Evolving

“You are being presented with a choice: Evolve or Remain”

– Creig Crippen

I had another astonishingly busy week. As the holiday season approaches, it seems that things are gearing up quite a bit. Unfortunately, so are material and shipping costs. It makes it incredibly difficult for small businesses such as mine to remain lucrative. Especially labor-intensive businesses like my own.

Don’t get me wrong – I am truly grateful for the business. I have worked many years to achieve the thriving business that I have. I feel that not only have I earned the trust and respect of my customers, but I also have come to consider many of my customers as business colleagues and friends. That makes it ‘personal’ to me and adds to the joy and fulfillment that I feel every time I fill an order. It goes far beyond making a sale. To me, it is being part of providing something that brings both joy and happiness to the lives of others and doing something positive, all the while filling my own creative soul and giving my own life a sense of purpose. It is a win/win for everyone.

But (and there, unfortunately, is a ‘but’) as we all know, things in our world are going through a huge change. They have been for that past nearly two years now. With the onset of COVID and all the restrictions, disruptions, and changes that brought with it, it seems that very few, if any, are able to fully escape the changes that its presence has forced upon our world.

Some things were evident early on. Others seem to have seeped in as a ripple effect that arrived much later, nearly as an afterthought, when we thought things were beginning to improve and starting to return to normal (or a ‘new normal’ anyway) and have taken us a bit by surprise. These, it seems, appear to be the things that will have the longest-lasting effect on our lives, as they appear to be long-term after-effects of a changed world that in all likelihood will never revert back to the place we once knew. It is an uncomfortable and harsh reality to digest and accept in some cases. But there is little we can do to change it.

We can, however, change how we react and deal with it. Personally, as the optimist that I try to be, I believe that making the best of even not-so-great situations and dealing with them in a positive way is the key to both our happiness and success. After all – the world is always changing every day. It has been since the beginning of time and will be until the end. On a personal level, our own world is continually evolving as we learn and grow and adapt to situations and people around us. Evolving in a process that is just part of life. Without it, we would never be able to advance or achieve the goals we have. We would become stagnant and flat.

Some deal better with change than others. I do believe that as a generalization, those who adapt and accept change easier are happier people overall. This is only my opinion, based on my own observations, but I feel that not only accepting change but expecting it is something we need to be prepared for in our lives. We need to accept it and adjust our way of thinking without trying to fight it. While memories of the good old days can be comforting and safe, the reality of the world is that each new day will bring something different to our lives. I find that embracing those things or at least trying to adjust to them not only helps me grow as a person but also allows me the time and energy to work toward a future instead of lamenting a past that no longer exists. It is my own way I choose to live my life.

With that said, I will go back to the initial thought that I stated: Things have been extremely busy.

Overall, that is a good thing, but lately, my business has really been growing on the side where I cut, sand, and provide surfaces for those who do decorative painting. I love this aspect of my work, as it not only allows me time in the shop where I listen to my many lovely audiobooks while I work, but it also means that I contribute to the painting industry and my customers in a positive way. Many small businesses no longer exist. Most larger companies that provide surfaces to designers or painters either cut wood with lasers or import their pieces from overseas. There is little in the line of personal services because of that. It is more of a ‘what you see is what you get’ option for customers.

There is good in this, as it allows these companies to be run efficiently and allows them to keep the cost of their products low. Most of them charge less than I do for my own products. It allows those customers who have limited means to still enjoy their painting and keeps the industry as a whole growing and healthy.

As for me – I offer a bit more personalized service, but it is at a cost. Everything that I do and offer goes through me. I cut, sand, pack and ship the orders. In many cases when I am working with designers, I even do the graphics for their designs on my computer. Many send me sketches (in the literal sense of the word) of their ideas along with measurements of the sizes they envision and I do the technical drawings for their designs so that everything is consistent and accurate. It is quite a load.

