For us, January means the end of knitting like mad women, the end of shameless self promotion and the end of markets.
This season marked our third year at Pip&Pin and it was certainly a doozy. We took on a lot more than we ever have in terms of how many markets we did, the scale of those markets, how much we promotion we did and how much we worked on our online presence in general. We were featured in some pretty cool Christmas themed articles, did an interview with an awesome Vancouver magazine and did two filmed interviews for a documentary that's being made about the hand-made culture (which was an experience to say the least. That's a whole other post. Let's just say we really hope they have good editors.)
Although we worked ourselves to the bone, we had a lot of fun, met a ton of new people and got to catch up everyone we really only get to see around Market Season. Katie still can't knit at the moment. Two months of doing it constantly as well as being a graphic designer has rendered her entire right arm pretty useless.
The big question we had coming into this season was, is this worth it?
We love what we do, but can we keep doing what we're doing while continuing to grow as a business? Is this enough to sustain us if we decide to take this on as a full time gig?
Luckily, we came up with these questions sometime last September and started using Freshbooks to track all of our hours. I mean all of our hours including knitting (obviously), time spent at markets, time spent preparing for markets, photoshoots, photo editing, blogging, facebooking, PR, marketing, listing items on Etsy and Poppytalk, answering emails and basically anything that had to do with running your own business. Not surprisingly, it was a lot. Between the two of us, from October 2013 to the end of December 2013 we logged somewhere along the lines of 800+ hours. And that is for an already fairly established business with a website, etsy, facebook, twitter, etc, etc, all set up.
This past weekend we holed ourselves up at a friends condo on the beach, set up our "office" in front of a window with a view, and sorted through all of the data that we've collected over the past couple months. We did this with plans to create lovely pie charts and line graphs of where our money and/or time went and what markets were the most worth it, although we didn't quite have enough time for that. (And by the end of the day, our brains were so fried from basically doing math and data entry for 10 hours straight I doubt they would have made sense any way.) They will come sometime in the near future though.
I can sum up our earlier questions though:
Is this a sustainable business?
No, what we have right now is not sustainable and by our calculations we ended up making less than half of minimum wage per hour. (Which in Vancouver, means less than a quarter of an actual living wage.)
Can we continue to do what we're doing and grow as a business?
Again, a big no. Knitting is highly labour intensive and it's not like we can just keep raising all of our prices and expect people to pay them. What we need to do is a bit of an overhaul on our brand and what we want to focus on as a business. What we can be doing better and what new things we can try that are less labour intensive and can generate more income. Basically we need to start working smarter.
Is this worth it?
Even though we are not rolling in the dough right now, this year we learned a lot about how to make our business better and how to one day become sustainable.
Plus, even though it's not a lot, we are getting paid to hang out with each other and do something that we both love and are passionate about. That's definitely worth it.
*In the next week or so we will be showing all of our findings in cute pie charts and junk so if you're like me and love stats, be sure to check that out too*