On June 1, 2016 around 9:30 am, I became a brand new entrepreneur. The “doors” of Victoria Marie Designs officially opened for business and I had no idea what to do or where to start. Overcome by the enormity of my decision to quit my full time job and forge ahead with starting Victoria Marie Designs, I sat in my studio trying to convince myself that I made the right decision and everything will be okay.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first draft of this blog post I have written about my first year in business. The initial post sounded too generic – I want to be completely transparent about my adventure thus far in hopes of not only inspiring those of you who want to set off on a similar journey, but to also underscore that sometimes, this entrepreneur thing is hard and life gets in the way, forcing you to make decisions that you didn’t think you would make in order to stay afloat.
So, here goes…
- I achieved many things during my first year of business. To date, I have produced and launched 5 classes, garnering over $20k in sales (not too bad).
- I hosted the very first Victoria Marie Scrapbook Retreat in Weatherford, TX.
- I am currently on the Clique Kits Design Team.
- I have guest designed for Felicity Jane, Cocoa Daisy, and later this year, Maya Road with more opportunities in the works.
- I have been featured on the Scrap Gals Podcast with Tiffany and Tracie and Live Inspired with Tracie Claiborne.
- I’ve taken on 3 private custom scrapbook clients (I do custom work occasionally.)
- I design scrapbook sketches for the April Lilli Shop!
- My YouTube Channel grew from 4000 subscribers to over 6200 subscribers; the Victoria Marie Facebook Group now has over 2000 members!
- I have over 1400 Instagram Followers, up from 100 at the beginning of the year.
- I received my first offer to teach at a scrapbooking retreat in 2018!
Overall, not too shabby for my first year in business. There are so many things that I wanted to do but I quickly discovered that being a staff of 1 limits my ability to “do all the things”. I had to learn to focus on my main goals and allow myself the space to work on other projects down the future.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility that comes with being an entrepreneur. However, I have learned that “flexibility” means something completely different when you are running a business (more on this later). Nonetheless, working for myself afforded me a lot of time to travel, pursue my interests, and to spend time with my family. I love the fact that I was able to attend all but one of my daughter’s school field trips as well as dropping her off and picking her up from school. Occasionally I would pop in and surprise her with lunch, which she loved!
Last summer were able to go on an impromptu trip to Denver, CO – we had a blast at Estes Park and at the Downtown Aquarium. This was the most relaxing vacation…we didn’t have to worry about rushing home or using vacation time. We just hopped in the car and left – talk about freedom!
My everyday work life has been great, most days. I like that I can start and stop projects when I want to, take a coffee break at Starbucks (the barista know me by name), rearrange my workflow as I need to. There is no one commanding my time and I only answer to myself. Everything I do is of my own creative ingenuity and I love taking calculated risks without receiving push back from others.
Can you tell I love being an entrepreneur? 🙂
I recently found that I needed to connect with other creative entrepreneurs so I joined a collective called CoCommercial and I also mastermind with a friend and fellow entrepreneur once a week. We keep each other accountable so that we stay on track with our goals and projects.
Now, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t talk about all of the challenges I faced during my first year. Again, I want to be completely transparent and realistic.
Sometimes projects fail: As I mentioned earlier, I launched 5 classes within an 8 month period with over $20K in revenue. This isn’t a bad number and the classes did very well…except 2 of the classes. For each class I create a projection, or in other words, I make a goal to sell x number of enrollments over a certain period of time based on my initial launch. Sadly, two of my classes did not make projection – not even close.
The first time this happened, I was completely crushed. I thought I had did something wrong. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that I needed help with marketing. I had to figure out how to create a sales funnel to retain my current students and attract new students to my classes. Recently, I started the Teach What You Do program by Debbie Hodge. OMG what a difference! The information I am receiving through this class is long overdue. I have so much to do but I am confident that I will learn the necessary skills needed to become better at marketing my brand and my products.
At times, I was not a good boss or employee: My mastermind partner and I recently talked about self-accountability and productivity. We both admitted that early in our business journey, we failed to be both good bosses and good employees. We call this our “beta year”. If you can imagine spending most of your time working for someone else, then you start working for yourself…the flexibility is almost too much to handle!
My leisurely mornings consisted of taking my kid to school, coming home for a cup of coffee, watching YouTube videos, eating breakfast, finally getting dressed and eventually start working around 11:00 am. I would work for a couple of hours then say to myself, “I need a break.” So off to the living room I went to watch Gilmore Girls and to have more coffee. This was my “schedule” for a good 3-5 months. Victoria the Boss allowed it and Victoria the Employee enjoyed every minute of this awesome “schedule”.
Yet, work was not being done…at least not in an efficient and productive manner.
My friend and I called this our beta year because we made lots of mistakes and we had to learn from them. The first lesson: If you want to make money, you have to work. And the second lesson: Flexibility doesn’t mean that you can screw around all day and at times, you have to say NO to things that are not moving you and your business forward. You have to set limits.
So, I spent some time evaluating my goals and setting up a workflow process that allowed me to get work done. I learned how to batch my work (a term I gleaned from Miss Trench Coat, a productivity professional and YouTuber) and to set reasonable timelines for my major projects. Victoria the Boss stepped up and Victoria the Employee began to follow through. Sadly, because of my initial behavior, I didn’t realize some of my revenue goals…this was a hard lesson to learn.
