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2511 East 6th St, Bldg 4 Unit A
Austin, TX 78702

Austin's favorite stationery shop and workshop studio.

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The Paper + Craft Pantry blog is home to our latest DIY projects, current inspiration sources, and small business advice. 

Filtering by Category: Small Business School

Small Business School: An Interview With a 12yr Old Entrepreneur

Grace McKinney


 Small Business School Blog Post: An interview with a 12yr old entrepreneur.

Earlier in the year (in January), I received an email that caught my attention. As you can imagine, my inbox is rather full and I would normally have assumed this particular email was spam. But boy am I glad I clicked on it!

The email was from a 6th grader who had written an incredibly concise email about how she was interested in doing her apprenticeship (a requirement for her school for credit) at The Paper + Craft Pantry. The email was extremely well worded and she even ended the email asking if we could schedule a phone call to discuss further. My first instinct was to say no, because honestly,taking on an intern, especially a 12 year old one sounded like a ton of work.

But I agreed to a phone call with her because I was interested to learn more about if it would be a right fit for both of us. The day before our scheduled call, I received an email from Kate (the 6th grader in the email) to confirm our call the next day. I mean, what kind of 12 year old does this?

Our phone call went wonderful and I asked Kate to put together an email as well as send me a reference before I would decide if the next step would be an in person meeting.

Fast forward to our in-person interview, Kate walked in and shook my hand with the confidence that I wish most adults (even myself) would have. I was immediately blown away by how well she carried herself and how professional she was. Kate proceeded to inform me during our conversation that she had first dabbled in small business ownership in the fourth grade at her school’s children’s fair.

Needless to say, I decided that taking Kate on would be a great decision for both myself and The Paper + Craft Pantry! Kate spent over a month with us assisting with workshops, helping with marketing efforts, and really anything else we needed support on. And before it was time for her to graduate 6th grade, I sat down with Kate to ask her some questions about her experience working at The Paper + Craft Pantry.

Who are you AND what do you do? My name is Kate Metteauer, and I am a 6th grader at Acton Academy West.

Tell me about your school! My school is centered around the Hero’s Journey and learning at your own pace. I know it sounds crazy, it’s the most amazing school ever. We learn about entrepreneurship and learn the basics of running a business. I don’t have any homework, but what I don’t finish at school I do at home. Everything is done on the computer and we are on a year round schedule.  It’s small, only around 45 total students, in the ENTIRE school, and only 12 in Middle School. There are a lot of Acton Academies, in the U.S, but also in the world.

 The Paper + Craft Pantry: 12yr old entrepreneur typing on her computer for another shop project.

Tell me a bit about how you started your business! When I was nine (which really wasn’t that long ago), I was surprised to get a sewing machine for my birthday. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I now appreciate it  and have realized it was the best gift I have ever gotten. Soon after I learned to sew, I started my first business. I sold mostly bags and scarves that I had sewn. I had very little inventory, and a booth at The Acton Children’s Business Fair, but I loved it. After about two years of sewing, I realized that my products weren’t selling because I was trying to sell $40 bags to seven year olds and my materials were too expensive to sell things for any less. If I wanted to sell bags and scarves it would need to be for a different audience, so I completely switched gears and started making soap.

How has it evolved? I've gained a lot of knowledge about talking to customers, how to lay out my products at fairs, and how to better make products. I even started funding it myself, instead of asking for money from other people (aka my parents).

What has been your biggest lesson in running a business? I have learned that it’s okay to try something different while also becoming better at managing my time so that I can make more inventory to sell more at each fair. I like trying new things and want to experiment more with different soap recipes, packaging, and so much more! 

While apprenticing at The Paper + Craft Pantry, what was your biggest learning or takeaway?      I have learned so much while apprenticing at The Paper + Craft Pantry, but my biggest takeaway has been that it takes time to start a business, and you have to be very flexible with everything going on around you, and you have to take it slow in the beginning to build up from there.

