I love Thanksgiving. It’s really my kind of holiday: lots of food, family, and pirate bingo (a strange, multi-generational family tradition). We’re heading out on Wednesday morning to meet up with my mom’s family in Northern California for our annual five-day Thanksgiving extravaganza. It’s going to be pretty great.
Black Friday is something I’m way less thrilled about. Actually, the whole concept kind of grosses me out. Thankfully, I don’t actually watch TV (unless you count Netflix/online episodes of Parks and Recreation, which I LOVE), so I’m mostly spared from wasting my time with consumption-inducing holiday commercials (or political commercials for that matter). I’d love to get away from the holiday frenzy entirely, but I don’t actually live in a cave independent from society.
Because I’d been so out of the loop in regards to holiday consumerism for basically my entire life, it came as a complete shock to me the first year of running my business that Black Friday was a real thing, and any retail establishment had better be ready for it or else they’d miss a major opportunity to make a real profit.
My first year of selling cutting boards, I was chosen to be an Etsy Featured Seller in early November, which majorly kickstarted a busy holiday sales season, and last year, one of my boards appeared in the December issue of Sunset Magazine. Both times I thought I was prepared but later realized that I had grossly underestimated the demand for my products. Both times I was able to get a little bit of help during the busiest weeks from my father in law and my brother in law who really saved my rear in terms of being able to take advantage such good times.
For me and my business, this year has been pretty different than the last two. While I still enjoy the work and am extremely proud of what I’ve built, I’ve felt like my energy and motivation has been spread thin, trying to keep up with my blog, making and selling cutting boards, doing contract work for Gathering Together Farm, and being the Master and volunteer rental coordinator for the Marys River Grange.
Though my Etsy shop never looked totally pathetic or anything, I certainly wasn’t as active in terms of production or promotion as I would have liked over the summer, and I found myself in the middle of October wholly unprepared for the holiday rush. I put in a phone call to my father in law to see if he’d be interested in doing some basic processing for me as he had in the past. After considering it for a few days, he said no, and I don’t blame him. He and Henry’s stepmom have been rebuilding their wood shop for most of the past year after the one that they’d worked out of professionally for over 30 years tragically burned down last January. They’re just now starting to get back into the groove of full-time woodworking, and my father in law felt like he needed to put his own customers ahead of me (which, again, is totally understandable). Then I asked my brother in law if he had any time to work for me, but because he’s such a staller craftsman, he’s completely booked up until after Christmas.
Three and a half weeks ago, a couple emails were exchanged about the possibility of one of my boards appearing in a major (MAJOR!) national magazine. It sent me into a total panic. Right off the bat, I ordered several hundred dollars of supplies, I started asking around for recommendations for someone that I could hire to do some of the assembly-line parts of production, and most of all, I buckled down myself and got to work roughly cutting out a couple hundred cutting and serving boards. Within a week, the magazine thing had fallen through (in part due to Superstorm Sandy messing with New York city and keeping the editors out of the office), and I quit stressing about hiring help.
I wasn’t actually that disappointed about the cancellation. It would potentially have been SO big that it might have been a disaster or at least would have meant several weeks of lots of income but no fun at all. Instead of being let down, I got super motivated and decided that if I didn’t have anyone to help me, I would do it all myself, and you know what? I can, and I have. I’ve made about 100 new cutting boards in the last few weeks, which is kind of record breaking for me personally. Some of them are listed in my Etsy shop currently, but many more will be trickling in in the coming days and weeks. I’m hoping that things won’t get SO crazy in the shipping department (aka my parents’ spare bedroom) between now and Christmas that I might even have time to spend a few days producing even more inventory.
I’m really proud of the products in my shop right now. They’re well made out of really pretty wood, and I think they’re going to make many gifters and giftees very happy this holiday season. This year, I don’t have any major Etsy or magazine features lined up to boost my sales, but I do have over 800 of my boards out there in the world being used and enjoyed by (hopefully) satisfied customers. I’m expecting things to get busy not because any entity has singled me out and crowned me worthy but because I make a nice product that people really like, and that is personally and professionally satisfying enough.
Both my mom and my father in law have this near-compulsion to give people they know good deals on stuff they sell (vegetables at the farmers’ market and fine furniture respectively). I think I’ve inherited that trait, too, at least a little bit. I know that the products in my Etsy shop are expensive-ish (because it’s nice stuff and my time is valuable), but as my circle of friends on the internet grows, there’s a part of me that wants to give everyone a great deal or hand out a bunch of freebies or some such thing. Thankfully, I’m also a decent business woman, so I can keep most of those impulses in check, but if you use the coupon code “WAYWARDSPARK” at checkout, you’ll get 10% off your entire Red Onion Woodworks purchase from now through November 30. Thanks so much for your support!
If you’re interested in any of the boards that appear in this post, click on them to get to the listings in my Etsy shop.