On the Search for Failure

I’ve determined, after seven years, that I’m on the search for failure.

I’m also on the search for success. Grand success. Maybe not the kind of success that allows me fancy cars and houses across the globe, but success that allows me the items I desire: helping others; living comfortably, without worrying about paying bills, or deciding if buying underwear is more of a priority than groceries, as an example; being able to help my family reach that same level of comfortable; traveling when I want and to where ever I want; less stress and more health.

No where in there am I striving to amass a great wealth. I do want to be secure for my future, should I be fortunate to live to my 99th birthday, but again, I want the security in the points above.

For around a month or so, I’ve mentioned closing the custom & wedding side of S2 Stationery and Design. And I have. October 1st, closed that door. And I’m glad it has been closed. It’s left me with time to really focus on the things I want to focus on and most importantly plan for the ways I want to grow S2.

I’m no where near complete on my goals. They’re evolving and every time I write one down, another comes to me later. Not to mention, I have other things that pop up and show up and steer my path a different way, which I know shifts my goals a bit more.

This past weekend, I found myself discussing with very good friends my goals for both my business and personal life. We discussed pregnancy and relationships. We discussed it all honestly. What sticks from the two conversations was the statement I said several times in both:

I’m never going to be happy until I actually fail. Until, I can say, I did the best I could with the stationery and I failed and it’s time for me to be an adult and stop following this dream.

Chances are, I’m not going to fail. I know in my heart that what I’m doing is what I’m suppose to be doing. I know it’s hard to explain and for those who aren’t like-minded to understand or even begin to fathom, but I’m not going to fail. Mostly because I don’t see failing as a bad thing. I think even in the things that don’t go right, or that crash and burn, or realize that something I felt so strongly about doesn’t work any more and needs to be revamped or cancelled or changed, there is opportunity. There is growth. This is the natural flow of life.

I’m sure I will fail in little ways as this dream continues, but I wouldn’t quite say that this journey has been a failure thus far.

It is this reason that I struggle now. That I’ve been struggling for the past three years since returning from Japan. It is why, I’ve allowed myself to fall into this abyss of uncertainty and comfortable, yet uncomfortable, discomfort while working a job I don’t like and going through the motions of living a life that isn’t doing anything for me or my goals.

I have good friends at my job, I have made great connections and I’ve allowed myself to believe that I need this backup because at one time, I did. And I’m sure I need this backup a little bit longer, too, but the reality is that until I let go of the backup, I’m never really going to fail and because I’ve yet to really “fail,” I’m going to continue to stay annoyed and in this uncertain abyss because this doesn’t make me happy. This doesn’t make me motivated to grow or change or fail.

And so, all of this has led me back to the point of origin for S2 Stationery & Design. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to get back to the root – to the dream that launched this business idea and company seven years ago. Once that’s in order, I’m adding the passion project that I believe will be my legacy.

Once these things are ironed out, I’m sure my future will look bright, my pockets will be as well, and I’ll be living a life where failure isn’t something I’m seeking, it’s something I’m staring at and saying, “hello, where are you taking me next?”

I can’t wait to share all of this with you!

 

“When I get married, I’m totally having you do my invites.” – Why I’m Changing the Business Offerings of S2 Stationery & Design + When

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An advertisement I snapped a picture of just before leaving Japan in January, 2013. That was 3.5 years ago and this sign seems more relevant now than it did the day I took the photo.

I’ve been running S2 Stationery & Design for over seven years now.

Yep, you read that correct, SEVEN YEARS!!

And it’s time for a change.

You already know the story, the idea for S2 came to me while traveling around Italy a month after my father’s death in 2009. It was a series of signs that came to me and then a dream that resulted in this dance I’ve been doing since. A dance that has turned into a full-fledged and non-stop Merengue (the kind where you’re left gasping and wondering when the damn song is going to end) in 2012.

There are moments where I honestly believe that I’ve worked my ass off to get to this point. Then, there are moments where I don’t believe I’ve worked my ass off to get this point. Those moments are the most difficult. Those are the days and nights where I struggle to sleep because I don’t have enough money to pay this bill or do that thing with my friends, or to pay back someone I borrowed money from a few weeks prior. It is exhausting and I wonder if I should at that point pack it in and be an adult – find a 9-to-5 job that pays me well enough to stop the stress. Those are the nights that have and continue to leave me feeling stuck.

