10 things I learned our first year in business.

I can't believe it. One year. I'm amazed we made it this far - and at the same time, I'm more surprised by how fast the time has gone. Living deadline to deadline is like stomping on the gas pedal of time. You are so focused on the tasks at hand time quietly excuses itself out the back door. 

Well, this is my attempt to stop the clock a moment to reflect on the past year. We are always looking forward to growth and improvements, but I feel it's important to remember where you've been and how far you've come. Here are our 10 things we've learned over the last year. 

A new business is like a newborn. 

Serious. It keeps you up at night. It demands your attention. And it needs to be held non-stop. You worry if you're feeding it enough or if it needs to be changed. Here's the other thing about newborns: It's downright awesome. With so much hard and so much awesomeness it's impossible to give it words. Just: Hard. And awesome. But also hard. 

Downtime is crucial.

When creating something from scratch, the only thing that's easy is diving in and applying yourself 232.3%*. You lose all sense of time. You won't remember what day it is and sometimes you may forget to brush your teeth (see: newborns). Downtime does have a place though. It's what keeps your ship upright. Sure, I throw in a lot of late nights to make sure I'm meeting deadlines, but I literally force myself to take some downtime. 

Vacations are essential.

We closed for one week for vacation during our first year. I didn't want to, but I knew it was something that needed to be done. So I scheduled it in, made some posts, and stayed local. To be honest, the first few days were brutal. I had no idea what I should be doing, how to relax... and I felt lazy. (If I'm totally honest, I did sneak in to get some work done one night, but that's top secret info.) After a few days, I settled in and actually enjoyed an entire day at the lake. With my kids.

Boundaries are important.

I've been making a conscious effort to stay off technology and silence my notifications at night and on weekends. On occasion there is nothing wrong with discussing shirt options on Facebook or email at midnight, but when I first started it was every night. At some points, I was falling asleep with my phone in my hand. It didn't feel healthy and while I hate to make people wait - most things can hold off until morning. 

Mistakes are inevitable. 

Luckily I haven't had to deal with an irate customer yet, but I have screwed up. Mistakes are not something I'm proud of, but I am so thankful to the customers who have let us know. In fact, we encourage it. Letting us know does two things: It allows us to make things right so you are happy with your purchase AND it allows us to take a deeper look at what went wrong and how we can prevent it next time. 

You will question your worth/value/ability/insert thing here.

Your capabilities will come into question constantly. You will wonder if you are good enough. If you are doing enough. If you are enough. You will fear the competition and the possible threats they present. It'll stir something up in you that you can't quite place. And the beauty is, once you recognize it is fear, you can lovingly escort it out the door and put your game face back on. 

People will think you are the Rockefeller's. 

Nope. Not true. I'm sporting a vehicle that has 215k miles on it. I may be walking to work soon. (Only half joking there!) We live paycheck to paycheck just like everyone else and I'm putting in 65+ hours each week for zero pay. Because this is what it takes to get things going. Sacrifice. I do have a secret though... our shop is located directly across from a Jeep dealership, so I have a daily dose of motivation to keep me working toward that Wrangler!

The goods show up from time to time.

Nothing can top the feeling of a project coming together. Or following a design from its creation up through the process and the final outcome surpasses everyone's expectations. Seeing your design around town or online. It's just awesome. And it's not the kind of awesome that says "Oooo look at what I did," it's the kind that says I took part in something to help bring that to life. This is especially true when I walk with someone through the design process when creating a gift for someone else. (For those who know me, know I feel the same way about creating commission paintings for someone. I feel like a bystander. I just help the process along.)

Growth is key. 

You will learn a whole bunch and things will get a little easier. You will never fully relax, but the more clarity, direction, and experience you gain aids the momentum you are creating. Your growth as a person will help your business in the long run as long as you are applying what you've learned and can translate that to a new hire. (We aren't there yet, but I'm planning ahead!)

Customers can bring you to your knees.

The customers. Oh, the customers. We exist because of them and we hold so much gratitude for every single one. They are the reason we can give back to the community. The excitement on their faces when talking about a gift, or their upcoming project, or the ideas they have.... that is the icing on the cake, folks. But there's a whole other side of the customer coin... Their stories. I enjoy hearing our customers stories and the things they share. So many of them are doing so much GOOD out there. Whatever the cause,  they strongly support and they give freely. I've heard people refer to this area as depressed (of course, we all have our struggles, but what town doesn't?), but our community is actually quite rich. We walk among some of the most caring and giving people I've ever met. It's humbling. 

So here we are. One year later. What a ride. I can't wait to see what big things the future holds for our little business. 

 

*Actual statistic.

Amber
How Orange Graphix is better than Big Box Online Retailers

Yesterday, I had the honor of creating a birthday shirt for a special little girl. They have a tradition where she wears a special shirt on her birthday every year. When Amazon dropped the ball in delivering the shirt on time, it sent Mama into a panic. Sure it would be easy to pick up a random shirt at Walmart and throw it together to keep the tradition alive, but if you don't have to go through that kind of aggravation, why would you? (I should also add that plenty of other moms stepped up to the plate offering up birthday shirts they had, because, let's face it, our community is awesome.)

When Mama contacted me she shared a few photos of the shirts she ordered and the runner-up. This is immensely helpful because right away I could tell what kind of style this child had and that includes fonts, images, symbols, and materials. I assured her that we'd come up with something great. 

