Monday, September 24, 2018

Take The Jump

This week, I had a follower on instagram private message me and inquire about how I started "it all".  She provided me with flattering feedback and went on to ask for suggestions about where she should even begin with following her passion.  Well, Jessica Lunsford,  you inspired me to write this post today--just a few days after we have launched our online shop!

Vivid Hue Home Online Shop

To think it all started with this blog is pretty crazy.  My first post was on February 2, 2012 and the topic was about Massimo Vitali (one of my favorite photographers).  I discussed where to acquire budget friendly Massimo Vitali Impostors .  That single post has since yielded over 20,000 impressions...periodically I have to remind myself to go back and check the post itself to make sure the original images are still showing up.

Read another Massimo Vitali post here
The years that have followed are a bit like child-raising:  In the midst of it all, time seems to stand still; the days are long, but then one day you look back and the babies are tweens and you wonder how it happened so quickly.

In preparing this post, I'm reminded of the numerous hours I spent In the beginning creating daily blog posts, oftentimes staying up well past midnight to ensure I did not miss my self-imposed daily publishing goal.  Now, only a handful of years later, I have opened a storefront and just launched our online shop.  And somehow, I still find myself staying up past midnight many nights working on duties related to Vivid Hue Home.
Vivid Hue Home, 2nd shop.  Photo Courtesy of Shelia Casey 

But let's back up...
From the get-go, my mantra has been:

stay true to yourself
do what works best for you
take baby steps

I'm not saying this path is tried and true or even conventional, but it has worked for me.

In 2007, I found myself having left my career working with a major digital advertising agency so that I could help my husband open his medical practice in Connecticut.  I was a young new mom and loved the flexibility of putting so much attention into our own entrepreneurial endeavor.  My skills from my "previous career" came in handy and I was able to manage the financial and staffing aspects of the new practice.  However, after several years, I realized that I wasn't addressing my own drive and passion.  I needed more to fulfill me personally.

On a whim, I decided to create the blog as an outlet to showcase my own home projects and also highlight designers and artists for whom I personally loved.  I also liked to decorate using colorful patterns and colors.  Thus, "vivid hue" and "home" decor seemed to go together.
Vivid Hue Home was born.  

This was the original Vivid Hue Home blog design.  I found a web designer through etsy that could customize the template for me so it wouldn't look so cookie-cutter.

 I was stringent at first about my need to publish a blog post every single day.   After posting, I spent several more hours each day networking with other bloggers. This was before instagram and therefore comments on a blog feed were gold.  I spent each night networking with other design bloggers, commenting on their posts, Hosting them on Vivid Hue, and being featured on their blogs.  We were all relatively new and just starting out then.  And now, it's fun to see how many of those friends have grown.
Maria Barros + The Pink Pagoda on Vivid Hue Home 
Lance Jackson and David Ecton of Parker Kennedy were just two years into building their empire!    Reagan Geschardt and her husband, Danny, were extremely talented artists (and still are) but hadn't yet launched their fabulous textile business, Broome Street Studios.  Back then, Reagan and I would message back and forth and swap questions about how to overcome technology challenges on our blogs and websites.
Broome Street Studios Photo Courtesy 
Linda from Calling It Home featured me on her blog and held a fun little contest called "One Room Challenge" way before it had been officially trademarked and sponsored by House Beautiful.  (see ONE ROOM CHALLENGE  ).

Since then we've each branched out into unique directions; either designing textiles, opening storefronts, or extending interior design businesses.   The common denomenator:

This building a brand stuff takes dedication.

 and steps.  Do what you can, as you can manage it.

In 2015, I felt an urge to turn the blog into "more."  A store front seemed like an obvious extension of the blog.  I could sell some of the designs featured on my blog by the artists I loved.  As time permitted, I would brainstorm about location.  When I saw a storefront available for lease near my area, I would call to inquire about pricing.  This allowed me to begin to understand the market and where I may be able to afford to open a store.  One day, I spotted a vacant street-facing cottage In my town.  It was tiny but the rent was literally 1/10th lower cost than that of other towns (and I knew this because I'd been gathering data).

Better yet, the landlord was willing to negotiate an 18 month lease rather than a standard 60 month or longer.  I decided that it was almost very little risk for me to take the leap.

