with more meaning.
Right now, we just want to say thank you.
Thank you for reading, thank you for watching our Instagram updates, thank you for sharing your experiences and coming along for the ride. At the end of the day – it’s ok to fail.
One last thing. What have you tried and failed at? I’d love for you to leave your experiences in the comments below.