People like me love to talk about following their passions. As they should. We are following our passions that come across as outrageous and/or out-of-the-box, and that anyone who is looking for stability wouldn’t understand. What I’m doing is not for the faint of heart, but nothing about following your passion is glamorous or inspiring for that matter. That last point often gets glossed over when people choose to deal with the awe of tossing common sense for a passion.

Following my passion, has required me to become comfortable with asking for help (which I rarely did before), saying no (even to people I love the most), feeling lonely (I barely go out any more), gaining weight (stress beats the shit out of your body), and living in a space of doubt, so much doubt, that I’m continuously uncertain of my accomplishments.

Something that people who talk about following their passions never really discuss is the sticky space of what happens when, like me, you don’t have thousands of dollars saved up and have to work a job to help bring in money so that you can survive and afford the basic necessities. There are so many people, gurus of this “follow your passion” movement, who have taken office jobs to save money and then quit. They talk about this as though it’s a temporary solution that is magical. And it may have been for them, but as someone who has sat in this space for a while now, it’s killing me.

I found my current 9-to-6 job at a point where what I was doing was not working. Where I was bouncing from lots of part-time jobs that kept me from focusing on S2 Stationery and had me resent my decision to quit my job. Let me be a bit more clear -I was resenting the loss of the steady income I no longer had, not the job itself. Working for the last company I worked for was not all that pleasant and I know I made the right decision by leaving.

I know this sounds dramatic, but I feel the same way I felt a few years ago when I was working for a big corporation in NYC. While I haven’t reached the point of crying for the 30-minute duration of my commute, the unhappiness has resulted in overeating, not exercising, not wanting to get up in the morning early enough to do work I need to get done for S2, etc. And I’m fed up with it. Honestly, I’ve been daydreaming about quitting and all the ways it can happen.

Now, the part of me that wants to maintain my car and apartment, fight this and that’s why I do eventually get up and get dressed and go to work. And that part reminds me that I need to motivate myself and do the work that I need to do. And this same part reminds me that it’s time to create goal deadlines to get out of this situation.

All of this leads me to changes…and you may be thinking that you’ve gotten to this point and still don’t understand the quoted bit in the post’s title, “When I get married, I’m totally having you do my invites.”  Let me explain…

When I started S2, I was a diehard fan of creating wedding invites. I wanted to spend a ton of my time working with brides and catering to their needs and whims in a design capacity. I have been told so many times, I’ve lost count, the quote above, and finally after seven years, I’ve decided that I don’t want to hear it any more. Primarily because it’s not true. Every single person who has made that statement has in fact, not used my design for their wedding, nor have they even reached out.

Now, before you accuse me of sounding bitter, note that I’m not. I’m actually quite gleeful that I’m shutting down the wedding invitation design side of S2 Stationery & Design. In fact, I’m shutting down a lot of the custom design business. And I’m quite glad.

It’s been seven years since I started this journey and while I’ve enjoyed every single customer I’ve worked for and every single project I’ve commissioned, as I take stock of both myself personally and my business professionally, I’m letting go of the things that are not worth my time. I’m saying, “NO!” to the stuff that isn’t fulfilling me anymore. I’m saying no to even the thought of a promise that isn’t there.

The next stage of S2 is taking shape and has been vaguely discussed in other posts that I haven’t followed up on, and is being ironed out now, but there is still a ways to go. I’m sure I’ll do some commissioned work and maybe even the occasional wedding invite during this time (I’ve had a few people say, “crap, but I really did plan on using you when the day came!), especially if it is aligned with the work I’m transitioning to, but I’m no longer holding out on promises and work that does not nourish me or my creative pursuits.  This isn’t about the money, or lack there of, either. No, this is about the nourishment. Finally! Right now, the nourishment is found elsewhere and I’m excited for this change.

I’m finalizing some creative projects now, but in Quarter 4, starting October 1st, S2 is moving away from the custom work you’ve known. I’ll still be making stationery sets and individual greeting cards. I’ll still have these wares at markets, but the real work – the work my soul has been longing for the past two years begins. I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date in a more consistent fashion as things change over.

More soon!

S2 Awareness Projects: S2 Stands for Choice

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Today is a big day in the world of women’s rights. The Supreme Court of the United States is hearing oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which will determine how far states may go in regulating abortions without violating a woman’s constitutional rights.