I like to do this because I feel that I help the newer designers get a leg up in the industry. Many of the larger companies won’t do custom pieces for smaller or unknown designers. I remember when I was in that position and how frustrating it was. In reality, that is part of the reason I learned how to cut my own wood. “Knowledge is Power” and all of that. I felt that by doing everything myself, I didn’t have to depend on another company or person to do it for me. I could also then compete with the larger companies regarding pricing, as I didn’t have to pay a wholesaler to make the initial pieces. It has worked for me for a long time that way.

Some designers that I worked with have grown larger and moved on to larger companies. While some would think that would bother me, it really doesn’t. In fact, it is more the opposite. I am so proud to see my friends’ businesses growing to the point where they need someone who can provide more volume to them. I am truly happy for them. And to be honest, I haven’t come near to running out of work so I haven’t had time to think about it for the most part other than to be proud of them. It is great to see other talented designers grow and thrive.

These past couple of months have been hard for me in some respects though. As I mentioned in my previous posts, I have been busier than ever. Things have seemed to be snowballing for me and I am trying to keep things in control. Add to that, I had a kind of medical scare (it turned out OK, but it was worrisome for several weeks) and it made me think about many of the “what ifs” and what would happen to my future if I was physically unable to work. I am not ashamed to say that I also turned 60 in August. While I don’t feel a day over 40 most days, the realization that “I won’t be able to do this forever” has been made a bit apparent to me. It gets me thinking that it is time to adjust and take some risks and make some changes in the business in order to keep it healthy in the long term. It seems like the smart thing to do.

As I was packing my 20+ orders for the week the other day, I noticed one of those changes that I mentioned above due to our world evolving. The cost of shipping these orders was astounding.

I used to pay an average of about 20% of the gross ticket for shipping the pieces, and with many of the packages that I prepared for this weeks’ shipments, I realized that I was now paying somewhere around 40%.

Wow.

That (of course) didn’t include the rising cost of packaging materials, materials to make the items in the first place, and the time involved to cut, sand, and pack things. Oh – and the drive to the post office and paper and ink to print the orders, too. It all adds up.

Basic economics tells us that if the demand exceeds the resources we need to raise the price. But as I stated before, I am already at what I feel is just about the limit for the products that I offer, and it is hard to deal with things when for example someone orders something and the cost to ship equals or exceeds the cost of the products. While I realize that this is something that is out of my control, it doesn’t take away the fact that I feel bad about it and am starting to think that perhaps this isn’t the path that I should keep following in order to remain in business. I need to look at my other options.

Perhaps because I was so tired, it really hit home with me. I had put in several 14-hour + days this week, and it left little time to have a life besides doing my orders. Never mind the time to develop my own designs, or even do painting/drawing/embroidery for leisure or learning. It didn’t allow me to spend time in my Facebook group either, as I had little to share or show them other than a pile of wood or packed boxes. Needless to say, it was tough.

I am not writing all of this to complain, but rather to explain my line of thinking. I know many designers who are in the same position as I am and will appreciate knowing they are not alone. I would love to hear their thoughts on things too. There is definitely a need for those of us who design for others. I hear it every day from my customers and see it in our creative groups. It seems that now more than ever people are turning to their own learning and creativity to find both peace and pleasure. I think it will just require some thought on my part to figure out how I will make it work – not only for myself but for my customers as well.

I wish I had some photos for you all to enjoy of the designs that I am working on. Right now, however, they are only living in my head. There are many of them, and I have absolutely no fear at all of being empty in that department. Right now the only thing that is stopping me from developing these designs is – well – work! 😉

As I mentioned in my previous post, I plan on taking the month of December ‘off’ from cutting surfaces and shipping orders. Not only will this allow me time to enjoy some of the holidays with my family, but it will also allow me time to think about the direction of the business. Change is not always easy. Most change is rather uncomfortable and can be downright painful at times. There is uncertainty in it too, which adds to the anxiety it brings.

But without change, we are not able to grow. Those who remain the same when the world around them is changing are the first to falter. I am grateful to have the awareness of this and I am also grateful for my health and the energy to not only implement the changes I need to make but to embrace them and look forward to them as something that is exciting and fun. I have every reason to believe that I will come out of it better, happier, and grateful that I took the chance. I hope you all follow me in my journey.

