A New Way

This time, last year, an emotion we all felt was Fear. Fear of the unknown as the Corona Virus started to spread, and we were forced into a Lock-Down. Over the past year, Covid has robbed something from all of us. Many of us lost friends and family to the virus, some lost their jobs, and we all lost the ability to live our ‘normal’ lives. Everyone has been effected, just some more than others.

One my biggest fears was that my business was going to fail. Typically, 60% of my sales are in person at festivals and the farmers market. Covid took these outlets away, and for a brief moment I didn’t know what I would do without those sales. Little did I know that, thanks to the internet, 2020 was going to be my best sales year ever. 

Unfortunately, having my highest grossing year also correlated with it being one of the most difficult years in business. Lately, I’ve really been feeling the effects of this past year. I haven’t been sleeping well, my body is in pain, and I generally just feel overworked. All of these things have spiraled me into a state of depression, and I’ve lost my ability to be creative.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn things around and get my inspiration back. I’ve been avoiding social media and other distractions in order to cultivate my focus towards a solution. 

In the past 3 weeks, I finished my book-keeping for my yearly taxes, then I turned to what I offer for sale on my website. Every other day, I was changing it all around in my mind, I couldn’t come to a conclusion of what to do.

Until, On April 6th, my girlfriend and I succeeded in snowboarding down one of the dream lines that I’ve wanted to do since living in Mazama. It was a huge day - 6200’ vertical gain, with a 15 mile roundtrip. It took us almost 8 hours to reach the summit of mountain, we then descended 2500’ down the face of the mountain only to find ourselves on top of a cliff! We made some quick, calculated decisions, and the mountains gods shone upon us, and quickly we were back on line. We proceeded to snowboard out the rest of the way with no more hiccups. It felt good to get back to my truck after moving for almost 13 hours - those celebratory beers tasted amazing!

Afterwards, I asked myself ‘ how do you have the confidence to do that, but not the confidence to change your business in a way that makes it more sustainable for your body and soul ?  

After 20 years, I still love what I do, but, since the New Year started, all I’ve felt is drained. I’ve already had record sales each month of 2021, I never got the break I desperately need after the busy holiday season. After this day I spoke of, my confidence came back, and not just a little, but full throttle.

I started changing my listings around and I didn’t think twice - I KNEW it was the right thing to do. For the first time in a year, I’ve slowly felt my creativity creeping back. I feel motivated again, I’ve even been sleeping better. I’m super excited to launch this new way of running my business to celebrate 20 years of creating clothing in a sustainable and ethical manner. It may take a good couple months to catch up with this new way, but you know what, that’s just plain ok, in my mind.

The “NEW WAY” ~

I once had the mindset,  If I have still have the fabric, I should offer that item for sale.” Unfortunately, cutting one article of clothing out at a time, is not sustainable. My prices do not reflect the amount of work that this creates - there’s so much more to running this business than just cutting and sewing these days. With the potential of in-person sales reopening this summer, I need to concentrate on being able to create inventory to sell in person, and go back to my old model of “production sewing”. That is sustainable - I cut a batch of each item I offer in several colors and sizes, and then sell what I have, re-stock when needed. This will create more communication on my end for on-line sales. I plan on announcing via my newsletter’s what I have been working on, and of course on social media. To work on all this, that break from social media gave me the time to adjust all my listings. 

The first couple changes I made was on my Etsy store. Did you know that with all of the combined fees they take about 10% of my profit ?!  This has forced me to curtail what I offer on Etsy now. Of course, I prefer you all ordering off my website, not only for that reason, but because I can provide a better shopping experience there, as well. My website has much more information about my products. I have created many pages to help you make an educated purchase, for example, my Yoga Pant Blog & the Fabric and Fit page.

On my website - I now have 2 links attached to the Drop down menu of “Our Clothing” Made to Order & Small Batch. I’ve organized the items I offer based on how easy ‘they are’ or ‘are not’ to create.

This is how I am classifying the 2 ways - “Made To Order” - I have the fabric, and it is sustainable for me to create one article of clothing at a time. "Small Batch Clothing” -I will be production sewing these styles when my time allows me too. After I have completed the garments from start to finish, I will let you know they are ready to be purchased, and update my website. This new method will allow me to keep my prices the same, and to live a sustainable life - that means, if my body is aching from being over worked, I can take the time to heal - aka 40 hours a week, not 50-60.

Special Orders - now this is the tricky part. Many of you have been with me for a very long time, which I am sew extremely grateful. BUT, special orders take a lot more of my time - I’m happy to still do them, I can’t for free anymore - I’m just too busy. They take more time to communicate, I have to create a special way to pay, and of course the time to make something I’m not currently offering on my website. My pricing doesn’t currently reflect all the extra work this gives me. There will now be a fee per order, It’s going to be $10-$20 depending on which item, I don’t feel this is much to pay for a custom hand sewn garment. So, what do I consider a special order???  A ’Special Order’ is anything not featured on my website, whether it’s a change in my designs, or an item in a color I don’t offer.

To be honest, I’m terrified to make these changes, I’ve lost sleep over all this while making these decisions. Then of course, change can be scary. I didn’t create a successful business, by being someone who say’s ‘NO’, I’ve always said ‘YES’. But, At some point in your life, taking care of your mental & physical well being becomes way more important than making that extra dollar. Sometimes, you need to say ‘YES’ to yourself. 

I don’t even know if this new model is going to work, but I have to try and figure out how to keep things sustainable. That’s all we can do as human beings is just try and TRY our DAMN BEST!!!!

As always, Thanks for taking your time to read this, and for your continued support of my dream job.

Betsy 🧡

By Betsy Cassell-Thomas | | cascades, climbing, handmade clothing, hemp, north cascades, snowboarding, splitboarding, travel |
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