Is it me or does every year seem to get faster and faster? ‘They’ say it’s to do with your age, but if ‘they’ were really honest ‘they’ would admit that they don’t really understand it either.
All I know is that 2017 has been a really, really interesting year.
If I could sum it up in one word it would be……growth. Now ‘growth’ may sound like a lame way of saying ‘challenging’ but actually it is the fact that I learned to see challenges as opportunities to grow, and not as immovable obstacles, that have made this year so interesting.
A brief bit of background. I run two clothing businesses with my brother. Our mum and dad started the business almost 40 years ago, but we are actually the fourth generation of the family in the rag trade. Our ‘main’ business wholesales leather jackets to the high street and online retailers and despite a few ups and downs has remained a good, solid business. The other business ‘Shores’ is an online business, originally selling our leather jackets via our website, and after several brand makeovers was at that point in time selling general outerwear.
At the start of the year the Shores team returned from the Christmas breaks admittedly disappointed and deflated with how sales of our outerwear had performed over the festive period. Being brutally honest with one another we knew we had struggled in the months leading up to Christmas but ‘carried on regardless’. That’s what you do isn’t it? You get swept away with all the Winter momentum and build everything towards the commercial landslide that the last quarter of the year has now come to represent. Are there any small businesses out there who look forward to the relentless discounting, sales, vouchers and offers that Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas entail? I would love to hear from you.
Jess (Marketing Executive) and I conducted a brutal autopsy. It’s absolutely vital that on a regular basis you have the courage to face reality, but equally as important to do this with a compassionate and open heart. Blame can never be a way to move forward. You have to come to terms with where you are and where you’ve come from if there is ever to be progress. All decisions made in the past cannot be undone and ruminating on them only keeps you tethered to them. For us we accepted that the relentless and fickle, celebrity endorsed fast fashion market was not a nice place to be any longer and we had to find a way to do what we did, but we had to find a better way and with a greater and hopefully higher purpose. Not easy.
So we had a destination but no map, and so we did the only thing we could do – we kept on walking and trusted that if we followed our hearts we would find our way. Now that is not the kind of advice any business owner wants to hear – follow your heart and trust. Business advice should be rational, methodical, tried and tested, shouldn’t it? I agree and some of the best business advice is absolutely on the nose logical, but there are also times when you need to go off script and when blind faith is
all there is left to do.
So we carried on creating content that we believed in, always trying to hone our voice and our approach, hoping to find ways to connect with people – yet all the while knowing that our product offering was incongruent with what we were saying.
We read tons of business, motivational, personal growth books. We attended seminars and workshops. We sought counsel from other business owners that had followed their heart and eventually found their purpose. We talked and talked and talked some more.
In March I attended a brilliant Do Lecture workshop by Mark Shayler, coincidentally attended by Shores photographer Rob Evans and his With Love Project co-founder Chris Roberts. After an incredible workshop we went for a drink (or two) on the way back to the train station. Chris asked me about how the business was going and noticed that in the seminar itself I had come to life much more when talking about my passion (meditation, music and art) than when I talked about the
business. He also prodded me about the incongruence of the content we shared and the product itself. He unknowingly hit a nerve, I knew he was right but didn’t know how to change it. After all how do you pluck innovation out of thin air?
On the train journey home I was irked. Inspired by the day’s workshop but bothered by what I perceived to be the key missing ingredient. I scribbled pages and pages of notes, went home that weekend and just tried to forget about it until Monday again.
Something profound happened on the Sunday though. It was a lightbulb moment, an epiphany. I’m not entirely sure what sparked it specifically but everything just seemed to come together in one moment of magic. The idea arrived fully formed. My family history was in leather jackets, my own personal history was in art and design – (we had been receiving a large amount of requests from high street buyers for designs printed on leather but refused them on logistic grounds). It became obvious to me that I had to create a brand that brought together the art and fashion worlds. We had to become an online gallery for wearable art, working both with established artists creating one of a kind pieces and Limited Edition print runs, and also customizing bespoke jackets for individual customer requests by working with up and coming artists and providing them a platform to build their careers from.