As you know from announcements made earlier this year, on this blog, S2 is a liberal heart with strong opinions. I’ll admit when I’m wrong. I’ll always tell you if I change my mind, heart, and/or story.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my beliefs are my beliefs and I don’t believe that those beliefs should be the same as your beliefs, but I do believe that my beliefs shouldn’t be questioned as moral or unmoral. Sure, there are instances where we should raise questions about morality – murder is one of them, but we should also question whether state induced murder is moral as well, or if the killing of civilians during unnecessary war is moral.

The underlining point in most of our morality issues is religion. It is a matter of whether or not you believe that your faith in “God” is more than every other individual. If we removed this notion of your faith being above another, we might have real conversations about real issues. Instead we fight about things that don’t really require the amount of hate, venom and anger they foster.

Oh, for the record, I do believe in A God.  There are women with “morals” that had a belief system that still believe in choice and the ability to determine whether something is right for me or not. That believes in my body as a part of the greater world and understands that my intuition that guides me is as much a blessing as an answer from the spirit that oversees us all.

The reason I believe in choice is because I maintain that it is my body. It is not a body to inflict morality on. It is SOLELY mine. As long as I’m not murdering a child or adult, or whale or deer, etc, or purposely filling the air with methane from a massive leak or allowing tons of oil to spill in our water ways, I don’t see how my decision to abort a fetus is any concern of yours. In fact, because our Country is so hateful toward people who are poor, broken, and downtrodden, I would assume that my decision to abort would be a blessing to those who don’t want the tax burden of taking care of another individual. Clearly I’m wrong. Everyone, especially men, want to be inside my uterus and inflict their morality on it. Enough is enough.

Anyone who thinks that denying women a voice or choice or decision-making abilities and disguise it as “health care for women” is sadly mistaken and wrong. As I keep telling people, just as I don’t judge you for having one or more kids, don’t judge a woman for having an abortion.

Oh and back to that morality point – IF we want to talk about God and morals, lets talk about how it is low-morality to judge another person. Jesus took in Mary Magdalene and she was labeled all kinds of immoral. In my eyes, she is the 13th Apostle that nobody cares to talk about.

I’ve digressed. I’ve ranted. This is my blog after all. But all of this is to say that today, March 2nd is an important day. Our Supreme Court can once again change the course of women’s rights and health with one decision. We will all be effected by their ruling in the coming months.

And so I share several things:

  1. The S2 Awareness Project Planned Parenthood Cards that are available on Etsy. Half of your purchase will be donated to Planned Parenthood to help continue their much needed work.
  2. Today, I donated $50.00 to Planned Parenthood on behalf of customers who purchased card sets and individual cards when they launched in late 2015. If you are inclined, you can donate to Planned Parenthood directly without making a purchase. What matters is that we continue to fight for our rights.
  3. I highly recommend that you read the following overview by The Washington Post of the oral arguments heard by SCOTUS today.
  4. I also highly recommend that you watch this video of John Oliver explaining the state of women’s choice and abortion in the US.

By all means women should have safe access to healthcare, but attacking women, stigmatizing them with guilt and shame, and forcing women to act in a manner that is not for them is not helping anyone, including this debate.

 

Launching “S2 Awareness Projects” – Stationery for Social Change

When I started S2 Stationery & Design six years ago, I wanted to work with paper and share that love of paper with the World! I wanted to also share my love of writing and importance of letters, words and sincere sentiment. I didn’t realize how quite difficult that would be.

See, there are people like me, the kind who love, absolutely love everything about paper. They love cards of all kinds – witty, snarky, funny, emotional, handmade, etc. They also love beautiful things – design, paper, quality – and don’t mind paying a higher price for that experience and they want to share that experience with their loved ones. Then there are the other people – the kind that may love paper, but they definitely don’t like paying over $2.00 for a card. They also don’t care about the design details – the elements that make them stand out. These are the people that may shop at Target and CVS for their cards. They may not be writers, but they on occasion like to send out a card to a loved one. This group also likes to send out photograph cards at the Holidays that they order online and spend maybe less than a dollar per card.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve mailed out Holiday photo cards before, especially after a big international trip. They’re fun. But they’re also impersonal. That being said, one of the similarities I find between the two groups of people above is that they both suffer from not having enough time and/or good enough reason to write. Everyone loves getting handwritten cards and notes in the mail, regardless of the paper quality, but nobody has the time to write said cards and notes. So we end up with a group of people that are both admirers to a degree, but have no way of connecting, nor motivation to connect outside of modern technology – email, text, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and whatever new app has appeared.

