Year End Review

I’ve wanted to write this post for some time now.

So many of you appreciated my honest review of my first year in business and I know I really like to read those types of posts as well. Ones where the curtain is pulled back and you are given a rare and transparent look at what it really takes to do what they do.

I suppose that’s the nature of living a creative life - being curious about how others do it too. How they live out their days, stay inspired, face their fears, and all the little rituals and nuances that go into that complicated and unique algorithm.

But I have to be honest. That post I wrote last year? It feels like it was lifetimes ago.

I feel like I (and my business) have died and been reborn several times over in just the year since. I have shed several layers of skin through all the trials, triumphs, and lessons of 2015. I know I am far from mastering this creative entrepreneurial life I dove head first into, but I can tell you I feel a hell of a lot wiser than I used to be.

My intention for this post is to be as real as I can be about my journey in cultivating a meaningful and impactful online business. Because all I've ever wanted is the no-fluff, honest truth about how people have gotten to where they are.

This second year in business was all about testing my devotion and shedding any ego standing in the way of progress.

I say I’ve been in business for two years, but I should clarify that I started The Dabblist as a personal blog nearly 4 years ago now. It was two years ago (October 31, 2013 to be exact) that I left my job as an online community manager at a large software company to take this hobby blog of mine and make it into a full-fledged business.

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The sweetest gift from a dear friend. The logo from the first program I ever created. A reminder to appreciate what I create.

I Couldn’t Keep Going Without Support

Despite my best efforts to do (and be good at) all the things in my business {blogging, photography, bookkeeping, social media, email, etc}, this was the year I finally realized that being a dabblist in my business was no longer serving me. In fact, it was giving me total exhaustion. And when you’re depleted, your creativity completely goes out the window.

There were times when I wasn’t able to play with my hands and create as much because I was too busy trying to do everything else. I wasn’t walking my talk and being the change I wanted to see in this world (inspiring and encouraging ambitious women to work with their hands again to tap into their own inner wisdom).

I needed help in order to be this woman I desired to be.

So I invested in some major support. I started the year with an assistant and an intern and ended it with a full-on team of incredible women who can devote themselves to areas of the business that they excel at, so I can keep creating.

I just wrote that sentence with such ease but I can remember how difficult it was to make all those little choices to have other people be responsible for my business (which felt like my baby, really).

It took a lot of deep breaths, long talks with good girlfriends who sweetly reminded me of my vision for The Dabblist and why it was so important to me, and slow and steady action.

The support I feel in my business right now brings tears of gratitude and relief to my eyes. It’s as if the surrendering of the control I could feel tightly wound up in my body (terrified of letting go) has set me free to go deeper in my work and to serve in a bigger way.

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A day in the life.

Pitching Old Men & Business Model Real Talk

When I made the decision to transition this blog into a full-fledged business, I knew I was going the unconventional business path. Being based online and not selling widgets can seem perplexing to traditional business minds.

And, while most of my consciousness was okay and even a little proud of that, there was still a part of me that felt embarrassed and a little unworthy because I wasn’t following the standard rubric of modern day society. I quickly realized this was a part of me I needed to truly release in order to press forward with my mission in 2015.

An example: In May, I found myself pitching investment in my company to a room full of older, rich men (they were angel investors). I was almost done with my perfectly rehearsed presentation when one of them stopped me mid-sentence and asked me, “so….what do you do again?”

It was at that moment I fully comprehended that what I am doing is very unconventional and I had better get used to that if this mattered to me enough to ask for investment in it.

I backed up and began again letting them know that The Dabblist was a website with a growing community of creative women all over the globe who yearn to work with their hands again.

The only person who nodded along was the one woman in the room (bless her for giving me the courage to keep going in that presentation). I am grateful for that meeting because all those tough questions about my business model, financial projections, and vision for growth helped me realize what this business is not.

My business is not a traditional blog or website that runs off of advertising income. I tried that a few times (once with re-targeted ads and most recently this past summer when I experimented with working with small business artisans and etsy shop owners) and it never felt fully right to me.

I want The Dabblist to feel like a sanctuary away from all the usual noise on the internet.

