Reflecting on 2021 and goals for this year
I have been feeling burnt out over the last few months. At the start of the year I was swamped with Top Drawer preparations, which led to an influx of wholesale orders post-show, and then I had commissions to fulfil. After months without being able to pause I finally have some time to reflect on my achievements in 2021 and create new goals for this year.
So, happy late 2022! I hope you are having a great start of the year so far. 2021 for me was a mixed bag, but unquestionably better than 2020. It was really nice to be able to see my family and friends again, some of whom I hadn’t seen for nearly two years.
I also chose not to attend reopening markets in 2021 due to fear of catching coronavirus, and just as significantly, being unable to communicate at events with a mandatory mask protocol due to my deafness and inability to lipread. I was frustrated at first but what could I do? I decided it was not productive to dwell on it. I looked for the upside - I had more time in my schedule to do other things rather than prepare for markets, and my weekends are my own again for pure leisure! Without further ado, here are my highlights of 2021...
My Wildflowers postcard set was featured in the January issue of Modern Gardens magazine. Of course I had to pick up a copy!
Virtual trade show
Top Drawer S/S 2021 was postponed to 2022 while the pandemic was still ongoing, so they still organised a virtual trade show where we got a chance to connect with buyers via an online portal. It was not quite the same as the real-life show, but I enjoyed the opportunity at a difficult time and received a few orders.
New drawing tablet
I decided to invest in a drawing tablet. Over the last year, it has been an incredible addition to my art process. The drawing tablet eliminates excessive pencil lines, and the convenience of the tablet actually enhances my drawing skill. It is so much easier to sketch and my linework is cleaner because it is so easy to undo the stroke compared to using an eraser. I still paint traditionally though - I just print out the drawing from the tablet and transfer the linework onto watercolour paper using a lightbox before I start painting.
Exciting new stockists
I welcomed Nottingham Castle and RHS Bridgewater as new stockists!
New card clasps
I started offering a ‘naked’ packaging option for greeting cards to wholesale customers with my new card clasps that keep the envelope safe. I’d spent several months testing samples and I found a supplier that carries great low-tack clasps that are paper based and 100% recyclable. I am really pleased with their eco-friendliness compared to plastic sleeves! I also started to offer compostable sleeves for customers that may prefer their cards to be more protected.
This is more of a personal than business achievement but it did heavily inspire my latest collection that I launched at the end of February - English Garden. I grew 2 varieties of tomatoes, 3 varieties of runner beans, courgettes, radishes, Swiss chard, strawberries and purple sprouting broccoli. The radishes and broccoli weren’t successful but the huge success of my tomatoes made up for it - I ended up with so many green tomatoes which I had to harvest before the first frost in November. I have turned all of the green tomatoes into a delicious chutney.
New card designs
I launched 13 new cards which I think is a record! I created 4 Valentine’s Day, 3 Mother’s Day, 2 Father’s Day, and 4 Christmas cards. I incorporated my love for houseplants into each of the new designs. I am excited to be offering even more card choices to my customers.
One of my dreams over the last few years finally came true - I designed and produced washi tapes to add to my range. I love how beautifully they came out, and to my delight they have been a hit for my stockists and my shop. I also designed a second collection of wooden decorations and a screen printed tote bag, which are also houseplant themed.
Whew - it looks like 2021 was all about houseplant designs. Houseplants make us happy - I can’t imagine my range without them!
Reviewing my 2021 goals, it looks like I more or less achieved all of my goals for the year. My first goal was to create more products often and I am definitely proud with how many products I designed, although if I am tough with myself, I feel I could have designed more if I didn’t lose motivation over the summer. Sales suddenly stopped coming in for a couple of months, which I believe is because of my terrible reach on Instagram. How many times have I told myself not to put all of my eggs in one basket!
My second goal was to step up with marketing. I tried a few Facebook ads and sending more newsletters, which did bring in a few more customers, but I didn’t see massive results so I did get a bit demotivated and let it slide towards the end of the year. Now I am being reminded of this as my Instagram reach is struggling again - I would like to get back on top of it this year, especially during the quietest periods.
My third goal was better planning, and oh my gosh - setting this goal was a game changer. All 4 card launches I did were well planned and I avoided a last-minute rush by designing about 1-2 months in advance, providing plenty of time to get them produced and shipped out to suppliers. The same for my Christmas cards, wooden decorations and washi tape which I launched in October and November - which was early for me! I found that being organised reduced stress greatly and I will try to keep in the habit.
I would love to learn from those goals and keep them up for many years to come. I am on the fence about the goal of creating more products often, though. All of my products tend to sell really well when they launch, but their sales slow down eventually due to my struggles with marketing. I am also ordering in larger quantities since I now receive regular wholesale orders. As a result my studio space is starting to feel very crowded with all the new products, so I will probably work harder on marketing and try to reach more new customers rather than creating new products, burning a hole in my purse, and filling up my studio.
Finally it is time to talk about my goals for this year despite the late start…
Diversify social media profile
Instagram is my favourite social media platform. It is very visual and a fantastic way to discover fellow makers and connect with customers. I have neglected other social media and my blog due to being busy and bad at juggling several channels. It has become clear to me that I am overly reliant on Instagram to bring me sales. It is my sales converter by an order of magnitude over any of my other platforms, but Instagram’s algorithm has become more and more unpredictable so my reach varies wildly. When my posts flop my sales are instantly and dramatically affected too. I want to make some changes to how I use social media, which will include getting back on Twitter and Pinterest and blogging more this year. I accept that fluctuating sales is a reality of running a small business, but I hope that this move will reduce the impact of a single platform.
And that’s it! I decided to have just one goal this year. Marketing and social media doesn’t come naturally to me because I struggle with language and access issues, particularly as video content is so important these days. I am not confident about marketing at all so this goal is going to be a challenge for me.
What are your goals this year and how are they working out so far?
Thank you so much for your support last year and this year so far. Have an amazing rest of the year!