In the end, people want to connect. They are dying to connect. Many people are hurting because they cannot connect. They feel too stressed, endlessly busy, pressured to conform, and an entire host of other ailments and they connect in a not-so-connected way. I wanted to fix that. I wanted to swirl into the Stationery Town like the Tazmanian Devil (I admit, I’m kind of that way) and shake the Town down to it’s core with my fine papers and envelopes and stationery sets. I wanted to help connect people and make a living doing that and then proudly wave the banner of success to everyone. To some degree I have, but to many degrees I have not.

Six years that have included a trip to Japan to learn paper making, quitting more than a few jobs, almost losing my apartment and car one too many times to count, asking friends for way more help than I’ve done ever, learning to appreciate all that I have and not focus on all that I don’t, losing some friends in the process, becoming more comfortable with me time and saying no, working from more Starbucks than I’d like because of free wifi, constantly being on the yo-yo of doubting myself for these decisions and then loving them, sleeping way too much than I should, gaining more weight than I’m comfortable with, taking a month to care for my almost-two-year-old niece, constantly being inspired and creating new products, and I’m sure quite a few more things that I’m forgetting to mention, I’m taking a detour on this Stationery train ride and I’m taking a long stop in an area that I’d equate to the Mid-west of America. Which is quite appropriate given that as an 11 year old, my family moved from NYC to Ohio to allow my brother and I a chance at a normal childhood that was safe. (It makes sense to me and will to you as this rolls out.)

Where I’m headed project wise is NOT safe. And I’ll never be my 11-year-old-self again, but I’m slowing down all the engines to focus on one project and making sure that it works well and that it does what I think the world needs, connect us to those we love most and even those we don’t love, but who we could stand to love and appreciate more.

S2 Stationery is my heart. It will always be in the picture. (It is not going anywhere – the Etsy shop with the handmade papers and stationery sets will remain during this break – it just will not be the main focus.) This business courses through my veins. It makes me happy and sad; frustrated and joyful. If I ever had a life purpose this is it. However, as with all things, sometimes you need a break – you need to step away from things, see the big picture and move forward, even if that is a leap and it is scary. The things that matter the most do inspire fear, but they also create great things.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you all to S2 Awareness Projects!

S2 Awareness Projects combines stationery, politics (to a degree) and social justice.  S2 Awareness Projects share the topics and conflicts that makes S2, aka Sara Stroman, tick to make changes. These are the things that others care about, but often aren’t sure how to go about them. S2 Awareness Projects help you share your feelings, thoughts, and inspire you into written action. (We hope!) S2 Awareness Projects are transparent and will 100% of the time will raise money to donate to the cause inspiring the project and make donations on your behalf. S2 Awareness Projects is a way to make a difference, connect us and our differences and raise our voices without raising our pitchforks and/or guns.

Some, if not many, will not always agree with me or my values, but I’m willing to risk that for this project. In the end, my values and your values don’t have to be the same and if they’re not, you’re welcome to go elsewhere, however, that is not the point of this project – I want to bring people together, not tear them apart. If you’re not willing to be open-minded or hearted, this project is not for you. As much as this is a risk for me, it is a risk for you – you may grow from this project and that is always risky business.

The official slogan of S2 Awareness Projects is: “Often times, we think our differences are larger than they really are. I’m interested in finding that space and opening your heart to the similarities. By all means, your story IS your story, but that doesn’t mean you’re all that much different than me, or the person next to you. Let’s find those spaces and talk about them and make a difference, together.”

Tomorrow in this space and on Etsy and social media outlets (facebook, instagram and twitter), I’ll be announcing the first S2 Awareness Project.  Hopefully, you’ll be excited about this as much as I am.

Until, Tomorrow!

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Food, Food Issues, The Feast Montclair and S2 Stationery & Design

Every year, S2 Stationery & Design gives back. Or tries to. In the past, I’ve donated custom work to organizations working on issues important to me, the owner, Sara. I’ve worked with a Breast Cancer letter writing organization, an organization that plants trees in countries like Haiti and Honduras, an organization that helps fight for protection of the Amazon, an organization that clips coupons for military families on bases across the globe, an organization that helps fund environmental research across the globe, etc.  These donations have put me in touch with fantastic people and I’ve forged some great relationships through these projects.

