As 2011 Ends, Some Reflection; As 2012 Begins, Some Anticipation

As I sat at my Mom’s over the four day Christmas holiday I did no planning as I had intended to do. Much to my surprise, Christmas was a family affair, not just my immediate family, and even we were not complete, three of my Mother’s siblings were present as were their families, or most of them. It was chaotic, involved driving back and forth and resulted with me sick over the course of two of three days that I spent at home. Monday was the only day that I didn’t feel too sick and even that is half true.

As I laid around, I gave considerations to the year that will close in five days and the year that will begin in six days. I’m excited. I’m excited for both.

 

You may be wondering why I am excited about both and the answer is because 2011 was fantastic and 2012 will be just as, if not more. Now that doesn’t mean that 2011 didn’t have it’s share of ups and downs, tears, and moments of extreme feeling down because they did. 2011 also saw me not travel at all. There was no exotic trip to Turkey like I wanted, or even a small trip across the ocean to one of my favorite European cities. No. None of that. I did however take my little brother on a road trip across most of the United States and we had a blast. It was yes, a vacation, but it was also work-I slept little.

Regardless, I barely spent time with Sara, or rather, I spent time with Sara when I was in a funk and forced to evaluate where I was and how I felt.  I’m in no way knocking the sad moments, nope, they are just as important as the positive and I’m aware that as 2012 becomes more of a reality, there will be more negatives. It is the wave that we all ride, but there is a lot to be said for outlook and thinking positively, even in the negative, and finding a goal to guide and help us float along.

So what was so great about 2011? 

S2 grew in leaps and bounds. Firstly, I got a website. A real website with a designer I trust like crazy that works on it regularly. Hooray! I did three markets, sold more orders, made more money, even though I also spent a lot of money, learned a few new skills, got a printer I trust with my life, met more people in the design industry and made connections, created a newsletter, got on Twitter (thanks to Eric Kuhn!)  and created a new fan page on Facebook, and made plans for the BIG trip in 2012.

S2 has an online presence. This sort of goes with the above (especially the website bit), but it deserves it’s own section because well it’s huge. Gone is the girl that used to attempt to control how she came up in Google searches! Now, I google S2 Stationery and Design to see where and how I appear and sometimes I get excited. My website comes up first and foremost. My blogging for the {NewNew} blog comes up. My twitter and Etsy shops come up. My facebook fan page comes up. My NYC marathon fundraising page comes up (with a reference to S2 stationery and Design) and then photos come up too in an image search. It’s incredible! I don’t think if I had this business would I be so socially involved.

S2 got feedback.  Back to the shows for a minute–I had no idea what to expect from them. Of course, I went in, especially with Celebrate Brooklyn, thinking I’d make money. And I did, just not enough to cover the costs of product, my time, taxi charges, table decor, food, etc. I’ve talked extensively about this after each show in past posts, but by the time Crafts in Chelsea came around, I just wanted to get my name out there and that’s exactly what I did. I burned through many business cards and got a lot of great feedback about my business cards and logo. In all of that, I also got feedback about my ready-to-buy products. People like my items-they find them funny and cute and well made. I noticed especially at the last market, Yelp Giftacaular Holiday Market, that people long for the texture of paper. I could see it in how their hands would linger on cards, or as they flipped through each piece to the next. I could hear it in their voices when they talked to me about my products and if they could buy glitter envelopes alone. That longing didn’t quite add up to sales, BUT they did show me that I am on the right track, I just need to work on my marketing/sales balance. Many times we entrepreneurs get really excited about our products and we delve into them and make and then get disappointed when they don’t sell or people aren’t clamoring to buy the product. You can’t be disappointed if you don’t know, or you’re not listening to your potential customers.

S2 learned about pricing and whom she’d like her ideal customer to be. Two years ago and even in 2011, I wanted to make sales. I thought I was gaining exposure by making sales. More sales are great, but if they are not fulfilling work then the sales aren’t great. I posted quite a bit on value and stationery and my work especially in the fall of this year, but all of that was to learn that I don’t want to work with cheap clients, or those who don’t trust and try to limit me as an artist. I’m over it! I’m not saying that my past clients were like this because they weren’t, but I had a few clients that drove me insane and in the end, I realized that it wasn’t worth the money to be driven insane. I wouldn’t be happy with my work and therefore it was best to just walk away. Tough lesson. Tough decision. Necessary action and direction for growth.

When it comes to my ideal customer, well, I can’t tell you sex, age, neighborhood, race, or income amount, but I can tell you this he/she loves paper and quality and skill and customer service that goes above and beyond what is found anywhere else. He or she is educated enough to appreciate the written word and communication. This customer also wants unique and custom offerings.  This person does have more money than most, but more importantly this person values quality and because of that they are willing to spend money on my service and product to convey the message they want and are trying to capture.