Making the decision to turn a hobby into an actual business where there are now financial factors to consider is extremely scary.  I was fortunate that my business background in managing financial budgets for clients and then also managing finances for our medical practice prepared me with skills and confidence to be able to do so In the shop business.  There is a significant amount of structural ground work that must be laid out when beginning a business.  To name a few:

  • I had to declare Vivid Hue Home as a business with our local town.  
  • I had to establish a State Tax ID for the business which meant I would now be required to report quarterly taxes.  
  • I needed a financial book keeping system and selected the Quicken software because it was what we were already using for the medical practice.  
  • I decided that I would need support staff right from the start because I wanted to also continue to be available for my family.  
  • I decided to utilize the third-party payroll company and our accountant from the medical practice for Vivid Hue as well (so In that regard, it helped to have already set up a previous business).  
  • I had to research inventory tracking tools (I selected Clover Point of Sale- POS only because we were banking with Bank of America and that was their POS system).  
  • I also needed a Merchant Service account for processing credit card fees (and again, to keep it simple for myself, I selected Bank of America simply because we were already customers there).  
  • I opened a business bank account and ordered a business credit card and checks. 
  • I had to learn about opening wholesale accounts with vendors and meeting minimum order requirements.  This involved researching unique vendor brands and products and finding out their contact information (this continues to be a continual part of the business).  
  • I needed to determine how I would market my business, would I pay for advertising and would it be print or online marketing? 

One aspect that helped me significantly is that I'd grown my social media presence already through years of blogging.  My facebook presence was large and my instagram following was growing.

During this venture, I learned quickly that everyone seems to have an opinion about how you should do things.  Most people are supportive and well-intentioned but if someone offers advice that doesn't work for your vision, don't take it personally.  For example, In the beginning, a handful of people questioned how I could operate the shop without always being there during every open hour.  What they didn't realize is that even if I am not physically present at the shop, I am always connected- Sometimes literally communicating with my team continually through out the day while I'm In between activities for my kids.

I soon learned to have confidence In my own personal way for operating my own business.  How I operate works best for me and will allow me to sustain this business well into the future.

do what works best for you

After 18 months In our charming cottage, we were literally busting at the seams and ready for a larger location.  As luck (or fate) would have it, an available location opened up two doors away from the cottage.  It was three times larger.  It was also directly next door to a very popular bakery that draws a large lunch crowd daily.    My mantra "baby steps" played through my head but this also seemed like the perfect opportunity.  

Vivid Hue Home Bigger Location 

That is another thing about growing a brand and being an entrepreneur: sometimes it's not so much about luck as it is opportunity meeting preparedness.  And when opportunity falls right into your lap, you have to be prepared to take a calculated risk if it means one more step towards growth.  

We moved into our larger location In April 2017 and it was the best decision yet.  There was increased foot traffic, increased visibility and higher revenue daily.

Last fall, after an unusually slow sales day In the shop, I decided on a whim to post our adorable palm pajamas onto instagram.  Only this time, I told our followers that I would sell and ship to anyone across the United States.  Previously, we didn't ship and our products were limited to those that could physically visit our store front In Connecticut.

That evening from the comfort of my living room, I sold over thirty pajamas to be shipped to across the country.  This was a game changer.

Selling on instagram quickly became a signifiant financial aspect of our Vivid Hue brand.   And so, In the spring of 2018, we began planning and developing our online shop so that we could bring our products to you even more seamlessly.

I'm so thrilled with this latest step In our business.  We still have other personal milestones to accomplish with building the Vivid Hue brand and we'll see how those unfold as opportunities come across our plate In the months and years to come.

It can be very scary to take that first step towards doing what will personally fulfill you.  I would encourage you to force yourself to do it.  Once you "jump" it becomes less scary and you'll find that you  become more and more confident.  Be willing to execute your plan the way that works best for you, not necessarily the way that others feel you should be doing it.  Be willing to put In the time.  Anything worth doing takes time and dedication.   Be patient.  Be willing to shift gears that will allow you to capitalize on the opportunities that cross your path.

And then, sit back and enjoy the happiness that comes your way from doing something you truly enjoy.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support.