 The Paper + Craft Pantry Blog: 12yr entrepreneur taking notes and typing up her daily shop work.

What were your tasks and responsibilities while apprenticing? Did you get to lead any projects?  I got to restock the cards in the shop, help prep for activities, and clean up after workshops. Although my favorite thing I got to do was probably help people paint pots and make bath salts at some of the events. I loved talking to everyone and guiding them through the process of making something.

What has been something you learned that you really enjoyed? I really enjoyed just being in the studio and seeing what people will create during the classes and at events.

What was something you learned that you didn’t expect? I didn’t expect anything honestly, and with that there were so many amazing surprises around every corner. The biggest was how many classes Pei organizes and hosts every week, and the amount of people that come to those events. Everything has been a learning experience for me, which has been amazing.

What is one thing you’ve learned at the Paper + Craft Pantry that you think has made the biggest impact on your journey as a small business owner? At my school we believe that every student is on their own Hero’s Journey. A Hero’s Journey is the basis for almost every book and movie. Everyone is on there own one and will have many of them throughout their lifetime. This apprenticeship has taught me SO many things, starting from restocking shelves to collaborating with other business owners! Through the lessons that I have learned and the welcoming nature of the Paper + Craft Pantry, this experience has greatly impacted me on MY OWN Hero’s Journey providing me with lessons I will use and cherish throughout my life.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs - Ones who are afraid to get started. What about ones who can’t decide what to do? Take the time to figure out what really makes you happy, and go for it. It’s okay to start small and work your way up from there. Anyone can start a business, you just have to believe in yourself, your work, and your ideas. At my second business fair a tried to sell way way too many things at one time and it ended badly. Instead of giving up I tried something different and used the lessons I learned to make it better than it was before. Don’t be afraid to at least try, even if you fail you can always try again, and this time with more knowledge and experience to do better.


Feeling inspired, and ready to work?! Just start where you with what you have, and go for it! Have any questions? Leave them in the comments down below.

The Paper + Craft Pantry Apprenticeship x Acton Academy, Austin TexasAbout the co-author:

Kate is currently a 6th grader at the Acton Academy in Austin. Kate completed a 2 month apprenticeship as a part of her school credit where she learned the ins and outs of small business ownership with The Paper + Craft Pantry. She also is the co-author and editor of this blog post. Kate is a fellow small business owner who owns a soap company called Ridiculously Clean

Small Business School: How We Moved Our Shop + Studio

Pei Sim


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Hello from our new brick + mortar! 

In case you missed it, we moved last month and are wrapping up our third full week in our new home. And yet it feels like it's been longer than that, as well as feels like we just moved yesterday. 

It was definitely a little bitter sweet saying goodbye to our first storefront. We had so many great memories in there from our very first customers who have now become some of our friends, to the hundreds of workshops (and thousands of workshop students) we've had the honor of getting creative with. 

We turned an old, forgotten warehouse into a little slice of paradise with our incredible wall mural, selection of cards on our card wall, and by hosting weekly events for our community.  And we'll forever be grateful for our time on East 6th, especially for all of you who walked through our mint green door there! 

 The Paper + Craft Pantry Blog: One last look at our card wall all filled up.
 The Paper + Craft Pantry Blog: The card wall all packed up.

Some of you may have figured out through Instagram that we packed, moved, and unpacked just in time for our normally scheduled workshops in less than 48 full hours. Seriously, we spent a few hours packing on Monday, spent Tuesday morning moving + building out new fixtures in the new space, spent half of Wednesday setting up and hosted our first workshop that afternoon.

 Paper + Craft Pantry Blog: The view of our packing process from the back of the studio.

Many hands make light work, everything came together! But it wasn’t easy, it took a TON of preparation, planning, and effort on everyone’s part. Curious about what we learned from this move? Here are a few things to consider whether you are moving into your first brick + mortar, or relocating plus some sneak peeks of our new space!


 Paper Craft Pantry Blog: New shop layout + design plan.

