By Ashley Taylor
Not Just A Hashtag Anymore
While driving the 45 minute drive to restock the shelves of a local store with my products, I was listening to a podcast by the amazing ladies of Think Creative Collective. In the podcast they interviewed Natalie Franke of The Rising Tide Society, a community born out of a need for entrepreneurs to break through the walls of loneliness and into world of solidarity. The Rising Tide Society adopted the hashtag #communityovercompetition to help remind creatives that we are all in this together.
In the podcast, under the advice about marketing and business strategy (all of which I went home and took notes about to apply to my own biz) there was a major underlying theme of community. From marketing by giving the people the transparency and honest relationships they crave, to learning from the community and becoming cheerleaders for other entrepreneurs and creatives. These women and their communities are helping to push the world in a new direction. They are paving the way for newcomers to make the leap toward getting what they really want out of life knowing there will be a sea of other people just like them to help hold them up and support them. They are taking away the fear of failure with words such as “fail first” and “we’ve all been there”.
Towards the end of the podcast they posed the question “What Really Matters?” As someone who has a hard time looking at the big picture they encouraged me think about this. At the end of the day what really mattered in my creative life? And is it possible that money is not the only way to measure success? So, I started to think about my own journey, my own successes, and how my own community has grown.
I am a stationery designer and the founder of AMTaylorART, a colourful card shop that promises to make you smile. Today, I create greeting cards for all occasions from a place of honesty, and joy. I let my smile lead my work because I know if it makes me smile, it will make you smile too. Now I have to be completely honest with you, it wasn’t always so easy to know what I should create. I can tell you my business is very different today than it was even a year ago. But as my business grew and changed over time so did I and so did my community. It was with the support of others that I learned to follow who I am, what I want, and what is in my heart.
You see, when I first started my Etsy shop in December of 2014 in an effort to contribute to my family financially as a stay-at-home Mom, I was plagued with fear. I was afraid to be seen as an impostor. Afraid people would not buy what I had to offer and therefore making the entire venture a waste of time. Time that could have been better utilized in a “real job”. And afraid to create what I really wanted because that might be too much like what was already out there.
In fact, I was so eager to be different from everyone else that I began creating pieces I did not truly love just to be seen as unique. And then came the comparison, when monetary success did not come as fast as I wanted I began to compare my work to others in a negative way, towards myself as well as my “competition”. Phrases such as “why are people buying THAT? My work takes so much more effort” or “I guess Etsy is just flooded and it is impossible to be a newbie at this” clouded my judgement.
Not feeling good enough, I made a last ditch effort to figure out if I had what it took to make it in the creative world and began reaching out for advice and support from various communities. For those who don’t know me, this was a huge leap. I am definitely a wallflower by nature much preferring to go-it-alone than let anyone see what I viewed as weakness. Other Etsy sellers, entrepreneurs, and Moms living out there online, who I thought must have it all together and were quite frankly intimidating, surely did not have the time to help little ol’ me. But to my amazement there were people out there willing to cheer me on and give me honest advice. It is when my mindset toward viewing my “competition” as a “community” changed, that my business, my work, and my self-confidence began to improve.
I began to create what was in my heart. The artwork I began to create wasn’t just a product to sell anymore. It was fun to create, to show people, and I allowed it to evolve as I evolved. It was with the support of others that I was able to put myself out there and put the fear of judgement aside. By the end of 2015, my business pivoted and I reached out to business owners in my local community to show my “new” work. Not expecting much, I knew any rejection or constructive criticism would only help me grow and learn. But the response was overwhelming and I started my journey into wholesale but more importantly met women in business whom I can go to for advice and mentor ship.
Today, I have surrounded myself with like minded people both locally and online. Etsy does a great job of offering group forums and Facebook groups full of other Etsy sellers just waiting to help. It was through one of these groups that I actually re-connected with an old college friend whom I had not seen in 10 years. We had been living our lives along a parallel path, both of us having growing kids and Etsy shops, in towns only miles apart.
You remember that local store I mentioned at the start of my story? Well, that store is owned by my long-lost friends and I am happy to say that my community is growing as she introduces me to other creatives she has in her circle. The store itself, sells products only from other local, handmade, small businesses trying to make a name for themselves. We are truly in this together and can share our successes.
And you know what? It didn’t stop there. I have begun to make community a priority in my life and decided to reach out to those ladies at Think Creative Collective and their community. It is through sharing and listening to the stories of other women in business that I can learn more about myself. The world doesn’t seem so scary or judgmental anymore. I have grown from creating “what I can sell” in a dark basement studio to creating “what I love” and getting excited to share it.
As for the dollars and cents of my business, sales have doubled and the outlook is good. But more importantly, I am happy where things are headed. I know I am not in it alone, and I am willing to admit I don’t have it all together and that is more than okay.
So here is my bit of advice to anyone who is looking to become an entrepreneur, an Etsy shop owner, it could even apply to stay-at-home Moms and life in general. It is what I wish I would have believed years ago. I say “believed” because I think I always knew this would help but my fear of “what-if” stood in the way.
- Stop comparing yourself, your work, your success or failures to others. It took me too long to realize how much this was zapping my creativity. If you are getting to a point that you view your clientele, or the people you are doing this for in a negative way what comes out of your process will never be as good as what it can be.
- Grow a community around you who will cheer you on as you grow. It doesn’t matter who your community is. It can be a small group that you meet for coffee, an online forum, or old college friend but be honest with them and share. If you are feeling the walls of fear close in I can promise you they have been there or might even feel the same way. They will love you for sharing and if they don’t then it’s time to find a new tribe.
- Forget about doing it perfect. No one expects perfect except maybe you and it will exhaust you to the point of burnout. Believe me, I was there. In the world of “super-moms” and “boss-babes” it’s easy to think everyone else has it together except you but remember you are only seeing the best of what they have or are. I once heard somewhere that all we see online is the A-Side of everyone’s life, no one ever Instagrams the B-Side. That really stuck with me for some reason and is so true. Don’t ever forget how curated and photo-shopped online content is.
- And while it is scary to put yourself out there, just do it. You will feel much better once you break through the walls of loneliness and into the world of solidarity.
Thank you so much for listening to my story and I hope that in some tiny way this might stick with you and you might start seeing how you can reach out to help others or find support.