Welcome to the blog for Embroidered Originals, where I'll keep you up-to-date with all the goings on at our little cottage industry. You can also view our website and shop online at embroideredoriginals.co.uk Marion x

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Annual Roundup - be warned, this is a LONG post

As we're at the start of the New Year, which also coincides with the start of our new business year, I take a moment to recap on the highlights and lowlights of the year just gone.
Starting with the highlights -
  • JANUARY - we were given a gentle nudge by our accountants to maybe spend some money! How about advice like that to start the year. To explain I have to go right back to 1996 when we made a major (brave/foolhardy) decision for Bob to leave his secure teaching job and become a full time partner in our little business. It was a decision of the heart rather than the head. If we'd sat down and considered it objectively it probably never would have happened. As it was we took a gamble - I had gone as far as I could without another full time pair of hands, and he was just about at the end of his tether with his job. So we took the plunge, with two teenage children not far off university and a mortgage to pay. That was when we realised the fragility of our income and how important it was to keep a tight rein on our expenses. We've come a long way since then, thankfully never regretting the decision. The kids went off to uni and the mortgage was paid off but we still equated every penny that came in with the hours of work that took to make it (slight exaggeration) and with the belief that it could all go belly up at any time we put any major plans which cost money on hold. Then when your ACCOUNTANT tells you to SPEND some of your hard earned cash rather than see it dwindle in the bank.......
  • FEBRUARY By now we had new living room furniture and plans under way for new windows. That was the first dip into the bank account. It got a boost from the Trade Show though where we amazed ourselves by doubling the orders we took the year before. Suddenly the quiet half of the year was no longer quiet and we were working just about as hard to keep up as the usually frantic months of October and November. We got feedback from our stockists that the cards were flying out the door, with some telling us that sale of our cards was paying THEIR mortgage! The new windows were money well spent and very overdue.

going from this
to this
  • MARCH  I got a wonderful surprise on Mother's Day to hear from our daughter that we were going to be grandparents for the first time. (That would help reduce the bank balance!)
  • APRIL  We were still hibernating really - working away on orders and enjoying the unseasonal warm weather with lunches out in the garden.
  • MAY  The Craft Fair season started up again with Gardening Scotland closely followed by the Royal Highland Show a few weeks later.
  • JUNE  Just before the Highland Show we squeezed a trip down to see Laura and Greg and to help them move house. That was hard work, I can tell you and of course Laura, being pregnant had to take it easy and just give orders.

In their new kitchen
  • JULY  Things were hotting up, and I don't mean the weather. The workload was becoming frankly ridiculous and we just rolled our eyes at the thought of how we would cope when the Christmas rush started. I was supposed to, by now, have the new Christmas card designs ready and photograhed for the brochure but there was just no time. We also heard at this time that our oldest and one of our best stockists was closing their shop at Glasgow Airport. A potential blow to our income as they regularly ordered once a fortnight. However they moved on to premises in the centre of Glasgow and the orders kept coming in. Not only that, but since they no longer had the monopoly on us for the airport, we picked up another outlet there, which is proving to be just as successful.
  • AUGUST Well that whole month is dominated by the Edinburgh Festival Craft  Fair - three and a bit weeks, seven days a week. Bob made the journey over to Edinburgh as usual every day and I stayed behind making stock and continuing with the trade orders. Great team work there.
The chalet type stand that was home from home for Bob for 3 weeks.

  • Also in AUGUST I escaped for a couple of days in York with Laura and the bump. What a great girlie weekend it was - tea at Betty's and lots of shopping.
  • SEPTEMBER marked one year since we closed the workshop and gave up our own retail outlet.

We now use the workshop as a store and the packing and dispatch department but I have to admit it's quite sad to see it and remember how it used to be when it was stocked with lots of differnt crafts and gifts.
However again the decision made was the right one. We have been so busy this year, it would have been impossible to run a shop and cope with the workload. I still get local customers though who come to the door and that's good. So a year on and we haven't looked back.
September brought other noteworthy events. We splashed the cash again and had a new bathroom installed. Gone was the green bathroom suite (oh the shame) to be replaced with sparkling white. A bit of a marathon it was, mainly due to our tiler who believed a job worth doing was worth doing well and painstakingly slowly. So although it was started in September we just about made it in time for Christmas. But it was worth it and the job was well done.
We also managed to squeeze  a week in Greece before the Autumn Trade Show

Then all hell broke loose at the Trade Fair. Did we think we were busy in July? Ha - that was nothing compared to what we had ahead of us after the show. We picked up a large number of new stockists to add to the list and the order book was bulging. We were a hive of activity from early morning to early morning - practically round the clock. It was quite funny really - as in the midst of it all we had the plumber, tiler, electrician and painter all adding to the mix at various times. Bob worked in the living room, me down the hall in the spare bedroom/studio and between us was the new bathroom. It was a regular occurrence for three or four of us to meet in the hall at once and have to squeeze past old toilet/new piping/tool kits/ paint pots whatever.
  • Where are we now? Yes OCTOBER the month of the big Christmas Fairs, the continuing bathroom and the continuing orders. No sleep, no nothing but heads down and get on with it.
  • NOVEMBER Now we've reached the big one. Country Living Christmas Fair in Glasgow

which is one I do on my own. And the news on day two of the fair that Laura had given birth to a baby boy. She is 400 odd miles away in Cambridge and I'm stuck in Glasgow unable to abandon my stand. A lot of phoning and organising and I had a flight booked at enormous expense for the day after the show to go down to see her and baby Ewan.

  • DECEMBER Another trip down to see the baby squeezed in, a last push to get all the orders out in time for Christmas, a dash round the shops for presents and food, the tree decorated, the food cooked...and  relaaaaxxx.
So that it's it for 2011. I've yet to do the end of year accounts but I know our turnover is up by nearly 50% on last year ( which was our previously best ever year). We have orders coming in for 2012, half of them new customers already ahead of the Trade Fair so things are looking bright. Although I take NOTHING for granted. |It could still go belly up - that's the thing about being self employed, but I appreciate that we are in a luckier position than so many who have found themselves without a job in 2011.
Now what about the LOWLIGHTS I mentioned?
Well success has come at a price. Thankfully we are both fit and healthy and long may it continue, but we have sacrificed our lives to our business, more so in this past year than ever. The work/life balance is laughably tilted well over to work. You could say that's all very well but we've had weekends away, a holiday and visited family. Yes but for every day spent away from work we've added the time to the other days around it. So a fourteen hour day becomes a sixteen or seventeen hour day, and that is unsustainable.
My personal time clock has gone completely haywire which is why I'm sitting here at 2.18 am. I fall asleep for catnaps during the day and manage a brief five or so hours a night. A lady of my advancing years should be getting her beauty sleep!
Some things will have to change for 2012 but I haven't had the time to figure out how exactly. Meanwhile the next cash guzzler will be the kitchen - another room I'm utterly ashamed of. And boy do I have plans for that!


  1. Hello Marion,
    I love hearing about you good business and personal fortune. Both well deserved!

    Happy 2012...may it be a healthy one full of baby hugs and sweet infant cuddles.

    Janet xox

  2. Thanks Janet and I hope you have a great year too. As for the personal fortune - that makes it sound a whole grander than it actually is lol!

  3. Hi from Croatia! Your blog and work, of course, is very lovely and inspirative! All the best!



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