Today is a pretty special day. It's just an ordinary Thursday really, but for me it's special. A day that feels good. Feels right. And a day where I am right now feeling really quite proud of myself.
It started with this grumpy little lady. It was and is always about her. Clara. The grumpiest little character that seems to have captured so many hearts. I am truly, truly overwhelmed with how many of you adore her.
I never started this journey to make millions or even run my own business really. I wanted to show publishers that I had a character people could fall in love with. One with merchandise potential. I wanted to pitch a series of Clara and Macy picture books to them, and knowing how tough the industry is in today's market I knew it wouldn't be easy. So I thought if I could prove to them that the characters already had interest, that merchandise was already selling, then they might just take a chance on them.
But you know what, it kind of backfired. The business has taken off so well that I haven't even had time to finish the picture book proposals never mind contact publishers!
When I joined Noths a year ago I was terribly nervous. It felt like a huge leap. And a lot of money that I didn't really have. Tom and I sat down and talked about it, and decided that if I made my joining fee back after twelve months then it would be a success and a good decision.
Well, I have turned over 67 times that amount in the first year. I think I might be able to consider it a good decision!
When I went live on the 25th July 2012 I had no expectations of how much I might make or how much I would sell. And when I was invited to have my products featured in the Christmas catalogue six days later I had even less of an idea about how things might go.
I think it's safe to say that they went very well!
Being featured in both Christmas catalogues and numberous magazines led to this...
Throughout November and December last year this was a regular sight in our dining room. Stacks and stacks of boxes as the orders just kept pinging through. It was amazing. I couldn't believe it. And it's fair to say I was completely overwhelmed. I just hadn't expected it to take off in the way it did.
I seemed to hit milestone after milestone without really pausing for breath, and kept expecting it all to disappear from under my feet any minute. But it didn't. It stayed strong, and it grew.
In the new year I qualified for a Royal Mail business account, which felt like another huge step.
Another rather large step was being commissioned by several magazines to create projects for them including two cover projects for Crafty. And I even worked with Disney & Pixar on a super special promotional project for Monster's University (more about that soon!).
Spring brought new product launches and a packaging redesign. And I was filmed by printed.com for their customer campaign.
Then I was lucky enough to be featured in the Noths Spring catalogue too which was just brilliant.
The support from family, friends, and Noths has been amazing. It's a strange thing to say but I think I finally feel as though I belong somewhere. I've always been a bit of an outsider and haven't quite fit in anywhere as well as other people seemed to. But since joining Noths things have changed. I've found a group of people who are just like me and who are so generous with advice, help, support, and everything else you could imagine.
Running your own business is hard work, especially when you work alone with no one around to bounce ideas off or to help you get through the trickier days. But having this connection with other Noths sellers and creative folk across the web changes all that. Making some wonderful new friends has definitely been one of the more unexpected delights of this year.
Another very unexpected delight was winning one of the prestigious Make Awards. Little over nine months after I had joined Noths I won the award for Storefront Success 2013.
It was amazing. Like seriously amazing.
I didn't in any possible way expect to win, and still today it doesn't quite feel real.
I've launched several new product ranges over the past year, including the very popular bamboo hearts. When I launched them I thought they might sell well as people seemed very positive with their feedback, but crikey I didn't expect them to do quite so well!
They were a huge success for Father's Day and even without any extra promotion I ended up as busy as at Christmas. Now that really was unexpected!
I can feel my own style developing and growing in confidence as I design each product. I used to be quite nervous about doing things wrong (and I still am really) but now I just enjoy it so much. I love the whole process from designing to photographing the finished product. I don't love accounts so much, but hey who does?!
Recently I took the huge step of changing my business name. Out with the cupcakes and in with Macy. I have to admit that I was terrified about changing the name, which is silly really. But I had been putting it off for so long - despite Jo Fairley (founder of Green & Blacks who mentored me for a while) recommending that I do it asap last year.
It just felt like such a big thing to do. But you know what, it really wasn't. And I love it. I feel like I've gained a whole new level of confidence since changing the name.
I am so excited about what this next year will bring. The future is feeling very bright and I really can't wait to get started.
Lots of new products will be launching over the next few months as we head towards Christmas.
Again I have absolutely no idea what to expect this Christmas. It could be ten times as busy or I might not sell a thing. Who knows. It's not always super busy and that's scary too. As much as I need a break sometimes, we still need to eat. I think sometimes it's just a case of being brave and ploughing through.
It's hard work, and it's stressful, and I panic about it every day. But I also get to create every day, and make people happy, and inspire them, and do what I love. I think it's safe to say that joining Noths has changed my life. In a very good way.
I truly am so, so proud of what I have achieved since this day last year, and if I can do it so can any of you.
But you know what I'm most proud of...
Managing to actually do any of it with these two little monkeys around!