This year, S2 has had to scale back on charitable giving, but last Saturday, October 11th, I was able to participate in an event that fits with the future of S2 Stationery & Design.  A lot of the explanation will need to be given at a later date – I’m still in the business planning stages here – but I want to share with you today a bit about the organization I donated time and S2 goodies – The Feast Montclair.

The Feast as described by them is:

Since 2008, The Feast has been committed to fostering a community of innovators who are revolutionizing their industries and striving for social impact. Each year we host a flagship Conference to share unique perspectives and tackle today’s greatest societal challenges. Our Conference serves as a starting point for relationships, groundbreaking projects and new initiatives that run all year long.

In 2012, we expanded internationally and created The Feast Worldwide. This independently organized series of dinner parties runs in parallel with our Conference. It gives passionate people from around the world a chance to engage their own communities in collective action.

We believe the world needs a more ambitious vision for the future. By creating that vision together, we can empower the the next generation of innovators and make our ideas tangible through technology, creative process and business models that put people first.

The Feast to me is more of a collaborative force of minds, not limited to the innovators of the world. See, everyone has creativity and possibility – it’s a matter of how it is fostered and shared.  When I was asked to participate in the Montclair hub, I jumped in. I saw endless possibility, not to mention, we decided on the topic of food and well, I’m a foodie at heart. I couldn’t say no!

As someone who helped to fill a vacant spot, I quickly became busy and juggling the planning on that end, plus working part-time and running a business, it became a bit overwhelming, but things worked out last Saturday and we were able to put on a hugely successful evening full of great speakers and full tables of conversations on how to help bridge food insecurity in the suburbs – in towns like Montclair for example. Speakers ranging from farmers to school lunch advocates to food pantry administrators helped steer attendees interested in the topic on ways to go about helping those less fortunate in their own community.

In addition to managing set up of the  venue, Watchung Booksellers, a fantastic independent book shop in Montclair,  guests were checked in, food (by the incredible Tiny Elephant Cafe that shares space with Watchung Booksellers) was served on time, I was in charge of the overall attendee experience. I was the first person guests saw when checking in. I chatted, made new acquaintances, and generally helped to keep the flow of the evening cool and collected.  I was also the person at the door at the end of the evening passing out goodie bags.  And that, my friends is where my donation really shined.

The goodie bags had a small set of my “Blank Seasonal and Local CSA Inspired Recipe Cards” in them.  It was only one of each card, so a total of five cards and they didn’t have envelopes, but that was to help foster creativity. As I wrote in a note to each guest, the cards were to give them a taste of this product that I designed with a good friend of mine to help raise money for the Long Island CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that I once was a member, and she still is a member – 20% of each sale of a set of those cards (includes 10 cards – two of each recipe and envelopes) is donated to the CSA to help low-income families buy into a farm share and eat local, seasonal and healthy food.  Now are you see why I jumped in to help with this event?  I also instructed them to come here to grab a template to use for making their own envelopes out of recycled paper, magazines, anything. I also encouraged them to use the card as a postcard, a far cheaper solution. All in the spirit of being creative and sustainable. Two things that ring true to the heart and mission of S2 Stationery & Design.

As we discussed the decor of the evening, we went back and forth on incorporating herbs and wild flowers on the tables and finally, thanks to another volunteer, created center pieces with mason jars and veggies – orange peppers, red tomatoes, radish, tomatillos, eggplant. We decided that the herbs should be something the guests would take home and use for whatever purpose they chose. I had originally thought why not make small boutonniere like satchels tied with twine and put them at every seat, but then we decided it would be better to tie the herbs around each set of cards and place them in the goodie bag. It was an easier solution for having guests take something home with them.

They came out gorgeous. Absolutely stunning really. And I’m thrilled with them! I really believe they would make a fantastic favor for any event actually, not just a Feast event focused on food. They could be used for baby showers and bridal showers; for house warming and even funerals (yes, I went there – why not pass out a favorite recipe from the loved one?!). They are 100% customizable and are fine just the way they are shown below. Either way, they are something that I’d give out regularly and often, well as often as herbs are available. They could be fine tuned to fit your town, your city, your village. These are completely and totally what you make of them and lets be honest, everyone loves food and eating. Not to mention, sharing recipes and meals is one of the oldest past times of humans – like that of storytelling.

