The evening after my last post I went to my parents’ house. My sister and I are in the same accountability group (whole new level of honesty when family’s there) and she was hosting. She moved out, did I tell you? I’m grateful that I’m not sleeping on top of all my supplies anymore, but Tazer and I sure do miss the company. Anyway, after the other ladies left I sat and chatted with my parents and Gillian. I unloaded everything I told you about the Girls’ Day Out Expo and then some, expressing all my concerns and frustrations.
Oh, my parents. Friends, I couldn’t ask for better. My mother embodies the DIY spirit, and as a pianist my father has been largely self-employed for his whole life. Gillian, who as my erstwhile roommate knows my product better than just about anyone, is also on the path to self-employment
“It takes time,” my father said. “The second or third year is when they’ll remember you.” The simplicity of that wisdom stopped my tirade in its tracks. Where was my father at 29? Trying to pay off school debts, newly married, playing in nightclubs because nobody knew his name yet. Not exactly the internationally-known jazz and concert pianist he is today. In Tulsa especially it isn’t hard to run into someone who knows my father. Because it’s been that way since I can remember, I’ve taken it for granted that he’s always been getting calls to headline at ragtime festivals and judge the Crescendo Awards.
“What am I doing wrong?”
It’s a question that I constantly ask myself. Is my website not interactive enough? Does my Twitter feed need to be funnier? Do I need to lower my prices? (If your answer is yes, read this post and the comments.) Should my booth be more attractive or feminine, even if the Grumpy Skunk line was designed specifically for gender neutrality? Do I need to focus on making things that are more easily mass-produced? That conversation with my parents changed my phrasing. Rather than fret over what I could be doing differently, I need to ask what I should continue. What is going to make me memorable next year?
It takes time. We hear of overnight successes as though that’s the only real way to make it. Everybody loves a Cinderella story (maybe because the prince did all the hard work). I don’t think I’m a Cinderella, friends, and not just because I genuinely love my family. This time last year I was still struggling through reverse culture shock, I had recently moved out of my parents’ house, and I was still trying to find my voice as a jewelry designer. Now I have some of the biggest local shows under my belt, handmade products in two Tulsa stores, and an online boutique that averages about 200 visitors per week. I’m not even close to quitting my day job. I’m still putting a lot of personal funds into the business, and those online visitors aren’t snapping up the merch the way I’d like. And yet! All things considered, I pat myself on the back for sticking with a goal that required a lot more blood, sweat and tears than I ever anticipated.
At the Wichita Girl’s Day Out Expo one fellow vendor approached us. “I’ve seen you at the Guthrie Green before, haven’t I?” she asked. I confirmed, pleased to be remembered. The woman smiled at me and said, “I love your stuff. You guys have come a long ways since I last saw you.”
Progress takes time. Growth requires failures. And Petunkalunka has come a long way in the last few months. After that conversation with my father, I started to get excited about taking the business even farther.
Speaking of Guthrie Green, Tulsa’s newest district is hosting its own street fest this coming Saturday. Head to the East Village for food trucks, performances, and your favorite handmade and local vendors (ME. I MEAN ME) from 11am–3p. Click the image for more information.
I know I said that I was going to avoid brand new shows, but it’s a street festival! It’s low risk and high in Vitamin D! Making Tulsa amazing! Food trucks! See you on Saturday!