I’ve been in a thoughtful and reflective mood lately about where we’re going from here. Up to this point, our little t-shirt business has been sort of lurching from one convention to the next. We’ve been focusing on these events as a kind of litmus test, the big question always being, “will we be successful enough to d0 to the next one.” Two down, one to go. And then there’s this in-between time that begs the question, “What’s next?”
When you’re small and unknown, there are lots of challenges & everyone has an opinion, ranging from “it’s never going to work” to “you guys need to raise some venture capital.” The course is not clear and success seems to be as much a function of being lucky or in the right place at the right time as it is in being particularly smart or creative.
But the thought occurred to me that in building a company (or in homeschooling, or parenting for that matter) every step you take is like applying a brush to a painting. Progress isn’t always evident, at least it may not appear the way you intended. There are those times that you step back and look at what you’ve done so far and it all seems wrong. The angles don’t look right, the color is off, somehow the image on the canvas just isn’t what it was in your mind and the questions start to press in, applying a little pressure here, a little doubt there. “What’s this all about anyway?” “Really? You thought this was going to turn out like what?”
And there it is (your painting, your business, your child) standing in front of you, staring back, as if to say, “ok, so what are you going to do now?” For us, that’s the really big question right now. In the act of creating something where there is nothing, everything counts. And not just the things you do, but the way in which you do them, because that determines the character of your work.
Maybe it’s different in a perfect world. Maybe you have unlimited time and resources to try out a lot of things and see what works and what doesn’t. But it’s not like that in Homeskoolie world. There’s not a lot of time to go around. There’s limited capital to spend, and that means there are choices that have to be made. How much inventory do we buy? What sizes? Do we advertise? Where? How much time should we spend on marketing? On social media? What about new designs? What about selling the ones we already have? When you’re really small and virtually unknown, most of those questions don’t have answers. Yet.
And that led me to another thought. On that canvas, once that stroke is there, it doesn’t go away. You can’t really erase paint, you know. You can mix another color with it, try to cover it up, add to it in some way, maybe turn it into a little tree, but it will always be there, a part of the picture you’re creating. Even if it’s a mistake. But here’s the thing. What you choose to do and the way you choose to it when you’re too small for anyone to care sets the stage for what you’ll do and how you’ll do it when you’re not quite so small anymore.
And that helps to answer at least one of those many questions. For us it means working really hard to build a great company, the kind we can be proud of, even when not many folks are buying.