I can’t stress enough how much I love these and how excited I am to offer these sets the public. I’m not sure how yet, but I know that thanks to some local farms in Montclair, I know where to get herbs and can start off in New Jersey ASAP. Huzzah! I owe it all to The Feast Montclair and the snazzy team of women that put it all together and helped set the path for community involvement in an issue that is near and dear to my heart – food equality – but for the future of S2 Stationery & Design.

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Anyone interested in purchasing these please contact me via my Etsy Shop or my website. These are fantastic little gifts for the upcoming Holidays! For those of you interested in a the sets with herbs and or customizing your own set with herbs, contact me via my website. Yay!

Fan Mail From Germany

A few months ago, I received an email on Etsy  from a potential customer about my glitter lined envelopes. She lives in Germany and found my glitter envelope listing and reached out for pricing and more info.

Anja was a pleasure to work with. Within our first emails we chatted about my previous visits to Germany, where I should visit on future trips to Germany, and her upcoming Honeymoon to the United States.  I would say that during the course of our 20-something odd conversations, we became pals, developing a relationship that I will appreciate for years to come. This is what I love about what I do!

My prices are higher than most because I promise to move heaven and earth no matter the cost, and/or the amount of detail. Usually, the additional cost, I cover to make sure the end product is what the client wants.  This also includes me staying true to my promise – “not only will you love the product, you will not need to do anything assembly wise for the product.” This is more so for custom work that requires assembly, although on my social stationery sets and individual cards that come with hand-lined envelopes, I do assemble the envelopes. I don’t send a customer the envelope to assemble themselves.

For many this is just part of the package, and it’s true, but to me, it is what I do.  I provide the full package, including the details so you, the customer can write, invite, or share your thoughts with loved ones with ease. Over the course of this, I hope to create a friendly relationship with the customer, because every item I design, assemble and ship out, I treat as if I were making and sending to a friend.

And Anja became a friend.

Anja got married in April and just before mailing out her invitations, she sent me photos of the invites with my envelopes. They look fantastic and as I told her, “I am humbled to have been part of your wedding celebration. To see my envelopes paired with your invitations and know that they were a collaboration of handmade by both you and I makes me so happy. Thank you again and congratulations!”icm_fullxfull.39835602_214kran15sm8gcso0cgo

I do this, make stationery for personal and social needs, with an emphasis on weddings, because I love it. I love nothing more than helping my customers and their loved ones feel heard, loved and happy. With each item I do, regardless of the occasion, I am pleased to know that a bit of me is mixing with a lot of my customer to help impact and shape the World to come. That my friends is humbling and exhausting, yet exciting.

I’m not one to toot my own horn, which I should do given that I am selling a skill, talent, and service, but I don’t. If others toot my horn, I may be a bit embarrassed, but I find that more acceptable than me placing emphasis on myself. To crack the shell a little bit, I’m sharing below one of my last emails with Anja. I found it really sweet and worthy of placing on the blog:

Hi, Sara!
How are you? After two hours of waiting at the customs office I finally got the envelopes today and the wait was worth it : )
I looovvee them!!!And my boyfriend likes them too!
Thank you very much!
They are almost too good to send them away : )
Liebe Grüße,
Anja

I am so thankful for Anja and to have been part of her celebration.

What IF Every Marathon I Ran Was To Get Me to My Business?

I was staring at my blank computer screen wondering what to write today and then the idea of Marathons and what they’ve taught me popped into my brain. It might be because it’s the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing last year. It could also be that so many of my friends are gearing up to run marathons. Then again, it could be because this past weekend, I did horribly at a market. It was a serious fail, and one that forced me to pick myself up, dust off the dirt, and move forward.

The market I speak of is the one I advertised on this blog last Friday, the Greenpointers Spring Market in Greenpoint, New York.  I was super excited for the day. I had friends, who are also independent artists and small business owners, selling at the same market and the day was expected to be gorgeous. (And it was!) I spent much of last week trying to finish up last minute designs and get them printed to gauge response levels before committing to print. I also spent a few hours practicing meditation, positive thinking, and praying for a good outcome.

Then Sunday came. It started out fairly well, even though I ended up getting to the location late and tweaking my table set up while shoppers arrived.  Then the hours started trickling by and I had customers tell me how beautiful my product is and take a business card, but no sales.  Rather than focus on that, I talked to my friends and even talked to friends that surprised me and showed up to see me and my booth.  One of them even helped spruce up my display.

