One summer, while at the pool with the girls, I came up with this idea for a business that I thought was going to be a huge success. I had recently become interested in upcycling and altered clothing, but I just wasn’t a good enough seamstress to create something that anyone would actually want to wear, much less buy. My first attempt ended up looking like something that would only be worn by a deranged fairy!
We had gotten a dog about a year earlier, so I came up with the idea that I would create upcycled dog and cat collars. I would turn unwanted clothing into accessories for pets. But that wasn’t all. Since I’m an artist, I decided they would all contain hand painted designs. (See photo above)
This was one of my first mistakes. There is only so much you can charge for a collar, therefore you need to make sure that the amount of time you spend making each one isn’t so much that you drive up your labor cost to a point that it can’t be supported by your sales price. In other words, I was working for about $1 an hour. Serious mistake! Hand painting and stenciling designs on these things was tedious and time consuming. To be honest, sometimes it looked kind of cool, but other times, it looked like crap. It was just too much and unnecessary.
By this point, I was so in love with my idea that I couldn’t let this important piece of information change my business model. After all, I’m an artist, and I was holding on so hard to that part of my identity that I didn’t see I was about to make a big mistake. Remember what the acronym K.I.S.S stands for – keep it simple, stupid. I broke this rule and was not off to a good start, but I didn’t let that deter me one bit! I ignored this inconvenient truth and just kept right on going.
Okay, so looking back what should I have done instead? I think that if I was determined to use my artistic side, I should have learned how to paint and design my own fabric and used this for my pet accessories. This would have allowed me to create a yard or more of truly unique material that could be used for many items, or even sold by itself. But doing this would have forced me to give up the other part of my brand identity that I was also in love with – upcycling.
The lesson I learned is to be more open to what is realistic and feasible and less tied to creating something so unique or different that I can’t make a profit or pay myself a living wage. It’s hard to let go of ideas that we get personally attached to because it feels like we are letting go of our dreams, but sometimes, let go we must!