The scary bits of growth…

As I have been trying to share my business experiences, I thought today I would get into what is really freaking me out right now…what keeps me awake at night and makes me clench my jaw tight the entire time I am sleeping…dealing with growth and investing in being prepared for such growth. 

Well, there is no doubt about it…Manic Trout is growing faster every day and I am trying with every ounce of my being to keep up. Granted, its summer, so growth is more imminent than current, but I am getting the feeling that the Holiday Shopping is going to be extreme this year, and last year it almost killed me. Really, there were nights when I was in my studio at 5 in the morning, with tears streaming down my face that I was not going to get all of the orders out on time…and the last three nights of shipping, one of my sisters stood right there with me and saw the whole was intense and overwhelming and I would prefer to avoid all of that this December!

So this year I have realized that the way Manic Trout functions needs to step it up a notch…and I am taking advantage of the sloowww month of August to prepare! I have already released some of the Holiday ’09 pieces to the big magazines and I have been making more one of a kind bits and baubles that will be released in September as well. The biggest change, however, is going to be the website…I have been testing carts out and deciding which of the big dog cart software I want to sign with…which at this point also means that I am quadrupling how much I pay monthly to have a web site. As well as switching from my almost free cart, I am switching to a much larger merchant account to process cards…which will work with the cart software and save me a huge amount of time and hassle (and that step will actually be cheaper, which is fantastic!). As of today I have made my decisions and am not getting ready to switch over…eek!

If you noticed that I have not been updating the site in the past few weeks, fret not, as a new bright and shiny Manic Trout is now in the works and will make your shopping experience a great deal cooler…you will be able to sign in (if you wish) track orders, set up registries and wishlists and send gifts with ease. I am really excited to be able to make this all happen and I strongly feel that it’s well worth the two weeks of constant programming and hair pulling out…not to mention the amount of cash I have been throwing down to prepare for all of this growth.

So what does all of that mean you ask? Currently, the hardest part of the very small business growth for me is all of a sudden having employees, increased monthly service fees, and having to invest in a greater amount of supplies per design without having that much of an increase of sales at this moment (summer is pretty slow for online sales in general and I am realizing that holiday shopping is responsible for over 50% of Manic Trout annual sales) so I am facing the terrifying truth of dwindling savings that I am crossing my fingers is being spent in a smart fashion and being invested in something that will flourish. I am incredibly lucky that Manic Trout does not have any debt at this point and I have been fortunate enough to be able to fund the growth…but still, I’m terrified and on a budget.

If I could give a bit of advice to young designers, it would be to take business classes in school…I would even go as far as forget art school, get your mba…running a design business is actually a very small amount of design compared to what you do on the business, marketing, and networking end and I often wish I had a business background. Although, honestly my BFA in computer graphics, which included a great deal of time in the engineering school programming, has made me grow an online business without any help with the web site and I wouldn’t trade that for the world! It’s also been pretty rewarding when I talk to the tech guys at all of these software companies that I have been getting ready to work with and therefore have to ask tech questions about certain things I want to implement and they are shocked and amazed that I do the site myself…ah, its stuff like that keeps me plugging away! So maybe you don’t need the mba…but seriously…business courses will only help you!

OK, as I am in the mood to ramble on, I will wrap it up…and get back to work on the site…I’m freaking out, but really excited to be able to provide a much cooler shopping experience…and I love the risk-taking, growth, and change that all comes with running a small business…I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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