I’m sitting here on New Year’s Eve with my family thinking of all the things I need to be doing to keep the shop updated, fun, and ready to open after a little break. It’s hard to relax when you run a business, even if it is a fun business. There’s always pressure to create, find and stock all the cool things to keep it fresh and relevant, design new classes, find inspiring instructors with unique content, and keep the store looking exciting and organized. Not to mention all the not so fun parts like accounting, inventory, paying bills, negotiating contracts, and keeping your homeschooled 7yo happy, stimulated, educated, and entertained.
I see so many people post either really pretty year-end summaries with all the amazing things they’ve accomplished or shared or the people who had such incredibly rough years, but still managed to make things look amazing on social media. It’s hard to compete, or feel like I even fit in. I just feel like my life is balanced enough that I can’t talk about how crazy I feel all day nor how incredibly amazing and awesome I am. I’m just me and this is just my business.
So, I decided to look at where I am now compared with this time last year. Last year at this time I had decided that I would probably close this business as soon as I could get out of my lease. I haven’t really told anyone this in such clear terms. Some things had gone well, but I had started questioning so many things about my approach - location, classes, focus, marketing, the business in general, my competence as a mother and wife, everything. I was resenting the business, sad, bitter, confused, and frustrated. I gave my landlord notice that I would vacate at the end of the lease year, but I had no real plan about what I would do after that. Would that be the end or would I try a new model? I came up with lots of ideas, worked on them to see how feasible they felt, but just wasn’t feeling any of it.
The next month my husband discovered a small empty storefront on Coventry that looked interesting. He said I should look into moving there. I told him no, I don’t want a physical location anymore. I don’t even know if I want this business. I was pretty down about it all and seriously doubted myself and my vision..
But then people started showing up in larger numbers. I started getting more traction, repeat students, collaboration ideas, and so many encouraging words. I started to feel like maybe Cleveland really did want and need a place like Studio How-To. Cleveland is full of so many creative people and so many people looking for connection and a place to make things together.
I reconsidered the empty space my husband had found. It was still empty, so I investigated, just to be able to cross it off my list and feel like I “tried.” But, once I saw the space, the wheels started turning and I decided that maybe this could be a really cool new direction. It was street level. Had a display window (how much fun could I have with that!), was fairly bare bones, had its own restroom (we had a creepy, barely functioning shared hallway restroom before). I’ve bought several homes and now leased two commercial spaces, and I still get those stupid rose colored glasses every time I look at a space. I LOVE POTENTIAL.
I decided we didn’t need a ton of space for classes. The small shop would help me really focus on high quality, small classes for the best student experience. And with street level visibility, I really could stock things to supplement the workshops and help students and new shoppers find the awesome supplies they were looking for right here in Cleveland (no need to drive a few hours or scour the internet).
So, I signed a lease and went to town ripping up flooring, painting, changing lights, repairing things, and removing all signs of a former dimly lit tattoo shop to turn the space into what you see now. We opened our doors officially on April 1 with almost no retail items, but plenty of space for workshop activity.
If you have been with us for awhile, you may remember the empty shelves that held the promise of beautiful yarns, fabulous fabrics, and my favorite high quality supplies, tools, and accessories. When I see pictures of the empty shelves now I laugh at how silly it must have looked to anyone stopping in.
Now the shelves are filling up and we had a record season of sales and classes in November and December. Every day more and more of you are finding us and telling me so many encouraging words. Every time you share your maker dreams and projects, I’m glad I kept with this and made these changes to make the business work better.
And you’re not just supporting us with words. You’re actually backing that up by registering for workshops, buying our products, coming back for more, and bringing your friends and family. Thank you so much for all your love and support. I’m really looking forward to bringing to life all the ideas I have in my head for 2019. Can’t wait to share it all with you!
So, I guess 2018 has been an overall slow and steady race to a happy new shop and community.
Happy New Year!