Because I need to post at least one photo in my blog:

This is my Snowflake Chickadee Painting Pattern. You can get the pattern here on my website: https://tolepaintingdesigns.com/decorative-painting-supplies/snowflake-chickadee-painting-pattern/

It can be painted on my snowflake surface, but it can also be painted on just about anything. I hope to design more projects that can be a bit more versatile and not require specific wood pieces in the near future. That doesn’t mean that some won’t have special pieces, but with the high cost of shipping being such a deterrent, I think that for a while I will try to focus on designing projects that can be painted on just about anything. I think it may be a better way – at least for now.

Thanks for reading and thank you to all my followers. You are all very appreciated.

Until next time . . .

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Enjoying the Journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Amy! We can travel together! 😀

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  2. It’s a challenging business environment out there. Evolving and adapting is the only way to go. I have noticed how things seem to be getting harder to shipped around. So far I am lucky to live where I do. Reno is a major transportation hub for the west coast so while prices are higher, we’re still getting what we need. Now that I’m retired, I have to reinvent my daily routines and what my goals are. I’m trying to get more creative time and actually building things. Hope you enjoy your month without shipping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am seeing a lot of my packages heading to California “Delayed” already. I would say the California shipments seem to stand out the most. This is through UPS – not the USPS, as those are the parcels that are tracked. I am sure in the next month or so it will only get worse. It is such a shame because the cost is rising and the service is declining. It is hard to keep people happy under these circumstances. But we just trudge on. I will spend my month creatively and wisely. 😉 You will probably see more of me here, as I will have more time and more to show that will interest people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All the delivery companies out here are having trouble hiring enough staff. It’s likely to get worse.

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  3. judysanstad says:

    I am so happy I found you years ago . I was looking for a mermaid and you had just what I needed. Now is the time for you to find just what you need. I wish you the very best luck in your search for change. I have no doubt we will be content with whatever you decide.

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    1. I also feel that – good or bad – things happen for a reason. I so appreciate your support and friendship! ❤

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  4. Change is the one constant in our lives! every day brings new joys and new challenges. It makes life interesting. I love your snowflake bird. That would b beautiful on a Christmas card. Enjoy this ever changing journey Sheila 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you Anna. We can’t improve without changing. I think so much is a matter of mindset. December will be a much-needed break for me. A significant break beyond a couple of days. I am sure that things will look clearer then and I have confidence in myself that I will come up with some good directions for things. Thank you as always for your friendship and support. 🙂

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  5. I totally understand where you are. There just don’t ever seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. As far as rising costs, I think we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath, accept it as you say, and support each other in our journey(s). God bless. I know He will lead you on the right path. LOVE your chickadee!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Barbara. I appreciate your support so much and I love seeing what you do with my surfaces. ❤

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  6. Debbie Overton says:

    I have had some of these same thoughts for my little Etsy shop! Your work is beautiful! I hope you continue (with the changes you discover) to provide the beautiful wood products. Shipping has taken a tole in a lot of areas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am certain that I am not going anywhere too soon. 🙂 I will do what I can to make things work for as long as I can. I think as far as Etsy, it is the only answer, as they don’t seem to stand behind vendors very much when it comes to things like shipping. I have only tried to be honorable and last year a customer who ignored my description (which was CLEARLY stated on the product) gave me six poor reviews (one for each color of the product he bought) because he wanted an unreasonable amount of product. (I had stated a length of trim and he wanted the entire bolt(s)!) Etsy refused to take down his review and allowed him to call me “rip-off artist” and “scammer” and things like that. I nearly closed my shop then for good. It damaged my otherwise excellent ratings. It also scared me because it showed that they do not “have our backs” as sellers and buyers can demand just about anything and get away with it. So I closed as soon as shipping slowed down. I hope to re-open after the new year when things are back to ‘better’. 🙂

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