S2 learned what exactly she’s offering and has a better idea of where she wants to go. This one is HUGE! Why? Well because it’s taken two years and a few projects to get here. When I started S2 Stationery and Design, I boldly stated that I had no desire nor intention to do babies or weddings. I ate that statement after four months of opening shop.  I have found myself in the last year enjoying weddings and babies and hope to do more in the fields of wedding and babies, but I also find myself making bigger and better plans. I know that the future of S2 Stationery and Design will involve two major developments: a paper learning center where individuals interested in the arts of paper and communications can learn, create, and even teach; the second is a communications studio. One where organizations looking to send real and truly unique and meaningful communications can hire writers like moi to help them find their voice and project messages that add value in a world where all the noise and chatter can drown them out.

You are probably scratching your head here thinking, ‘HOLD THE PHONE, SARA STROMAN! These two have nothing to do with making wedding invitations and personalized stationery. What is the connection?”

My answer to you is that you are indeed correct, BUT S2 Stationery and Design needs alternate revenue streams and rather than create products that are hard to sell, or that people are not interested in, I’d rather help people become effective communicators and communicate that love of words, communication, paper, and art to a whole new generation that need skills and language.

S2 got creative. Again, you’re probably thinking, ‘duh, Sara, you are creative otherwise you wouldn’t have a design company’ and again I’d say you are correct, BUT 2011 really made me get more creative. 2011 tested me in ways I didn’t think before. Prime example, the custom designer had to create pieces that would sell on their own. Boy did I! As a matter of fact, some of those ideas were faster to me than ideas for custom orders.

Ever since I started S2 I’ve had to clean up my perspective of nature. I’ve learned to view things I might not have considered art before, art. I’ve learned to look at colors that surround me every day and attempt to bring them to life in my work. I’ve learned to be more curious about objects, viewpoints, situations, politics and even people that I might not have considered before, or been repulsed by. All of this has shaped the way in which I am inspired and in which I create and design.

Sara of S2 started networking. I have always disliked networking. I find it tedious and difficult and just not fun. Of course, I’m saying this, the girl who is uber social and who can make friends in a matter of minutes. But networking has always been different. Ever since my days in DC where I was defined by my non-profit entry level assistant type jobs, I have detested the question, “what do you do?” and because of it I have attempted at all costs to avoid having that conversation and answering that question. I am Sara Stroman after all; I am not definable by my job. Yet, in the last two years, I’ve become more comfortable with the question. For the first time, I can say, “I’m Sara Stroman, bitches” (I say that in my best Dave Chappelle impersonation voice not in offense). I finally feel confident in what I do and the business I run. I find myself constantly talking about S2 to people, even when I’m at events for my 9-to-5. I hand out my business cards and talk about paper and my passion and my dream. I now have something to talk about; something that blazes on my shirt the way Superman’s diamond S does, it says dream follower and doer– I’ll take that any day and network my way to success!

That’s a whole lot and there is still so much to learn and do, but I can tell you this, all will continue in 2012. For example, something I really need to do early in January is sit down and take all of my expenses and make notes of the data. From this I’ll be able to see where I can cut and how I can create more of a lean business.  Even though I’m not looking forward to this process (I am horrible with numbers),  I’ve decided to look at this optimistically because I will learn more about my habits  and from that can make target goals and objectives. I will also be able to have concrete figures about investments I made for the business and whether they were losses or gains. Extremely important stuff here people!

I have a lot to look forward to in the new year and I’m incredibly excited. There are a lot of small steps to make for growth, but I’m getting there.  I will also find myself at the edge of a cliff, a big one, possibly as big as the Grand Canyon, not that it is just a cliff, but you get what I mean. When I jump in July, I should be mostly ready financially, but what is more is that I’ll be ready mentally and emotionally. They say that the distance from one side to the other of the Grand Canyon is something like two miles. That’s a long leap to make, but I’m ready to get to the other side.

This leap will offer me financial independence and freedom in a way that I can only compare to a bird flying. I’m hoping that with this flight, I grow and learn more. I also hope that it allows me to become the leader that I already flirt with daily as well as a social mover and shaker. By that I mean, help the world.

These are tall orders, I know, but I wouldn’t have them without all the experiences and opportunities I’ve had this year.

In 2012, I will write again in more detail about what my plans are for the year. I will discuss what my top three focuses are what exactly everything I’ve written above means in terms of real actual achievable nuggets.

Let the anticipation begin! Here’s to planning, entrepreneurship and dreams.

Oh and tomorrow, I’ll post my favorite columns of December 2011. We’ll go out with a bang, friends!

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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