Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Jack of all trades.

When I think back to the moment I decided to make my first bear, I have to smile at my naivety. My mission was simple, or so I thought ... create a lovely teddy bear and thus warm the cockles of my heart. Little did I forsee where that would lead!
Since then, not only have I immersed myself for over twelve years in the finest details necessary for developing my craft, I also stumbled over the necessity to evolve into an administrative 'Jack of all trades' very early on. Word of warning, anyone who thinks selling their own product for a living is an idyllic escape from the world of employment, think again! Whilst designing and making teddy bears may be an absolute joy most of the time (I stress 'most'!) finding time to master cash flow projections, maintain financial records and prepare effective accounting systems may not be your forte, contemplating marketing strategies may make your brain scream in pain and even something as simple as designing your own promotional materials may send you boggle eyed with frustration.

My new promotional postcard!

In this day and age even a product as gentle as the teddy bear demands an internet presence, so marketing him requires a degree of computer competence, research skills, financial planning and marketing magic, second to none. Selling artist bears is no longer consigned to an occasional specialist collectors' show, these days online competition is fierce and if you can't promote yourself effectively on the internet, to be honest, you don't stand much hope of longevity in the marketplace. So, you'll probably need to add webmaster to your list of essential skills!

I was lucky enough to have been taught to touch type whilst taking my A Levels and over the years have reached the conclusion, this skill has been worth far more to me than my academic qualifications. It drew me to the computer and after teaching myself how to master that, I came into the bear industry with a couple of solid basic skills under my belt, which have been invaluable to my progression as a bear designer, accounts clerk, PR manager, business manager, secretary and so forth ... and that was before I ever worked out what to do with a sewing needle!

Nowadays, I begin every year with a review of my business strategies, dismissing anything that hasn't worked well for me, or is perhaps jaded and developing into new areas I believe may offer potential for progression, making sure I keep a close eye on the industry as a whole, rather than focus too intently on my own tiny niche. One thing I have learned, is that there is always something new to learn whether in the design process, the marketing process, or the administrative process. There's no time for complacency, that's for sure. Sometimes it makes me wonder how on earth I find time to actually make the bears!

So, please, if you are a bear maker working hard to sell your own designs, next time someone gives you a dismissive pat on the head because you work from home, away from the cut and thrust of the 'real' business world, why not take a moment to remind yourself of exactly what you've achieved and what has been involved in the process. I think you'll find you have developed much more expertise than you are usually given credit for!

3 comments:

  1. I think you may have hit the "crux" of the whole exercise on the head in the very last paragraph Paula.

    So... my thought is..... we must either smile rather smugly as we just learn to put up with the "dismissive pats"..suck it up and be happy somewhere deep inside with our achievements, or.. move on from those who insist on bringing the "cut and thrust" of everyday life and business to us.

    I, myself, prefer the latter nowadays it seems. As I get older, I prefer my life to be simpler and more beautiful and so I have begun to do what I call .... "choose to refuse".

    I refuse to waste any of my valuable time and energy putting up with aggravation or grief. There is absolutely too much fun stuff; too much necessary stuff; and even too much rewarding stuff that I prefer to use my time for. I don't mind at all just moving on... well away from those that I consider "toxic" to my choices. In my mind, they prove themselves NOT to be friends or allies with cheap and petty comments like that:... they become mere acquaintances (or even less in my eyes) and therefore, very easy to sidestep or purge from one's circle. Some of my purging in the last 2 years has made me feel about 60 lbs. lighter and I didn't even need to diet! I just had to wake up to what was dragging me down!

    I realize this is not for everyone...some folks prefer large circles of acquaintances even if those people don't necessarily make them very happy. Maybe I am a bit eccentric already. Alright! Woohoooo ,says she; to nobody in particular .... ... and chortles quietly to herself as she moves happily within her tightly knit circle of true friends; only a few special relatives .......and a never ending array (there are always new ones from which to choose) of new acquaintances that are still being "tested" ..hahahhaha ..........

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  2. Vee, you have a great outlook! I couldn't agree more with you x

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  3. vee and Paula, thanks so much! I can't begin to tell you how your posts have helped me today.
    Dorothy

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