1. Have a plan

I planned out our moving week schedule by designating a packing day, a moving day, and a day to solely set up, and a day to patch/paint the old shop before I turned in my keys. The packing day went a lot faster, it took 5 of us about 3 hours to completely pack up our old shop + all our inventory. 

We started our moving day at 6am...honestly purely to beat the heat and traffic. So we were completely done by 11am. 

Here's the kicker, by the time we went to patch and paint the old shop, our electricity had already been transferred to the new shop so it was perhaps the sweatiest and hardest part of this entire move since it was extremely toasty!

In addition to planning a schedule, having a floor plan mapped out for the new space beforehand enabled us to efficiently move things in and set up the space easily- be flexible, sometimes things don't fit or look the way you want but having a general floor plan takes the guess work out of it. 

2. Create a budget (cost of a uhaul or movers, things breaking, things need replacing, extra furnishings for the new layout, updated marketing materials (decals signage) 

Moving is always going to be an expense. Having a budget can help since you'll have some time leading up to your move to save up some money to help buffer the costs. Consider a uhaul (are you going to be using movers?), account for the fact you will likely need to replace some things when you move because things may get damaged from moving or you may figure out some things just need to be replaced. 

I left a little buffer for additional furnishings since I knew our space would be much larger and I also accounted for the fact I would need to beef up our inventory so the shop felt fresh + full when we reopened. 

One thing to also consider is that you may need to revamp or update your marketing/branding, for us it was for our window, decals as well as indoor + outdoor signage. Having a budget to present to our designer was crucial in prioritizing what needed to be done before we opened, and what could wait until we were settled in!

3. Make a list of places you'll need to update your address on (bills, banks, google, website, mail chimp, social media etc.) 

The biggest stress (and fear) about the move was worrying if guests or workshop students would be confused with where we were. So we made a pretty intensive list of every. single. place. our address would need to be updated to alleviate any confusion. 

First, obviously, your bank. Update the addresses on all your bills/utilities. 

Next we worked through our website, mail chimp, email, website, google, and all our social media platforms (note that it may take some time for all of it to update: it's taken a couple of weeks for everything to finally read as our new address!

4. Call ahead (to set up your electricity + internet) 

At least with Austin Energy, it takes 2-3 days for them to shut off your electricity and transfer the service. So it's a fine balance of making sure you're out of your old space and into the new one, with as little time between them with no electricity because it's HOT in the summer. Yay Texas! 

For our internet set up, we couldn't transfer our account over since the company we were using at our old location did not service this area. So it did take a few days for them to set up the new service. But as you all know we need the internet for our POS, speakers etc. A quick fix and little bandaid to this was to just use my personal phone as a hot spot to connect to the wifi to check people out/stream music. 

5. Ask for help

I feel extremely blessed and lucky to have truly amazing and supportive friends and family. Who volunteered to help with the move (again, in the summer, in Texas). There's no way I would have been able to have a pretty seamless transition over here without all hands on deck!

Also, the kind words of encouragement, customers who popped by to say hi and bring flowers, to even volunteers via Instagram (just even the fact there were folks offering to help meant SO much!)

 Paper Craft Pantry Blog: Our new and approved card wall.

Thinking about opening up a brick + mortar or looking to relocate/expand your current shop? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below! 

Small Business School: Our Favorite Business Books

Pei Sim


 Paper Craft Pantry Blog: The best books to read for small business owners.

You all know by now that we host a monthly book club series as a part of our community initiative here in Austin. Since our first meeting in 2015, we have read dozens of personal and business development books to novels. We're partial to business related books since we are equally passionate about supporting fellow small business owners! 

This post has been one we've had on our editorial calendar for quite some time because if we're being honest, having to choose just our favorite small business related books was HARD. There truly are so many great authors, books and subjects out there! So we asked our owner and founder, Pei, what her top picks were. She is the one who usually leads our book clubs, and has a book on her at all times! 

Without further ado, here are her top recommendations for books to keep in your arsenal or add to your collection. We've even asked her to share what she felt like her biggest takeawaywas from each of the books she selected. 

