The ever-fabulous Nono’s post from this morning (of which I adore the title, by the way) got me thinking about the state of my own business, and I thought it was time for a bit of an update on that. The subject line pretty much says it all: if you had told me ten years ago, or even one year ago, that I would at this point in my life be on the verge of quitting my day job to run an online occult shop full time, I’d have asked what you were smoking and could I try some of it. I have always dreamed of being a professional writer, of supporting myself independently through my writing; when I was a lot younger it was going to be bestselling novels, as I got older and deeper into my witchy path it became pagan books. Still, it was books, not jewelry, candles and cords, that I thought would be my way out of the 9-5 routine. Even when I first began making jewelry, about five years ago now (shortly before I became obsessed with spinning) I never thought I’d ever be doing that full time. I used to read the “Quit Your Day Job” posts on Etsy wistfully and hope that someday that would be me–but it was never more than a hope. I didn’t believe in it, not really.
In terms of life achievements, I’m definitely a late bloomer; despite the fact that I was said to be “gifted” as a child, in all honesty that didn’t manifest in any kind of tangible way until the past ten years or so. (“Jasmine blooms at night,” Odin points out. “Some things are worth waiting for.”) Before that, I had plenty of creative ideas, but I always seemed to suffer from a consistent lack of motivation. In my teens, all I really wanted to do when I got home from school was write stories and read books. In my twenties, I worked while taking care of a young child, and chronic fatigue (which I was diagnosed with at about the age of 23) left me with no ambition for doing much of anything other than watching TV, writing, and reading the odd pagan book. At the age of 29, I went back to school at night to finish my BA in English Lit, and that consumed most of my free time for the next six years or so.
And then came Odin–and everything changed. Not all at once or overnight–although the changes did begin overnight. But within a few years, I had put my two books (to date) out and had published a handful of articles in pagan publications. (This is with not having been published at all before the age of about 38.) Within six years of my wedding, Jo and I had moved out to the West Coast, and within a couple of years of that, I started crafting and opened an Etsy store (this was my old shop, Wytch of the North) where I sold impossibly labor-intensive dolls and jewelry, plus a few perfume oils, while working 10-11 hour days at my day job. Shortly after moving to our current apartment five years ago, the fiber bug bit me (not literally–although there are literal fiber bugs, so that’s a possibility) and I began spending all my spare time spinning. I opened FiberWytch, and the store limped along for a while (since most of what I made was still pretty labor-intensive), bringing in a few hundred dollars per month, which gradually began covering my materials expenses until I had a hobby that paid for itself.
And then last fall, Odin said, “Why don’t you start making candles in addition to the cords and yarn? What about adding some jewelry back in, as well? And incense, and oils? Perhaps some soap. And by the way, those aren’t suggestions, because you haven’t done so well running this shop on your own, so I’m taking it over from you. I now call the shots, and you are My employee.” (No, business and financial success are not traditionally considered part of Odin’s “sphere of influence”–and possibly this was part of my problem, the reason I resisted taking His advice for so long. BUT the skillset you need for ruling a realm is very similar to the skillset needed for successfully running a business. He manages my business because He loves me and wants me out of my day job–not because business management is one of His “areas of specialty.” Although, magick certainly is.)
And the rest is history; since Odin took over the business, every month had literally seen better sales than the last, with March being the best to date. (And I credit the joint sale with Nono for a good part of that–so yes, it is true that even “competitors” in the same field can work together for their mutual profit rather than being at each other’s throats.) I didn’t make more in 24 hours than I usually make in a month, but I DID make more in a week than a month usually brings in–so I can’t complain. I also just passed my 800th sale. My biggest hope for this business was that it would allow me to work only part time at my day job, or give me a financial cushion if I did manage to get on disability. Now, I may not need to go on disability at all, and I have started the process of phasing my day job out entirely.
As Nono mentioned with his own business, there has definitely been a learning curve for me as well in terms of time management and learning business skills. (I’ve taken a few courses in the latter–largely for free, a couple for pay–but really, it’s an ongoing process. You try things, and they work or not. What works, you do more of. What doesn’t, you tweak or get rid of.) Sourcing materials while still remaining profitable is a big challenge, although right now my greatest challenge is keeping inventory up and adding new items on a continual basis while still working 16 hours per week. This is why I do my readings mostly on Wednesdays (sometimes on the weekend as well), make a batch of candles after getting home from work at least twice a week as well as on Saturday, and spend my evenings making jewelry (and/or spinning cords, as the case may be). I photograph and post new items on the mornings and weekends, and ship on average twice a week. (If you purchased something during the sale, I am having a huge shipping blitz later today and my goal is to get ALL the sale packages shipped out tomorrow and Friday.)
I work at my office job 4 hours a day, 4 times a week, which has me out of the house for at least 5-6 hours (longer if I run errands) on those days–and believe me, that time away from FiberWytch really hurts. If the amount of business I did during March continues (and I hope it will), I won’t be able to afford that four hours a day for very much longer–and at this point, I am going in mostly to keep my health insurance, anyhow. I’m very much looking forward to quitting (which is not too far in the future) so I can cut my daily working hours from 16 to a more comfortable 10 or 12, and have more time to write and spend time with my f/Family.
What’s next for FiberWytch? Lots more candles! I’ve gone from going through a 10 lb bag of soy wax once or twice a month to at least one bag per week, and that doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. I’m going to keep adding soap to the shop (including sampler packs), but not at the same rate I will be adding candles, since the supplies are more expensive and it doesn’t sell at the same rate. More custom options. More jewelry, of course–and once the day job ends there will be more cords and yarn, as well. New products this spring and early summer will include incense and ritual/perfume oils (both of which I’ve been planning for a while now, and which will mostly focus on devotional blends, with a few magickal ones as well). That is probably going to be the limit of the expansion, because it will be difficult to stay profitable if there are too many different categories of supplies I need to purchase, plus I do want to be able to turn some of my attention to my writing career (I have two blogs, and two books in progress, with more planned), in addition to being able to spend time on magickal studies and practice (outside of what I do to run the shop) again.
But in general, although I’m always looking for opportunities to improve what I do, I’m very happy with the business I have right now and the direction it’s headed in. Even though for most of my life I would never have thought of myself as an entrepreneur (once upon a time I thought business was boring; now I watch workshops on CreativeLive for fun, often while making stuff), suddenly that’s exactly what I am, and loving every minute of it, despite the exhaustion. But the market has changed, as Nono points out–not only for magickal goods, but for handcrafts in general. Where once handcrafted items were thought of as being somewhat inferior, what you used when you couldn’t afford anything else, now handcrafts are cool, exciting, fun, unique, and profitable–and handcrafted magickal supplies especially so. (Yet another example of the pendulum swinging back in the other direction.)
We’re experiencing a Renaissance in both handcrafts and resources for pagans and polytheists right now, and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of what happens where those two worlds meet. Sure, I am profiting from being part of it, but I also consider Making to be a community service, providing a resource by crafting and selling the highest quality goods I can within a niche market that has historically been under-serviced. No, I am not the only one doing this, but what I find is that the more Makers there are in any market, the bigger that market’s customer pool gets; meanwhile the Makers spur each other on, so that you, the customer, end up with a wider range of quality goods to choose from. Plus, a little creative competition is good for us as Makers, as well; it challenges and stimulates us and helps make sure we keep our edge–so everybody wins.