At five minutes to the end of the market, I made one sale. A lovely woman stopped by and mentioned how much she loved writing notes to friends and purchased one of my favorite sets.  She mentioned how much she liked my assorted postcard set and being that I sold one card in the set to someone else (okay, I had two sales), I gave her the set of remaining cards as a freebie/thank you.  Another gentleman walked by and wanted one card from a set. I normally do not break sets of cards – a set is a set – but being that I was not making any sales at the time he came to my table, I gave him the card he wanted. We didn’t exchange money for the card, and I’m not sure what his intention was, but at that point, I figured it would be better for me to give a good away and feel like a connection was made, than to harp on not making any money.  I’ve always stood by my mission that people write and spread love using my social stationery.  Giving that one card to that man keeps me true to my personal philosophy about sharing love and communication.

As I packed up, I thought about how dismal the day had been. How even in such an amazing space, with a table near the window looking toward the Manhattan skyline, and surrounded by amazing artists and makers, I felt defeated. And then I decided I wasn’t going to feel that any more. I acknowledged the feeling and thought, “shake it off.” You can never tell how a market is going to turn out. And yes, it would have been nice to make back, at the very least, the $135 table fee, the $11 toll between New Jersey and New York, the printing expense for new products, and the gas money I spent driving between New Jersey and New York, but it is okay. I’ve lost more money before (doing consulting and custom work) and this wasn’t about me.  I mean sure I could have upped my sales pitch, but that’s not really how I sell. I prefer to share stories and connect when making a sale.  Not blaming the shoppers here, but there were moments when I’d say hi and attempt to introduce myself and would be told by a shopper, “I’m just looking.” With the barrier in place, I’d smile and say, “well if you have any questions, I’m here.”

There is always a time to say, “I should have done more” or to think, “I didn’t do enough”, but the reality is sometimes being present is enough and all you could do in that time. I was present Sunday afternoon. I was optimistic and excited and I can’t forget that that those emotions kept me there. If I had been anything else, I would have felt even more anger and defeat from the day. Instead, I focused on gratitude toward the customers I did have and the stories I did exchange with them. I focused on how great it was to see friends throughout the day. I focused on how I did my first market of the 2014 year.  Which is how this circles to running Marathons.

I have completed four marathons. I have not done exceptionally well (see, I’m being critical!) in any of them, but I’ve completed four marathons. Two marathons were in the United States and two were international. One of them was just a month after my father’s passing and one of them was through my own City of birth with friends cheering me along the way and my Mom and little brother at the finish line. I have spent months training, eating, and berating myself for not being fast enough. I have experienced the highs of a good race and lows of a bad race. I have cried upon completing my first 20 miles and after crossing the finish line in Central Park.  I have made friends whom I love and who inspire me and I’ve raised something like $19,000 for cancer research. I have run in honor of friends friends who have passed away and made their struggle personal to remember when I whined at rolled ankles and aching muscles. I learned to love ice baths. Most importantly, I learned to never give up and to always start small in order to accomplish big.

All of that is what it takes to run a business. Whenever I thought I wouldn’t raise my fundraising goal, I’d surpass it. Whenever, I’d have a bad run, I’d remember that I at least showed up and ran; all those bad runs set you up for all the good runs your future holds.  Whenever I felt tired or sore, I figured out another way to exercise or get my “run” in, including just resting. I’ve learned that having friends to support you and cheer you on is key when doing something terrifying. I’ve learned to ask, and ask again. I’ve learned that running requires that you live in that moment; you make decisions and set goals and push yourself to points that may seem beyond your limits, and yet, you do it.

Running a business, much like running a marathon requires a lot. It requires courage, faith, determination, support, stamina, and confidence. It requires the present moment and the acknowledgement that you never know how it will go, how your body will hold up. It requires that you believe in yourself even in the face of failure or upset or torn and sprained muscles. Most importantly, it requires that you can walk away understanding that you need those downs as much as you need those ups.

So my take on Sunday’s market is my take upon completing the first two miles of a marathon – it’s a brutal start, but the sweet parts are still to come.  I’ll be out again in May, excited and ready for more S2 exposure and contact with potential customers. While I’m at it, I’ll probably go for a run. After all, I don’t know that I’d be here without all that training.