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Hey y'all! I'm so excited to pop on the blog to share this list with you. It's hard to believe that this year will mark FIVE years of small business ownership. And even with those years in my pocket, I am a true believer of always learning, growing and evolving both personally as well as professionally for my business. These books have found their way to the list of books I frequently revisit, or reread because their pages are riddled with post it notes of reminders of the parts that resonated with me the most. These are also books I recommend, without hesitation, to friends and fellow business owners who need a little inspiration. 

SMALL BUSINESS LIBRARY BOOKS

1. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

You may be wondering why this book made it's way on my list, how on earth does this have anything to do with business? Well, I think by bringing in a little bit of the hygge mindset to both your life in and out of work can have a profound impact on your day-to-day. Creating a cozy space at home where I can truly unplug and feel settled has helped me tremendously since it can be sometimes hard to draw the lines of boundaries of not taking work home with me. And being able to apply those same principles to the physical shop has helped our team feel like it's our second home, and we've even have guests in the shop mentioning how much they love spending time in our space (so we're on to something!).

Biggest takeaway: When you feel good, when the environment you're in feels good, when the people around you feel good, everyone wins. 

2. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

The title of this book intrigued me from the get go. The idea of slow seems so foreign in a world that spotlights all things fast. Faster service, faster deliveries, faster turn around times.... fast, faster, fastest. It seems like everyone is trying to out run, out do and out business each other. But what if we shifted that perspective and deliberately chose to move at a slower pace, to have time to appreciate what we already have instead of chasing after what we don't? 

Biggest takeaway:

Giving yourself a free pass. Everyone is guilty of being imperfect whether that's in a relationship, partnership, with work etc. We empathize with others who mess up because they're human, but what about being a little more forgiving and less judgmental when we ourselves, fall short from time to time? 

3. Profit First by Mike Michaelwicz

This book was by far the biggest light bulb moment of 2017 for me. Money and finances when it comes to small business gives most business owners an eye twitch. This book was extremely scary to read because I was so afraid I'd learn that I was a terrible business owner and should just quit. I know that seems dramatic but it's true! For a business that doesn't have investors or take on debt/credit, cash flow is one of our biggest rollercoasters. There were times where it felt like we had an abundance in our accounts, times where it felt like there wasn't enough. And that feeling pretty much went back and forth, all the time. Talk about stressful! 

Biggest takeaway: Allocate. Allocate. Allocate. Learning how to properly allocate every single dollar that came in made a huge impact in my relationship with money for the business. I now know where every dollar needs to go. A portion to operation costs, a portion to profit, a portion to taxes etc. It took me some time to sort out those exact percentages (that differed slightly from the recommendation in the book) and there was a learning curve for sure. But now, money feels good (like it should!). 

4. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This was one of the books we read last year, in 2017 for our book club. Elizabeth shares about things that most creatives struggle with, inspiration and creativity. I loved that she shared personal stories throughout the book, it's a book I re-read when I need a dose of inspiration and a reminder of following through with creativity! 

Biggest takeaway: The Amazon/book story. Spoiler alert if you haven't read this book yet! The story of a book idea that got pushed a side, time and time again. And before she knew it, someone had written that book that was her idea. I love thinking about how no ideas are "ours", they come to us wanting to be developed, and grown. They stay with us for some time, but if we ignore it and push it to the back burner over and over, it'll go find someone else who can develop and grow it. 

5. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

When you own your own business, and if I'm being honest, just life in general, scarcity can be a very real thing. There never seems to be enough hours in a day, money in your account, orders coming in...the list could go on! It can often stem from comparison especially when it comes to social media and the portrayal of what a perfect life should look like, or what a successful business owner should be. This book breaks down those myths and gets you to think beyond what we know by digging deeper. 

Biggest takeaway: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Don't take your critics too seriously, there will always be a critic, there will always be someone who doesn't understand your business, heck, there will even be someone out there who just doesn't like you for no reason at all. And that's okay. 

