I'm not really too sure what's going on in the photo above but, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe I was trying to take a cute picture and it ended up being an epic fail. I chose the photo above because it is clearly an outtake. It is not a perfectly posed photo and it is definitely not what I was going for. Much like how my first year in business has gone.
If I'm being completely honest, when I began this journey exactly one year ago, I was not "going for" what it has turned out to be. I did not think my products would be in retail stores, I did not think my products would be featured on television shows and blogs, and I certainly did not think it would be as successful as it has turned out to be. I am not saying that to be boastful, but seriously, I did not think it would be a successful company.
At the end of 2014 I was minding my own business and working full time at my first job out of design school. At that point my mom had been diagnosed with three cancers in four years. The Canadian Cancer Society has been such a significant part of our lives the past few years. Our family has participated in The Relay For Life for a few years now. I knew that this organization was something I wanted to be involved with more. During my mom's journey she had a handful of verses and songs that helped her through the really tough times. The lightbulb went off and I decided to create a collection of prints (The Journey Collection) to help encourage my mom and donate a portion of the proceeds to The Canadian Cancer Society. That was it. That was my business plan. Sell these ten prints and make my donations every month.
When I was registering my business and applying for my PST & GST number with Revenue Canada, I was speaking with an agent on the phone. He asked how much money I was expecting to make in my first year of business. "Uhhh... I don't know..." (Seriously, I hadn't even thought that far ahead!) "Maybe like $1,000?" I said. "Oh, okay Miss, a GST number won't be necessary for you then," he said with a giggle. I knew I had to make my company legit, but I also thought it would be more of a hobby/side business than anything else. That's why I wasn't anticipating much of an income from it.
Fast forward one month in business (April 2015) and I was already creating new products! Another lightbulb moment happened when I thought it might be fun to do notepads. The response was even better than the prints. Then I got a contact to print my graphics on mugs, also a good response!
One day I was walking around Fort Langley with my best friend. We were going in the opposite direction and then my friend said "hey, let's check out that new store Bella & Wren! It looks so cute." We turned around and went in. I spotted some notepads in stock. Lightbulb. I walked right over to the lady behind the counter and said, "do you like local artists?" Her eyes lit up and said, "of course we do!". At this point in my head I was like, crap, what do I do now?! Then I collected my thoughts and said, "ok, well, here's my business card. I design prints, notepads, and mugs. Would you be interested?" The lady was so friendly and said, "definitely, come by sometime this week with your products and I'll have a look!" I thanked her and walked out feeling pretty good about myself. Then it hit me... crap!!! What did I just get myself into?! Being in the retail space never even crossed my mind. I was so unprepared. I didn't even know what the general protocol was with this type of thing. Now enter my business-savvy parents, who are both sales reps, and they filled me in on all the wholesale lingo. Thank goodness for parents, hey?! I quickly made up a mini catalogue with some pricing and photos and made some make-shift packaging bands to put around my notepads with my information on them. They did not look cute, but they got the job done. I went to meet with the owner that week and bam, she ordered on the spot! And the rest is history! I became more familiar with dealing with retailers, creating new products, and figuring out what was catching the eye of my customers. I began to absolutely LOVE being a small business owner. I was constantly coming up with new ideas and becoming more confident in my products. Once I got a taste of having my products being in retail, I was hooked! It's so much fun working with retailers and expanding my products into different areas. It's been such a fun part of my company!
Fast forward one year (TODAY!) and I have around 60 products in my shop, ten retailers (two outside of the province of BC!), an amazing bunch of followers on Instagram & Facebook who are so supportive and loving, connections with fellow small business owners, new friends, product collaborations, and features on some amazing platforms.
My intention with this post is not to wave around my first year of accomplishments. It is to be real about my whirlwind journey up until this point and hopefully encourage others who are wanting to dive in and follow their dreams, as cliché as that sounds. Being a small business owner is seriously one of the most fulfilling jobs. I get to have personal relationships with my customers and it brings me SO much joy to see others using my products on the daily. It's easy to get the impression from Instagram that this whole year has been rainbows and dreams coming true. While yes, there have been times like that, it has also been one of the most challenging experiences. I have overcome so many fears through this all. I have been knocked down and rejected, I have felt self conscious and scared, and I have been super excited about a product and not have the same response in return. It's difficult to navigate this business. But it's the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me. I wake up every day excited to see what the day will bring. I have so many dreams and aspirations for this business. Something that I thought would just be a hobby is now becoming my career. I am so beyond excited to see what year two and BEYOND has in store!
A big thank you to all of my supporters. Everyone who has purchased something online or in stores, left encouraging comments on social media, sent emails, booked my design services for their companies, my lovely retailers, and more, I could not do this without YOU! I am so overwhelmed by the support and love from so many of you. I hope you'll all stick around for the ride and see what's next for Victoria Senges Design Co.
Join in on the celebrations with us until FRIDAY, MARCH 25 and receive 30% off your entire purchase using the code: VSHOPTURNSONE