My intention is for you to come here and feel the freedom and space to tap into your creative curiosity without an advertisement for the handbag you were just checking out on Amazon blaring in your face.

Also, to make any substantive income from an ad-based website you need to get a ton of page views. And what gets a lot of page views? Click bait. Salacious content. Talking about paleo diets, vaccinations, and Donald Trump. Not at all aligned with my intention for this home I’ve been cultivating online.

So revenue for this business is entirely up to me to create through my own work.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to create what I most want to see in this world and feel closely connected to the women who join me. It’s a beautiful way of doing business that I would like to see more of.

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My favorite place to write from - the local library overlooking redwood trees.

Simultaneous Joy & Frustration

Of all my accomplishments in 2015, I am most proud of A Handmade Holiday.

After running the program last year, I knew I wanted to expand it to be even more helpful and infuse more meaning back into people’s holiday gift giving experiences. Over the summer, I got the idea of adding in a Gift Making Kit. I wanted to hand craft part of the experience and physical products are something I’ve been really wanting to add into my business.

That being said, I quickly realized I really had a lot to learn. I had to stumble my way through it and evolve through doing.

There were some tough times - like when the shipping company I worked with lost packages in the mail and unpacked my carefully crafted opening experience. Or when supplies were back-ordered and I had to write a bunch of Handmade Holiday Makers letting them know their kits would be late.

But there were some amazing times, like the night I hosted my first live workshop and so many people showed up that my server couldn’t handle it and we needed to add a bonus encore workshop to make up for the people who couldn’t get in.

And then there was the incredible community of all the holiday gift makers that joined the program. I had the honor and joy of getting to know and really connect with them in the private community for Handmade Holiday Makers and seriously fell in love with these women. Creative ingenuity flowed from woman to woman as each of them explored their own creative curiosity and celebrated them together.

Throughout this year, I got really clear that this is the work I want to be doing more of -- bringing women together to explore their own unique creative curiosity. Because I have seen just how powerful giving yourself that permission to explore your own creativity can be in your life. People come alive, inspired, and get the gumption to live a more adventurous and purposeful life. It’s that good.

And I can’t stand limiting this experience just to the holiday season. So I’ve been working behind the scenes to create a year-round experience of cultivating rituals and practices to hone your creative spirit. It’s called The Dabblist Collective. I did a test run over the summer with 15 amazing ladies and I’m getting ready to share it with the world very soon. {You can find out more and be added to the notification list here, if you’d like!}

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Thank goodness for mamas. Mine helped me fulfill Gift Making Kit orders all of November.

Devotion to the Point of Insanity

If Year One was about Courage, Year Two was about Devotion.

As often happens with business builders, I ran into some intense situations where I really had to ask myself if this was worth continuing. Was I devoted enough to move forward?

My friend Nisha Moodley once asked if I was devoted to this work to the point of insanity.

What she meant was, was I choosing to be all-in and fully committed to the vision of what I’m creating?

I had to think about that for a few days. Was I really truly devoted?

And then I heard an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, where she said she wants to take a sharpie to the bumper stickers that read, “what would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” and change it to “what would you attempt even if you might fail?"

This, I believe, is the lens through which to look at meaningful work and art. Asking yourself if you could continue doing it despite failure. Epic, repeated failure even.

There were several moments this past year - when cash was low, when comments were vicious, when Tim looked at me like what are you doing??, and when my vision got cloudy and I wasn’t sure of the answer - when I had to dig deep, put my pride aside, and ask myself if this was worth all the failure that comes with it.

My answer was and continues to be an unwavering yes. Tears may be streaming down my cheeks and my voice might be shaking, but the yes unmistakably rises from the depths of my creative, dabbling soul.

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Thank you, I love you, Thank you.

Some of My Best from 2015. (In case you missed anything!)

It’s such an honor to write for you, create things with you, connect with you through emails and comments, and play with you - always!

I would love to hear if there was a particular post that you really enjoyed or resonated with you and what you’d like to see more of here at Thedabblist.com. Comment below and share the love!

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Raw Lessons In Entrepreneurship

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