Listen to Brené's talk on the quote above here

6. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I used to get so overwhelmed by my to-do list. I have one for my personal life/home and one for the business. There was always so much to do, so many little things. There would even be times where I didn't know where to begin, or feel like I did so much during the course of the day but really didn't accomplish much once I took a step back. The art of busyness is something most of us are really, really good at. But busy isn't always a good thing. Trying to really define what is a priority and what is important can be challenging since most of the time, EVERYTHING seems to be a priority or be the most important. This book forced me (in a good way) to step back and really evaluate what's important and get into the habit of learning how to identify what is a priority/what isn't. I still have days when things can feel a little overwhelming and those are the days I reach for this very book to remind me of the essentialist mindset! 

Biggest takeaway: Direct quote from the book " An essentialist produces more - brings forth more - by removing more instead of doing more." 

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Notable mentions and books we have on our reading list:

You Are a Badass At Making Money by Jen Sincero

When by Daniel H. Pink

The Effortless Everyday by Katie Lee. 

Want to be a part of our book club community? RSVP to this month's meeting here or join our newsletter list for future meetings! 

Have a book that you keep in your small business library that isn't on our list? We want to know! Let us know in the comments below so we can add it to our reading list :) 

 

Small Business School: Spending With Purpose For Your Business

Pei Sim


 The Paper + Craft Pantry Small Business School Blog

We've all heard about being mindful when spending, especially when it comes to personal purchases. More and more folks are moving away from purchasing things and choosing to invest in experiences instead. And those who are purchasing physical goods are choosing to shop from independent + local businesses. A shift is happening and we really think that in the long run, it's a good thing all around. 

When our community chooses to shop local and allow their money to make a bigger impact, we all feel it. Small businesses thrive off of loyal customers, word of mouth and even the smallest of purchases make a huge impact. Our friends over at Bravely wrote an incredible piece on Values-Based Spending you should check out! 

Spending Mindfully For Your Small Business

From a small business perspective and from a business owner's standpoint, learning to really know your money is so crucial in growing a thriving business. You can't be afraid of your bank account, and not know where your money is going. That's the quickest way to find yourself in a cash flow problem. We highly, highly recommend reading Profit First, whether you're just about to launch a business or you're in your 5th year of business. It's been vital in taking The Paper + Craft Pantry into it's most profitable year yet. 

According to research, 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. And though reasons vary, the root of it can probably be traced back to how the business was operating from the back end and how whoever was running the business was managing money. Through a lot, and we mean a lot, of trial and error (events that weren't successful, hiring and firing, misreading product trends etc.) we're still continuing to learn and navigate the world of small business. But we have learned some truly valuable lessons that we want to share with you! 

Here are the top three things to consider before spending for your business. 

Pay yourself, you're the most important part of your small business!

Number one of this list is PAY YOURSELF. A lot, and we mean a lot, of small business owners don't pay themselves. Take a moment to gasp. 

Even if it's a small amount, do it from the start, do it now and do it regularly. Some small business owners pay themselves a percentage of revenue monthly, some do a set dollar amount. Some do a monthly owners draw and some do it bi-monthly. Whatever the case, just do it. 

Can you operate your small business with less? 

One of the key take aways in Profit First was the fact that if you could hypothetically run your business for $1000 a month, you could run it for $999 a month. Save a dollar. Then the next month, try running your business for $998 and so forth. You get the point? Cut your expenses down to what you really need? Do you really need that fancy office? Do you really need that expensive new printer or will your current one do fine for now? 

Put money where it matters most in your small business.

Identify what your business does well. Invest your time, energy and money into that and do it well. By not spreading yourself and your funds too thin, you're able to really hone in on what makes your business stand out and different from other businesses. 

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Owning a small business can be scary and hard, but we're here to support you in any way we can! Have a small business topic you're curious about? Let us know in the comments below! 

 

Small Business School: A Year In Review 2017

Pei Sim


  Paper Craft Pantry Small Business Blog 2017 Year In Review

Happy 2018!

