Whew! To agree with all the clichés, 2021 flew by. Although the milestones hit quickly, the moments were rich. Here is a timeline of the big ones:
Exactly one year ago, we had grown to a team of three but we were still shipping from our basement. Even though I hadn't done any in person events like I normally would every holiday season, all our e-comm orders blew us away. It was a huge personal milestone for me, to have grown so much in 2020, more than I ever had up until that point as a solo maker and small business owner. ( I had a previous maker biz from 2012-2018... google: BZR ombré tights :-P )
February through April 2021For me, 2021 will be forever dubbed Year of the Checker. We had had early iterations of our Checker Claw since 2019 but I worked with our manufacturers to improve the checker pattern. Slowly, over the early 2021 months, we were able to get a cleaner pattern and simultaneously, our Checker Claw was becoming a hit.
Within a few months though, we saw our Checker Claws being duped by all the other manufacturers. My opinion on this kind of thing is that it comes with the territory. It sucks and I definitely felt that gutted feeling a few times but also, it was an interesting problem to have.
We also were able to put out some fun new things. Some were new iterations of our existing styles. Manufacturing is such a weird, beautiful, FUN squeal inducing, also stress inducing thing. As the one and only product designer for this business, I've learned SO much about the process, the material, the people. I feel like I'm always falling short of all the behind-the-scenes things I want to show you but... it's a process and everyday, us n00bs over here are learning how to fit all the puzzle pieces together.
It was really exciting to develop these checkered colorways. But while the black and white Checker Claw had taken a few months for other manufacturers to dupe, I started seeing dupes of these colored checkers within a few weeks.
Also, headbands which my 8 year old self would have loved (as much as my 36 year old self did!) :-D
I remember we got a lot of cool press over those summer months. We were featured in Pinterest's and Instagram's Small Business features. We were interviewed by NYT for a Y2K style article. We also got featured in our very own Seattle Met Mag. It specifically felt like the Gen-Z zeitgeist officially took front stage. Stylistically (all nostalgia) but also in the way that brands needed to purposefully exist and engage with their community.
We also joined 1% for the Planet! As a fashion student, I remembered how wasteful this industry inherently was. In the pursuit of fashion and style, we have to consume. It was this contradiction that honestly took more than a decade for me to come to terms with. If I was going to create products, I was going to find the best way to do it and use it as a vehicle to support causes I believe in.
We also released some more Gentle Thrills collaboration pieces since the round round was such a smash. Also, Isa from Gentle Thrills is a truly wonderful human. .
We were up to a team of five still working out of our basement and it was starting to burst at the seams. Picture us, walking sideways through narrow hallways, flanked with 5 foot towers of boxes on each side. I found an awesome co-warehousing space called Saltbox that was just about to open. I'm still 1000% convinced that I manifested this warehouse's existence. Here are some warehouse pics for your before-and-after pleasure!
An action shot of the packing process!
We also dropped our super cute Ban.do collab! I wrote a whole blog post about that one here.
(Most of) our team went to a Haunted House. We stood in the pouring rain (literally one of Seattle's wettest days on record) for 2 hours which I think was more of a bonding experience than the actual haunted house (which I rated a 4 out of 10).
Everyone that I nerd out about business stuff with, I've repeated over and over that for me, the theme of 2021 was team building and operations. I never would've imagined how much I would end up loving the process of building a team and operational systems for the business but for any small business to thrive and be able to scale, its all about people and its repeatable systems. As someone who identified as a creative my whole life, I realized I could be both creative and highly logical and tactical, which was a huge personal win. I also learned that the soul of any business is always in its people and its culture. I'm so proud of the team I have now and as cheesy as it sounds, I truly want to help everyone on the team to live their best and fullest lives.
I went to my first in-person event since the pandemic shut it all down. West Coast Craft was always one of my favorite shows to do and even though I am a craft show old-timer at this point, I had never experienced anything like this show before. My friend took this photo luckily because I had zero time to take any. It was that insane.
By the time December hits, my brain has already been in the next year for a while. I am so wide eyed with excitement for the direction we're going in for 2022. Like I said, 2021's theme was operations and team building. I got that to a really good place. 2022 will be all about Creative. Definitely on the product side of things but also building out our creative community to bring you some really exciting world building collaborations and concepts.
Our newest team member Shannon, who I think is undisputedly the funniest, most endearing goofball on the team.
I'll spare you the "in conclusion" paragraph but just know we can't wait to show you all the things in 2022 :)