Tuesday, April 12, 2011

To Grow or not To Grow...

This has been the huge question on my mind for months now.

Its been a few years since I set up my tiny shop on Etsy (September 2008 to be exact).  Things were way different back then.  I would post a doll or an outfit or whatever I felt like making and sometimes it would sell by the end of the day and other times the item would be around for several days until their new mama would come by.

(Feb '09 rainbow gnomes with bag)  :o)

It was pretty calm and each sale resulted in a new friend.  Back then I would chat via convo with anyone who popped by.  I got to know some really neat folks that way...many of you are still around to this day.  I love that :o)

The dolls have changed a bit over the years..they became more refined as my technique improved.

(March '09 Mia)

(June '09 Cordelia)

Over time, things got a bit more hectic :o)  I began listing more dolls and they began selling out sooner.  All of a sudden we were selling out instantly.   I learned new terms like RTG, Angel-ing and rehome.

To say I was caught off guard by the whole thing would be a major understatement.  I was still in old school mode...I would chat with everyone over days thru one message after another.  In this new realm,  there was no time for that any more.

I would get convos all the time from folks seeking a doll.  Many folks turned to customs as their only avenue of obtaining a doll since they were simply not fast enough to go thru an RTG upload.  If you wished to have a custom,  you merely sent me a note and we would work out the details together.  It took some time before I was able to admit that I was simply unable to do that any longer.

Through it all, I would on occasion, think about what direction we were heading in and if we wanted to go there or not.  Yeah, I foolishly thought I could control that back then :o)

This little shop was growing.  Word of mouth was spreading and new folks were finding us every day. There was a lot more pressure to make more dolls.  So, I got a little help from family members and an odd friend here and there and we upped the amount of dolls each upload.  The demand grew even more and the dolls continued to sell out in seconds.

I started to feel stress...lots of stress.  I would wake up early and start working away and literally collapse in the evening exhausted.  I had way too many customs to work on and new requests kept coming in.  I really hated saying no, it really did break my heart to read some of the stories folks sent me about why they needed their special doll.  Most of the time I would squeeze them in...which only added even more stress and work. My hands were scarred, callused and swollen regularly.  My wrists would hurt and ache every day.  OK my whining session is over :o)

Around late October of last year, I decided that I was in desperate need of a break so the decision was made to close up shop at the end of November for the entire month of December.  The plan was that this period of not working so hard will give me a break and allow me to jump back in again in January.  It would give my hands and wrists the needed time to heal and allow me precious time with my family.

We closed up shop on Dec 1st and took a vacation.  Yes I did do some work during that time,  I made dolls for friends and family.  I stayed in contact with folks and got some really awesome notes from you guys.  All in all, the break was a great thing to do, it gave me time to think about where we were and where we were heading.

Hubby and I sat down and talked about this.  We got more organized and had our website set up.

In January we opened shop again.  I have to admit, I was a bit nervous as to how it all would go down...we had been out of the loop for a month.  How will this first upload go?  I know, silly.  The dolls sold out instantly and it seemed as though we had never taken a break at all.  We settled in and got to work.

Now thru this all the question of how we wish to grow has always been there.  Do we want to grow to the point where lots of other folks were making the dolls?  Do we want to keep it small and only make what I can physically make each week.  If we bring more folks on, what work would they do?  What steps am I personally willing to hand over to someone else?  (hehe, that's actually the biggest question here)  How would we go about training them so that the quality does not drop and I am comfortable with what they are doing?  And more importantly...Would I be able to step back a bit and give other folks the space to actually do the work for me?

These questions have caused lots more questions and every time I would think about them it would get too complicated so I would stop and move on to something else :o)  I would go back and forth in my head to slow things down or to pick things up...I know crazy.

Meanwhile,  without any real help at all, this little business was growing...way beyond what I first imagined possible and far into a realm where I was even able to imagine.  It seemed that the decision was already made as to our growth, I was just one of the last folks to know about it :o)  Our little shop had taken on a life of its own and like a child, was growing healthy and strong all on its own.  Like a child though, it needed some guidance and assistance.

This all leads me to where we are today.  We have decided that we will go ahead and help this little business grow into whatever it wishes to become.

I sat down and figured out a way to train new folks for a more permanent help crew.  Taking little steps, over a period of time, they will be able to assume a more regular role.

I have an awesome gal (Kristen) helping me out crocheting the caps for the hair now.  She is wonderful...she picks up new yarn every week and drops off a bunch of caps at the same time :o) Soon I will sit with her and show her how to make the boy hair (something I am sure she will pick right up and be a pro at in no time).  

As for the bodies...for a person to be able to make a doll body that is quality enough for us to sell, they must first sew a minimum of 20 - 30 dolls.  For some folks its more and for a very, very tiny group of people, its less.  They need time to learn this skill...and I know that me being the perfectionist that I am,  its no easy task for them.  They will spend weeks working side by side with me as they learn to hand sew and properly stuff the bodies before any of their tiny creations are up to par enough to be integrated into our uploads. The heads will always be done by us (this part will never change) ...this way we will be able to guarantee that we will maintain the DFH look you all love.  As each person reaches the point where their bodies are being used, I will introduce you to them one by one :o)

Now for clothes...this seems to be the tricky part for us right now.  I also have not done much searching as I am busy training every Saturday.  For now,  we will continue with help from clothing makers and we will have a clothing upload of our own once a month...this way we can sew mermaid sets, fairy wings and footies and various other items in groups so that more folks can get them at a time.  At some point, I am sure an awesome clothing sewer will fall into my lap...I'll stumble into her somewhere odd I have no doubt... and then we can have her take over much of that work and be able to have regular clothing uploads each week.  We'll get there :o)

What will I be doing?  Well, each and every face of course...and hair...lots of hair...and everything else :o)  I will have more time to play with dying yarn for more awesome hair.  I also hope to have more time to actually be able to get around to designing new cuties for you all.  I have so many ideas running around in my head of neat creations,  it will be great to be able to make them finally.

Yep guys,  we're growing :o)  We have finally come around.  For me,  I feel excited about this.   I know when I first listed that very first dolly to sell on etsy, I never imagined it would become what it has become.  For that I have to say, THANK YOU to all of you.  Seriously,  you all have been the driving force behind this growth. Without your encouragement and support we would not be at this point today.

We are so glad you all are along for the ride.