Even as we are making our way through the third week of the year, I feel that it's really important to always take time to reflect back on the previous year. I wrote a 2016 review last year and from all the positive feedback, I am so excited to share how 2017 looked for us.

Since our post last year, we've gained a lot of new readers, customers, followers and friends :)  So I'll just share a short intro! 

I'm Pei — the owner + founder of The Paper + Craft Pantry. As a stationery fiend and D.I.Y.er, The Paper Craft Pantry has allowed me to share two things I love the most and create a thriving small business right here in Austin. 

If I'm being completely transparent, I've had this post drafted for weeks now but had been finding it hard to hit publish because I'm not certain what I've shared below is what people want to hear. But in the spirit of honesty, I think we should all be vulnerable and open up about what struggles we run into and how we grow from all of it. So here goes nothing! 

Here are the top 5 things I've learned this year as a small business owner:

1. Time management + being intentional with how I choose to spend my time as it relates to business has been crucial. 

One of the things that hasn't changed from year to year, is the amount of emails I get asking me why I got started, how I got started, how I managed to take on a small business financially, how I acquire clients and customers, how to turn those customers into loyal fans, how I grew my community etc. 

Although I do my very best to respond to everyone, and at the very least direct them to one of the posts on our blog that may help guide them, it truly is impossible to carve out precious time of the work day. I know that may seem a little harsh, but every 3-5 minutes dedicated to responding to every email adds up and that takes time away from me actually focusing on growing my business. Don't get me wrong, I'm always supportive of the community and am happy to lend knowledge to fellow business owners. But I will prioritize folks I have built a relationship with, a relationship that gives and takes — not just takes if you know what I mean. 

It's so much more meaningful and powerful for me to invest time into quality business relationships and support them thoroughly vs. randomly answering business questions for dozens of business owners. I learned how to politely decline or direct someone to someone else who may be better able to support them - and to offer monthly business mentoring, one small business at a time. 

2. Predicting the future is impossible. 

From workshops to stationery we stock on our shelves, there's no shortage of amazing class content or paper goods we can offer to our community. But boy is it hard trying to guess what people will want or be interested in. 

Choosing our workshop instructors happens fairly organically and that's the best part! I pay attention to what our community is asking for and saying to know what kind of class content they are interested in, and I'll sift through instructor submissions to see if someone is the right fit or if there is a current instructor who would be wonderful to host a workshop with! It helps that one of our parameters is that our instructors have to own their own business so it makes the selection process a lot easier! 

With product, it's easy to get sucked into seasons and trends but trying to stay true to high quality and timeless designs has turned our shop into the destination for unique stationery. If you're curious on how we decide what stationers to work with, you can read more here. 

There's no telling what we just can't keep in stock because they keep flying off the shelves, or what workshops will sell out in mere hours. So instead of trying to predict, I've been working on listening to my gut about workshop + stationery decisions because they always turn out to be what's best for the business. 

3. Slow and steady wins the race. 

It just takes time y'all. There's no secret sauce or recipe (at least no one told me about it) to success. When The Paper + Craft Pantry first opened, we had a huge opening weekend with a media night, grand opening party in addition to several workshops over that weekend. Our first official day open, was a miserably cold and wet November day - and not a single person came into the shop. My first thought (besides that it was freezing cold) was "oh s$%t, what have I gotten myself into...". 

Even though I felt like I had done the work in the many months leading up to opening, the work wasn't done. It takes time for folks to learn about what we were, where we were and who we were. And I'm proud to say that we're putting down really solid roots here in Austin as we've grown! 

As for our events and workshops, we started out by hosting 1 workshop or event a week. And slowly built our community and generated buzz about each event. As we grew our community, we listened to what they asked for and were able to slowly add in more workshops and events we knew folks were interested in. 

I've  played around with timing of workshops, certain dates and days, pricing, class content, ads, giveaway collaborations, you name it, I've done it. Because at the end of the day, this studio is here to serve each of you and that will always be top of mind when deciding what workshops or events to put on our calendar. 

