Saying No To Bank Loans

Let’s talk money.

I’ve had a few people ask me recently, “New storefront, new employees- you seem to be killing it! How are you doing it?”

There’s truth and optimism in there somewhere, but there’s a lot of stress and anxiety, too.  Money talk can be a such a touchy subject for some (myself included) but I think it’s such and important piece of being a small manufacturing shop and I hope sharing my experience might help others to take a realistic approach at being an “artrepreneur” ( I should trademark that term, huh!?)

This is my 10th year for Awl Snap.  It’s crazy to think I’ve been doing it this long and I’m still not tired of it.  And I think the reason for that is because no two years have been at all like.  The first 5 or so years were a side hustle. The last 5 years (full time) are what I’d call a mountainous battle peaked with some great years.

Making the most of my production process has always been one of the toughest parts about marrying the manufacturing side with artistic direction. In years past, I’ve typically been a made-to-order type of shop, where we’d make each order as they came in- one by one. Usually allowing about 2 weeks for delivery. At the beginning of each week I’d order whatever supplies I needed for that week, and get to work.  Doesn’t sound so bad except it was wearing me out, and left me with no room to grow.

I didn’t have cashflow to buy extra leather (very expensive and you have to purchase by the cow- not by the yard.)

I couldn’t produce extra inventory fast enough- meaning sales were limited.

I couldn’t spend time marketing my designs because I was tied up all week ordering supplies, making orders, and responding to customers.

It wasn’t past me that this was an inefficient way to run, but as a small shop no matter what I tried it seemed impossible to grow without finding money. I wasn’t trying to be the next Kate Spade- my goals we’re much smaller. So I took on mentors and I talked to banks. But taking an outside loan just didn’t feel right, so for years I’d just kept trucking along the same old path….

But this year started as a crossroads. With a new retail spot on the books I decided to do things different. I’ve decided to invest in myself and the business- putting a LOT more of my own personal money into the shop. What’s the money going towards? Ordering materials, machinery, marketing, and bringing in a handful of talented craftswomen to help run our production. The theory here is that having production handled frees up my time so I can start spreading the word more about Awl Snap. Something I’ve needed to put way more effort into for years.

It’s scary to put in so much in on the front end. Spending thousands on materials and labor, day after day, and then waiting for the orders to come in. But if I want to grow as a business, I do believe this is a path we need to try.

What’s your story? Is your business in a similar boat? I want to hear from you, fellow Artreprenurs.  Share your story below!

X, Erin

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