Every now and then you just need to stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself: “How am I feeling right now?” and “Where are we headed now?” and even better, let yourself go off a tangent and “wander around a bit”. Explore.
In fact, I need to do it more often.
Finally took a deep breath this week and reflected on the journey we have been on with Livraison.US dba Design Bindery over the past few years. Around 2011 to 2012, I had set aside all my spare time pursuits of songwriting and recording to start making books. I spent obsessive amounts of time getting my hands dirty making books every night and weekend after I got home from a day job that also involves books. It’s all I did really. Books. At first it was mere curiosity, then followed by increased focus on the actual craft, then moved to innovation and experimentation. I set out to make the kind of journals that other binderies didn’t seem to want to make. I’d take my books out on the road and sell them from out of the trunk of my car at some shows and venues. Everything always sold (well most of it). I partnered with Poetry Train for a year and each month we created a pro bono, custom made journal for the “poet of the month”. Then other people began to approach me about specialty projects. We made slip cases for books and fancy boxes for fundraising events, catalogs and promotional items for a few local and national brands. Finally in December of 2014, I bought a glue machine to help ramp up production of our hardcover specialty cases. Other equipment was added bit by bit. As soon as that machine was installed in my garage, I formed an OEM relationship with a publisher of sketchbooks. We incorporated as an LLC. My wife and partner stepped in at this point and took over a large part of the production for this account which we continue to serve now. We got lucky and got a great big paper cutter, which helps improve our quality and productivity tremendously. The embryonic ideas of how and where to sell our journals emerged and is still evolving. We tried Zibbet for some time and didn’t gain much traction, then opened the Livraison.US brand on Etsy and started making sales right away. In fact we have even sold journals to customers in Hawaii, Germany and New Zealand. Our Fall Holiday season should now be substantially bigger and better than last year now that we learned a few things about trends on Etsy. Looking back on it all, we could have fast tracked some of the sales quicker perhaps, but I have no regrets having taken the paths we did, one small step at a time.
All the while, throughout this endeavor, I have not had to be desperate and do anything I didn’t want to because I still had the stability of a day job and this was more about my passion. But in having that freedom, the biggest obstacle I also encountered was hitting a wall and just not doing anything for a spell. Will I ever drop the day job to have this become my full time gig? I think inevitably this will happen, but I am enjoying the journey as it stands now. One of the best things I think that happened on this journey is that I did not worry at all about “what the competition was doing”. In my head, there was none. The biggest obstacle seems to be just focusing on specific small steps and seeing them through. We are on our own path now, but if any other like minded individuals or companies are out there, (as we have found now there are many others like us!) we are sure to be friends! Because anyone who has attempted or gone through the learning curve that we have can surely not be an enemy. And yet there is so much still to learn.
The newest part of the journey involved making distinct brands of our own and seeing whether we could sell any to retail outlets. So far, in a very small way, we have begun to develop some traction with a few smaller bookstores and gift shops. We also now have some inroads with our Wine Tasting Journals to wineries and purveyors.
So how am I feeling right now?
Well have to say I am pleased with where we are. I’m not nearly as stressed out about my direction for the business as I have been in other ventures I have been involved with over the years. It feels good and right to make real things (with our own hands) for real people.
Where are we going next?
Well, we signed up to exhibit in a few local and regional maker’s fairs this fall and are awaiting acceptance on those. That will be a new step in interacting more with the public. The shows and events we have done thus far have been incredibly enjoyable. We have a simple, no b.s. business plan to expand the small bookstore, winery and gift shop accounts. We have already designed, engineered and put on paper plans for a huge number of new products and services that we will introduce as we gain more traction. So all in all, yes I can say I am pleased.
It seemed like I was just wandering around a lot. Looking back on it now, we’ve surely made some progress! But we never would have gotten to this place if I didn’t let myself wander around for awhile!
Good thing I had a journal of my very own to write it all down. So don’t feel guilty about wandering around every once in awhile. Who knows what you might discover!