A Maker's Story
In 2016 my husband was in a daze. For 10 years he had worked in customer service, call center tech support to be exact. It's a brutal space to work in and I do not envy anyone that has done it for the length of time he had invested. Ultimately, he was unsatisfied with where he was in his career. He was quickly approaching 40 and really didn't like the picture he had of his future being in a cubicle until he retired. He felt as a creative, his soul was draining and his day to day was at a point of tedium that didn't make the paychecks seem worth it. Getting daily text messages from him that were bleak and distraught was putting a strain on his relationships with his friends and with me. He was in a spiral that he felt he was never going to be able to get out of. Then parenthood happened, I was pregnant and we needed to buckle down in our lives a bit more than what dinks (duel income no kids) were used to. We had our son in February of 2016 and were quick to realize that in order for my husband to keep working we were spending more than an entirety of one of his paychecks on daycare. It didn't make sense to either of us. No politician, boss or strike of lightening was going to come and lift us from this financial doldrum. The counsel we were getting from our friends was that economically it wasn't going to improve for the next 5 years. With that reality, our complacency was no more and at the end of the year we started drawing up a foundation for him to focus on his dreams of being a full time maker and a stay at home dad. Life is too short to spend all of your time mired in misery.
Our first steps were the usual steps you could imagine. The biggest was that we started by meeting with people who were already established as small business owners. This can be scary for an introvert like my husband but a lot of entrepreneurs love sharing their tools and collaboration is vital to keep your energy and focus for any business. He found a private facebook group and a youtube network with other makers who share inspiration and trouble shoot topics with each other. I found local folks who were making the same dreams a reality for their families. Another point of learning is to never be afraid to talk shop with people who are following their passions because passion is contagious. This was the biggest lesson we learned in the discovery period of our adventure. We had to build the confidence that we were no different than the other people who were making it happen in their lives. Through those networks, discussions and learnings we recognized what things we were going to need in order to establish our new venture and make it something that isn't just a hobby but a sustainable income.
A good and tangible business plan was a priority and there are many non-profits that provide tools to help build a business plan. There are meetups in every city that encourage platforms for people to work in groups and problem solve as well. One of my husband's struggles as a creative is that his mind is constantly flooded with new ideas and new inventions, it is hard for him to settle down and focus on one thing at a time. Writing a plan down and identifying what the economics were helped to keep him grounded and me positive. Identifying a budget for our household that didn't make us crazy was also imperative. Financially, we knew that day care was costing us 'X' amount of money. So, we needed a way to come up with the balance of money to keep us comfortable in our lifestyle after we pulled our son from the program. Sure, concessions were to be made but we weren't looking at a need for $10K a month, more like $600 a month. We were saving up for the right time for him to take a leave from the workforce and pull our son from daycare. Our plan was to evaluate by June/July of 2017 if it was the right time for him to make a go of it. At this point it was November of 2016. We felt that was a good bit of time to let pass for our plan to solidify. Unfortunately, a setback happened just as we were getting our mojo, my husband lost his call center job and in turn our savings plan. That meant we had to put our maker plan into action sooner than we were projecting. As a planner this was terrifying for me. For my husband, it was shattering for his confidence.
We couldn't afford to wallow in this set back, we had to rally to make it work and the time was now or never. The solution was to get him a part time job for now. We realized that at the moment we still needed a steady cash flow coming from my husband that wasn't just part of his maker business. It allows for him to care for our son during the day and pick up a few hours at Lowes, Home Depot, Busy Beaver anywhere that is hiring at a decent wage. He is steadily selling his work as he comes up with new ideas and designs and he's in a much better place emotionally after being home with our son and working with his creativity and craft (which to me, and probably any wife, is priceless). One of the biggest things we have learned with this startup is to rely on the business community for advice and leads on things that are available locally, to never shy away from talking about what we are doing, and to make sure we use the technology that is so readily available for building our marketing tools. So far, we're still in the initial building phases and polishing up our messaging but I wouldn't trade this experience for that life we had just a few months ago. My husband is so much happier, my son is getting to know his father and we're not missing out on milestones in his life. Each little step in our business is a minor victory and we are so excited to share each milestone as we get there. We designed a logo, we set up social media accounts, we have a plan and we have our inspiration - we're a go for lift off.
Heidi Jacobs is the Co-Founder of Slap Stuff Together, a maker's studio. She is also a Project Manager by day and part time professional photographer. If you would like to learn more about SST's adventures as a new start up you can follow them on Instagram or on Facebook. If you would like to learn more about their startup you can drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Business owner and Artist, committed to growing as a maker as well as sharing her and her husband's experience with owning a small maker studio.
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