In less than two hours, she was standing in front of me picking up her daughter's custom-not-like-anything-else-out-there shirt. In our exchange, she mentioned how she drives by and forgot that we were here and do this very thing. I appreciate the full honesty because it got me thinking about who we are a business and what we stand for... and also how can we become so visible that we ARE the first thing people think about. 

I did a little brainstorming about our online competitors, who we are and this is what I came up with...

Amazon offers their customers speedy shipping (if you are a Prime member). The shirts they offer are predesigned and ready to go. This ideally works if they have the color options and sizes in stock in a design you love. 

CustomInk allows the customer to design a shirt with an easy to use interface. While their shipping times and costs might not be ideal, the customer has full control over their design and the garment it's put on.

So how does Orange Graphix compete with that?

We are local.

We are local, so aside from contributing to the local economy (more on this later), we are close enough to pick up your garment on your way to work, school or wherever else you need to go. Having no shipping charges can be liberating and for those customers who enjoy the excitement of opening up a package - we can always mail them for just a few bucks. 

Same day results.

If we have what you need in stock, we can usually turn around your special order in the same day - and depending on the workload, sometimes we can turn it around in the same hour. Orange Graphix stocks popular colors, sizes, styles, and materials, so most of the time, we have what just what you want.

You can design your shirt.

This is a big one. We often have customers that like being part of the design process but have no idea how to bring it to life. That's where we come in. We provide suggestions on how to bring a design from great to WOW. We can advise and offer guidance on color, contrast and what will make your design stand out, but ultimately it comes down to the customer's preferences. If you have a set vision, we will roll with that. 

We can design your shirt.

Orange Graphix has a growing in-house catalog of ideas just waiting to be used. Everything from funny quotes to sports mom tees are easy and ready to go. You just pick the color preferences. And away we go! 

Customer service is what we're about.

Quality customer service is the foundation of Orange Graphix. Right now, we are a small establishment so you're receiving personal customer service direct from the owner. As we grow, this is something we plan to carry over as we take on team members. Customer service is a thread we will carry throughout, so no matter who you are dealing with your happiness will be at the top of the list. 

As a small business, online retailers are extremely hard to compete with. I am certain they offer things that just aren't possible here (for now). And that's ok. We are working hard to make ripples and connections in our own community. No worries if we're not the first place you think of, as long as you think of us and give us the opportunity to serve you. Our hope is to wow you with service and an awesomely designed garment... so next time you'll know exactly where to go. 

business lifeAmber
ANNOUNCING: DESIGN OF THE MONTH

Happy Almost Spring! We have been busy keeping the creative fire going and wanted to introduce Design of the Month. The idea is to release a new shirt design each month and everyone can vote for their favorite. The winning design is then released to our store where it will be available for purchase for one month. At that point, we will close orders and go to production. You will be notified when your shirt is available for pick up or has been shipped.

It's a new concept and I'm sure we'll come across a few little bumps as we work out the kinks, but I think it'll be fun have something new each month! We will also take suggestions for designs, so your ideas can be featured too! (Just make sure you are thinking a few months in advance to allow enough time.)

So let's get to it, shall we? 

 

Place your vote now!

Looking forward to seeing your favorite!

Amber
IT TAKES MORE THAN ONE DROPLET TO GROW.

If you swing by the shop, chances are you'll see me (Amber). Sometimes (like in the last few days) you may even see one of the kids snoozing in a chair when they are sick. At first glance, it might seem like I'm a one (wo)man band.

That couldn't be further from the truth. 

As I write this, well into the night, my husband (Jay) is still working at the shop. I swear, if he's not working his full time job, overtime on storm or coaching on a field, there's a good chance he's doing business stuff or picking up the slack at home with dinner and bedtimes, so I can get "just one more thing" done. 

This. Is. Teamwork. 

And I am so grateful for it. There's a lot that goes into building something from the ground up that sometimes I feel like I get more credit than I should. Sure, I'm working my buns off, but we all are. Even the kids. Patience is hard work, especially with a new baby in the house. (Don't be confused; This business IS our new baby. Not a real child. I can't be responsible for another living being.) 

I think in business there are a lot of unsung heroes. 

Heroes are the ones who babysat the children while you work. Or the guy who donated his decking boards and built a workbench or two. Or it could be the employees. To be clear, we aren't even paying ourselves yet, so employees is out of the question, but I can see the value they bring. And I can't wait to share this journey and support them in their growth too - when that time comes. 

For now, I'm going to give props to my guy who is working at this just as much as I am and who really helped make this possible. 

family lifeAmber
WHEN AN ARTIST GOES DIGITAL… AND THEN TO APPAREL.

Some of you have picked up on the little hints online that we’ve got a big project brewin’… Social media is good like that. We can leak information here and there and wait until it’s time for the official announcement.

Now is that time. It’s official.

This husband-wife team is opening up shop. A screen-printing and graphic design shop called Orange Graphix. I’ve been creating logos for years and I’ve always leaned toward design elements. Truthfully, the idea to start a shop like this came up a few years ago, but being in an area where one already existed (and the economy was already struggling) we didn’t want to create unnecessary competition.

Well, that shop closed and it’s the perfect opportunity to get this going.
Even though we are heavy into getting the space workable, we have orders rolling in. The official grand opening will be in the fall, so keep that in mind if you’d like to join us for snacks and to see the space. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see in progress photos and what we’re up to.

Guys this is so exciting! 

PS: Yes, I’ll still be painting and taking on commission pieces. And I’m sure you’ll see another 100 day project in the near future. I just haven’t settled on which one yet.