4. Running a business has many facets and taking time to look inward to see how I can grow the business has allowed me to evaluate what my business needs. And how to truly grow my audience.

Social media is definitely a hot topic between small business owners. It's so easy to get sucked into the numbers game, battling algorithms, feeling the need to have an Ad Spend budget for all forms of social media, and walking the line on sending out the right amount of newsletters, just to name a few — comes up in conversations between small business owners all the time. 

Yes, there's Instagram and their ever evolving algorithm. For me personally, I had to take a step back and realize that followers didn't translate to $. And each like didn't necessarily translate to $ either. I've chosen to use Instagram to connect with our community of followers, inform them of what's happening, and hopefully, to inspire in some small way. 

The thing I've been working really hard on is to grow our newsletter list and to create simple yet powerful emails that go out to our subscribers weekly. I love that they chose to give us a way to connect back with them so it's special to be able to offer our subscribers insider tips + deals! 

5. Doing it all doesn't exist. 

I get asked all the time, even praised, on how I'm able to do it all. Have a personal life, a family, regular work outs, vacation time etc. all while running a business. 

Fact: I don't do it all. 

There are some days I feel like I'm nailing this whole small business things and there are other days I feel completely overwhelmed! There are days I feel like I'm a better friend and business owner while letting my workouts fall to the side. And there are days I'm focused on other aspects more than others - and that's okay. To me, balance ebbs and flows. 

6. Sometimes, things don't work out the way you think or would like. And it stinks. But it's okay.

There have definitely been some hard days (even weeks), and I think just giving myself some time to feel down, feel a little defeated is an important part of this whole process. Learning to dust myself off, and audibly telling myself "You can do this" helps me refocus and get back to work, as silly as it may sounds.

Having a great support system and community is also another huge factor, there's nothing more reassuring when you share with a fellow small business owner some of your struggles and them exclaiming that they're feeling the same way or are going through the same thing!

Okay, real reality, I've also learned to be a little more cautious about business related relationships. There have been several instances I felt "burned" by things that had transpired from a place of community over competition. They are few and far between, but they do happen and when they do, it really stinks! But everything is a lesson to be learned, and trust me when I say I've learned from these situations! 

 The Paper + Craft Pantry: Austin's Best Stationery Shop and Workshop Classes

I truly hope this incredibly honest post resonates with you. Even if it helps you realize you're not alone! 

If you have any additional questions feel free to leave them in the comments, below. I'd love to hear from you! 

Cheers to another amazing year,

Pei

Small Business School: How To Plan for Your Next Year in Business

Pei Sim


 Paper Craft Pantry Small Business School Blog: Planning for 2018.

Happy New Year, everyone! This is always an exciting time of year when the holidays are behind us, maybe we have a little bit more time to rest before the holidays are officially over, and we’re feeling hopeful about what will be different this year. While change is healthy, it can be detrimental in business if we either: 1) make too many changes all at once, or 2) make changes in the wrong areas.

To help us consider where we can have the most impact on our business it’s important to take a look back at the previous year to see what was already working well.

Making small improvements to those services that have performed well from the previous year, can yield some really great returns in the new year. Also, as you go through this exercise, it’s helpful to remember these two things:

 

  1. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In business speak, this translates to a general rule of thumb that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your services/clients/marketing efforts.

  2. It is 5x more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.

With the Pareto Principle, it yet again reminds us that it’s better for us to focus on what we do best; we cannot be everything to everyone. So with that, it’s helpful to take a look at which one of our services is bringing in the most revenue, and that’s what we want to focus more of our energy on this next year.

Similarly, where are we finding most of our clients? We have to consider what marketing activity is most beneficial in that it is directly corresponding to bringing in clients. Whatever that activity is, we want to focus on more of that in 2018. Before we dive into 2018 planning, I find it crucial to spend time evaluating what worked in 2017. On that note, I’ve created a tool to help you do this 2017 Retrospective.

