2016 started in a hotel room at the Grand Californian Resort with my management team. With a four foot wide white board, a package of colored expo markers and fresh journals waiting to be written in, we tackled the huge task of determining our direction for the entire year!
It was no secret with my team; 2016 was going to be a make it or break it year for us! California ballot initiatives, both statewide and county wide have proven to be anti-business as we face increases in sales tax, payroll costs and insurance related liabilities. Rental costs just to maintain a lease on retail space went up as much as 10% this past year. And, we are looking at the same kind of increased costs as we go into 2017. While the cost of running a business is increasing, we have yet to pass on that cost to our precious customers!
In five years (since the day we started carrying it), we have NEVER increased the price of Annie Sloan Paint! The cost of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint is the same today as it was the first day it was in the store. And, we’ve been committed to keeping the price of home decor and furnishings competitive in the ever-growing marketplace of refinished and re-purposed home decor.
I’m proud that we’ve been able to maintain existing prices despite growing expenses!
To bridge the gap of ever-growing costs and waning profits, 2016 became a year focused on three major initiatives! The first was adding value, content and creativity to our already very full list of workshops. Kelly took the reigns for the year to grow our workshop offerings! And, what a year we had! Our Chalk Paint Paint-a-Piece Workshop continued to be the most popular class we offer, and rarely did we have a class that didn’t fill up. In September, we offered our first ever free Chalk Paint class and we were so encouraged by the overwhelming response and gratitude of those in attendance, we will be making that a regular occurrence throughout the new year.
In February, we welcomed Andrea Fowler of Calligraphy Nerd as a new Artisan Instructor to teach Brush Lettering and Modern Calligraphy. It’s always a bit of a risk bringing someone new in to teach classes as their reputation directly reflects on us…BUT…what an awesome experience and relationship we have built this year! Andrea’s classes continue to be widely sought after each month. She even welcomed five participants from Chicago who flew out specifically to take her lettering class! In February, we hosted our first Private Birthday Party of the year and used that as a launching pad to develop enhanced party offerings for both small and large groups. And, in the fall I opened up my home for in-home workshops and a home tour for the first time in over two years. Both classes sold out within days and became a great place to build some lasting friendships with first time and returning customers!
The second major initiative was to grow our online presence both on our social media platforms as well as on our website. Caitlin took the reigns of that task and as a result, you have seen far more consistency in what we post and the quality of photographs posted with it!
Instagram, which at the start of last year was just an afterthought became a major platform for us to grow our business and we’ve seen our followers increase by well over 100%. Facebook has still been a great avenue to communicate day-to-day issues and we experimented this year with offering Facebook Live videos, which were scary, fun and largely well-received.
And, by removing twitter from our focus, we shifted gears to intentionally posting tutorial based content on the blog so that we had more relevant and “pinnable” images for Pinterest. All of this has enabled to grow our online business, and we shipped packages all over the United States and even to Europe, expand the ever growing market of paint enthusiasts and DIY home decorators!
Lastly, this year was about diversifying our inventory which I took charge of. At the beginning of the year, we had a goal to introduce nine new product lines to knot too shabby! Talk about a fun job! I got to peruse catalogs and shop wholesalers for fun products that stretched our portfolio of products! We brought in Cecilia Rose Paperie artwork to both shops, fulfilling our love of handmade, reclaimed and small business! Out of Print Clothing Co. was introduced to knot too shabby MONROVIA in January, and fulfilled my personal love for literature while creating products that stem from vintage books and give back to communities in need!
In the Spring, we expanded our line of paint brushes by offering the high quality of Italian imported brushes made by Jack Richeson. Supplemental to our standard Annie Sloan paint and wax brushes, I don’t know how I survived so long without these specially shaped and sized brushes. In June, we expanded our arts and craft supply section of knot too shabby GLENDORA and began offering a wide range of brush pens, chalk and various lettering books along with coloring books.
I started buying from Compedium in the fall which has a huge selection of inspiring books and colored pencils and the company gives back to communities to grow literacy efforts. And the highlight and best seller of the year were our Crazy Cool Thread Faith inspired t-shirts at knot too shabby MONROVIA.
While enhanced workshop experiences and increased buying options became an essential aspect for business growth, we also analyzed four years worth of sales and foot traffic data that we’ve collected and decided to shorten our hours at knot too shabby GLENDORA to lower some of the business operation costs. At the time we made that decision, I had spent five years as a salmon swimming upstream to change the shopping culture of the Glendora Village by staying open late on weekends, throughout the school week and being open on Sundays.
I take pride that we are a business that is open 7-days a week beyond the traditional hours of many other shops. But, it came at a sacrifice…both financially and personally. As a result of shortened operating hours, I no longer have to scramble for rides for my kids and count on family and friends to pick them up from school. I can do the “mom thing” after work and I haven’t looked back since we made that decision!
And, the likely biggest impact of 2016 was getting one of the shops ready to sell! When I opened knot too shabby MONROVIA almost two years ago, it was with the intention of selling it to an aspiring entrepreneur. Over the course of 2016, we have had many conversations with a variety of people in regard to purchasing the shop. Some fizzled out. Some lost interest. Some weren’t a right fit for the store. And, some are still in conversation with me.
I can say that selling a business is not like selling a house! There is so much more involved and at stake. I care passionately about who buys and how they aspire to grow, so I’ve been picky to say the least. What I thought would happen in a year is proving to take longer. But, I’m patient. What do they say…good things come to those who wait?
In the meantime, as we continue to juggle and grow both businesses, our team this year has both increased and decreased! We lost Audra in July because she went and had a baby…the nerve! That created a need for another workshop instructor, which resulted in Kelly traveling up to Northern California to train with the very talented Barb Skivington from Annie Sloan Unfolded. We also added new team members with the addition of Gina and Maddie. Not to mention, our friend Sandy who waltzed into the shop one day (literally) and said “I have an idea for your windows.”
She is now a blessed presence at knot too shabby GLENDORA and helping me with the creative designs of our window displays. And, of course you still see Mom and Dad flitting in and out of the shop as the need arises. Blessed much? I am surrounded by amazing, talented and devoted people. Every year, I fall to my knees in thanksgiving for the loyalty that these amazing women have shown to me! This December, Caitlin passes her five year mark working at knot too shabby. Kelly, started as one of our interns three years ago and has continued to have a decisive presence as the shop. Gina offered to help fill the gap on a very part time basis this year, but has been a fixture with knot too shabby for four years! As a loyal painting passport customer and the most profitable knot too shabby BAZAAR vendor to date, she can now claim the title of employee. Plus, Maddie started with us four years ago as an intern and came back after finishing college to work part-time.
We have done much this year. But, any small business owner can tell you it’s never enough. We have much to do. Much to improve. More to offer.
Without you, our loyal customers and enthusiasts, we would be nothing! Thank-you for your continued presence in our shops, commenting on facebook and instagram, replying to surveys, sending e-mails and ordering packages! No matter how much we struggle from day-to-day, just looking back at the breadth of community support, both locally and nationally I become speechless at how much YOU have given to me! I pray daily that God bestows wisdom in my heart and mind as I delve into the decision making of the business, and I know that those prayers are answered through my interactions and conversations with so many customers and friends.
As I mentioned up top, this was a make it or break it year. It was not an easy year and we worked hard. HARD people. Intentionally and diligently. We didn’t break…but it felt like we were close on several occasions. We have much to do in 2017, and at times the task feels insurmountable. But, I have faith and hope that as we shift our focus we will succeed!
Thank-you for what you have done to help us grow in 2016 and I ask that you stick with us in 2017! I promise, it will be worth it!