So vacation was great, but this week has been a heavy dose of reality. I mentioned in an earlier post that a cutting board from my Etsy shop was featured in the December issue of Sunset Magazine (see here), and the response has been huge. On our way out of town, we stopped at the post office to send off a few boards in an effort to wipe the order slate clean, but by the time we reached our destination seven hours later, I had made six sales. I arrived home on Sunday night with a pending order list that was 43 items long. Don’t get me wrong. This is awesome, but it’s also a lot more business than I’m used to doing.
Last November, I was picked to be the Etsy featured seller. I had six weeks to prepare, and even though I did the best I could, there were times between that feature and Christmas that my shop was pretty bare. I know I could have sold more if I had more at the right times, so I swore that I’d plan better for this year’s holiday season, and the reality is that I have, but it’s still not good enough.
I did most of my cutting board making during the summer and early fall when the weather was nice, and I could work outdoors. By the beginning of November, I had an inventory of about 200 finished boards that had completely taken over a spare bedroom at my parents’ house and was stacked up behind furniture in the living room, too. I was out of storage room and feeling a little overwhelmed, so I quit making new boards and moved into sales mode, spending hours photographing and listing new items on Etsy.
Because I’ve been so swamped with marketing, customer service, and shipping lately, I feel like I have two choices, sell out or call in reinforcements. I’m lucky enough to have two highly skilled, trusted family members willing to help me out, so I’ve decided to take advantage of this windfall while it lasts by delegating some responsibilities to my brother in law, Trevor, and my father in law, Bill. It’s kind of weird for me to let go of some control and not work every part of the process with my own hands, but there are only 24 hours in a day, and one has to sleep at some point.
Trevor Storch has experience with all manners of woodworking and construction, but he specializes in installing and refinishing hardwood floors. His business is somewhat slow right now, so he has agreed to use his time and facilities to finish cutting boards for me. Trevor has graciously let me store raw wood in his spare bedroom for the last year, and yesterday morning, we pulled out a huge stack of thick boards, and I marked them up for cutting and finishing. I also gave him the rundown on my process. Today, he showed me the first couple boards he’s produced, and they are beyond perfect. Trevor is a serious master craftsman with a keen attention to detail. I have no worries about the quality of product that will come out of his shop.
Another member of my team right now is Henry’s dad, Bill Storch (above). Bill and his wife Joanne have been my woodworking mentors for the last five and a half years since the time that I worked for them in their shop. Bill’s passion is fine custom furniture, but when I get squeezed on the production end, he’s been willing to work on cutting boards with/for me. One of these days, I’m going to talk Bill into selling some of his simple but elegant natural-edge furniture through my Etsy shop, but we’re not quite there yet.
Henry’s also been great about either taking kids with him to work or chauffeuring them around to various family members houses for childcare. I miss being with them, but having uninterrupted blocks of time for work is pretty essential right now.
For the last four days, I’ve been spending 2-3 hours per day taking product photos, editing them, and adding new one-of-a-kind items to my shop. Basically, the rest of my days are spent wrapping and shipping packages. Several times, I’ve looked into buying new cardboard boxes in which to ship cutting boards. Though it would be much easier to just stuff boards in and seal them off, I’ve decided not to buy boxes for several reasons. First off, my boards are so variable in shape and size that I’d never find one size to fit all. I’d have to either buy a bunch of different sizes or just get big ones and add a bunch of padding when shipping little boards. New boxes are also REALLY expensive, like $2-$3 each for the cheapest ones on the market. That’s a cost that I would have to pass on to my customers, and it just doesn’t sit well with me. Lastly, I can’t even stomach the thought that there are tons and tons of cardboard boxes getting recycled in my area every day, and I should get brand new ones shipped to me? Doesn’t seem right.
Instead, I’ve opted to collect clean, used cardboard and repurpose it into sleeve-type packaging for my cutting boards. I’ll admit that I can be a little excessive with the packing tape (that I buy new), but at least the cardboard is getting reused. It does take quite a bit of time, but I think it’s worth it.
I’m finally caught up on shipping orders, but I’m a little worried because I’m having some friends over this weekend for wreath making, and if I take even one day off, I may get behind again. Oh well…
Even though this whole wild ride is stressful and exhausting, I am so thrilled about the outcome. I will be glad when it’s over, but for now, I’m having fun!