Before we dive into the nitty gritty details of doing this 2017 Retrospective, let’s first get into the right headspace to tackle this work. What you’ll need:

  • Set aside 2-3 hours on your calendar so that you can get through all of this in one sitting without distraction.

  • Pull a report from your online invoicing software so that you can see all of the transactions from this past year.

  • Create an inspiring atmosphere, whether that be to light a candle or turn on your diffuser––this work can be tedious, so set yourself up to have some fun while you’re at it.

  • Put on your favorite playlist.

  • Answer these questions first, and then let’s get to it.

Take a few minutes to reflect back on 2017, and answer these questions.

  • What are your top 5 business highlights from the past year?

  • Who were your top 5 favorite clients?

  • What marketing activities bring you the most joy?

  • What was the biggest surprise for you this year?

  • What do you want to be known for?

From there, it’s time to open up this Google Sheet and input all of the information for your business. Yes, this can be a monotonous task, but I promise you that the insights gleaned from this exercise are powerful! (NOTE: Check the tabs at the bottom for both exercises!)

Once you’ve had a chance to work through the 2017  Retrospective Tool and review what has been working well, hopefully, the path forward for 2018 becomes a little bit more clear.

At this stage it’s important to remember that you don’t yet have to know exactly how you’ll get there, as long as you’re clear on where you want to be going, the path will reveal itself along the way, as long as you’re committed to doing the work and staying open to the possibilities.

My Top 5 Tips for Planning for the Year Ahead

  1. Make note of any major plans, deadlines, or projects. Are you thinking about taking a summer vacation? Write that down so that you create the space to take that time off! Do you want to launch a new service or product? Think about how long it’s going to take you to create everything, add at least two weeks for ample cushion, and then work backwards to think about when you need to get started.

  2. Break up your year into quarters, and within each quarter, choose no more than three projects to work on. Right now when you’re staring at the great expanse of 2018, it can feel paralyzing. Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit states, “Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.” One way we can engineer small wins into our working style is to break up our year into quarters, allowing for us to stay on track with smaller, shorter-term goals that ultimately help us get to where we want to go.

  3. Take time once a month to dig in even deeper. Things change quickly, so it’s helpful to build in time each month to review not only what you have achieved the previous month, but also how that might have affected your timeline and/or projects for the upcoming month. If you sold out of that one offering faster than you thought, what else would you like to share with your audience this month? If you had a new opportunity arise, how will you fit that in?

  4. Schedule in REST! This is one I’m working on practicing more in 2018! It’s vital that we take time for our minds and bodies to rest so that we don’t succumb to burnout, but it can be hard to slow down when we’re in the middle of a grind. Take a look at your year overall, and find a way to build in a natural ebb and flow to your workload. If you’re so inclined, take a look at the lunar cycles and sync up major projects, launch dates, and rest periods with the phases of the moon.

  5. Take the time to write down your wins as they happen. Remember how we started this process by celebrating our highlights from 2017 and trying to think back to how we first found our clients? It can be super helpful to keep track of those events as they happen, so that we don’t have to store all of that information in our memories and hope we recall it when we need it. Give yourself the freedom to release that info so that you can make space for everything else that demands your attention.

If you’re feeling like you need a little bit more support to get started on your business plan for this year, check out my 2018 Year Ahead Planning Bundle! It’s an affordable option to get you reflecting on 2017 before making intentional plans for the year ahead. And if you’d still like a little more help once you get started, you can always sign up for a 30-minute slot during my Virtual Office Hours––they’re always free!


Maggie Miller, with MaggieGentry Thought Partner, Austin TexasAbout the author:
Maggie owns MaggieGentry, where she provides thought partnership & marketing strategy for creative entrepreneurs. She hosts Own Your Why workshops, and is the Creative Marketing Strategist for The Paper + Craft Pantry. You may find her ‘gramming over at @maggiegentry_. Still want more? Check out Maggie's Strategy Sessions.

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