It’s okay to bask in the land of flexibility, but you still have to show up and work.
Speaking of revenue: So, it takes a long time to actually make a profit when you go into business. Including my classes, this is what I pulled in:
- $20,000 in class revenue (includes sales and new class enrollments)
- $2,500 in contract work (private clients, other assignments)
- $200 in YouTube Ad sales (I’ve only been doing this for 3 months)
- $500 in profit from the Victoria Marie Scrapbook Retreat (minus expenses)
So, my total revenue for Year 1 was $23,200. This doesn’t account for expenses and taxes. This number seems rather low…because it is. Again, my revenue would have been much higher had I took time to develop a few marketing strategies and if I were a bit more productive in the beginning. Also, I quickly learned that there are projects that I wasn’t able to execute right away, such as more scrapbooking retreats (mainly due to the upfront costs needed to book a venue).
But, you live and learn. Now that I know better, I will do better. I have to keep reminding myself that I went into business for a reason. While I will not become a millionaire, the potential to earn a decent living is well within my reach. I have to work hard for every penny…
And then life happens: The worse thing that can happen while starting a business are unforeseen life circumstances. While my spouse and I tried hard to prepare and set aside emergency funds before I quit my job, we quickly learned that we did not save enough. There were a myriad of events that tugged at our purse strings: a car accident which resulted in a totaled vehicle (we are still paying on this car – no gap insurance), a lengthy hospital stay which resulted in costly medical fees, and fluctuations in my spouse’s salary that serves as our main income while I get my business off the ground.
As an entrepreneur, you are spending a lot of time establishing a consistent monthly income. This will fluctuate greatly which also means that you have to be a ninja at budgeting your finances. My spouse and I began to see that we were hemorrhaging money left and right and something needed to be done quickly. Conversations about me returning to work full-time and pulling our daughter out of private school caused a great deal of stress. We admitted that we should have made more changes to our budget before I left my job – hindsight is 20/20.
To say that we were stressed out is an understatement.
There is nothing worse than doing a totally awesome cool thing like starting a business and being stressed to the max about money. So, I started looking for part-time and full-time work, convincing myself that I can work outside of the home again and maintain my business. To be honest, I was not happy about this prospect. I began to weigh all of my options. My spouse and I decided to withdrawal our daughter from private school (this ate me up the most because her school is amazing) and we began to cut our budget.
Then a series of events happened:
So, I needed to find a way to earn extra money while I continued to work my business. I contacted my daughter’s school, which is supported by a non-profit that hosts leadership excursions for elementary students. They needed someone to help with administrative and trip preparation tasks. The pay was great, they only needed me for 20 hours a week, and I made my own schedule. PERFECT! So for 8 weeks I helped pack school trips and enter data. No brainer.
While working there I was approached by the director of this program who offered me a semi-full time position as a school communications coordinator. Essentially, a liaison between the program and the schools, booking trips, confirming dates, etc. All stuff I have done before during my non-profit days. I told the director I would think about it and get back to her.
Meanwhile, I was preparing myself to speak to the executive director, who is also the head of the school, about withdrawing our daughter. I waited a long time to have this conversation because I was holding out hope that we could figure out a way to keep her enrolled but I knew it just wasn’t financially feasible. I finally ripped the band-aid and initiated the conversation. However, before I could finish explaining why we decided to pull our daughter out, she said, “Well, you can afford if you work here full-time. And full-time for us 30 hours per week. Think you can manage that with your business? We offer a very generous reduced tuition rate for our full time employees. Surprise! See, it all works out!”
My heart sank.
I told her I would think about it.
That night my spouse and I had a long talk – we discussed all of the possibilities and the fact that taking this job would solve our most immediate needs: increased income, an extremely reduced tuition rate, and I can still run my business while working a job that I am completely qualified to do. Additionally, I would get every school holiday off including summers.
God looks out for babes and fools. And lord knows I am a fool!
So, I did the responsible adult thing…I took the job.
I start this fall. 🙂
Now, I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand I didn’t expect to return to work EVER after I left my job last June. On the other hand, I know that financial stress (any stress for that matter) is not healthy and if I have a way to ease the burden in the short-term, I would be foolish not to take it. Plus, being a business owner is a lot of fun…but not when you are constantly worrying about money.
So, there you have it…the long and short of my first year in business. Today, I am celebrating all of my successes and my failures. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be apart of this community, to have the support of so many who watch my content on YouTube, hang out with me on social media, enroll in my classes, and attend my retreats. There is so much that I want to do and I am learning to pace myself and set realistic and doable goals. Also, there is so much that I need to learn as I continue on this journey. The most important lesson I have learned is that it’s okay to be humble, admit when you need help, or change course when things aren’t going in the direction you once planned. My eyes were certainly opened during this past year and I am thankful for the journey.
Despite some recent changes, Victoria Marie Designs will continue to grow. There will be more classes and events to come, and more free content with tons of inspiration!
Thank you for standing by me and for cheering me on. Your support, kind words, and energy mean so much to me!
Here’s to year two!
Let’s do this!