Made it

Ta daaaa!

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Thus endeth my first year as a business owner.
I did it! I did it!
Ok, so it was kind of depressing finding out how much money I actually made (eesh, lets speak of it no more), but I made it through the first year. Which I’m told by those that know is the most difficult.

What have you learned, noob?

I learned that it’s hard. But less hard than sticking it out for a year at my last straight job. So that must be good. By the end of a year at my last job, I was ready to kill my boss (truthfully, that point didn’t take me a whole year to reach) and then possibly myself. I was miserable beyond the telling of it. And at the end of a year working for myself, I’m not. I’m stressed out, yeah. I’m worried about money and show fees and building an inventory so I don’t have to make nichos ALL THE TIME. But on the scale of stressful things it’s not really so bad.

I learned that everything is expensive. Shows, equipment, supplies. Ev-ry-thing.
Hiring someone to do my taxes was a bit of a shock. I’d been under the impression that it was fairly simple stuff (hey, I only had 1099s and whatnot to compare it to), and it’s not. There are assets to inventory, spaces to reckon, profits, tools, sales tax, expenditures, mileage, on and on, and these guys have to list it all and make it so you owe as little as possible. So a shout out to my tax guys for hooking me up. Yeah, it was expensive, but I couldn’t have done it myself and I ended up not owing anything so, worth it. Next year, they assure me, won’t be as bad. I’m hearing that a lot, actually.

I learned to use my social capital. If not for my friend the professor, I wouldn’t have learned about SCORE mentors or had the (Required!) white tent for my shows. If not for my best friend and mah boo, I would have had to work those shows by myself, do my own sales tax (brain can’t math), and find my own drill press. If not for my old teacher I wouldn’t have known how to go about getting a business license, DBA or EIN. If not for my pal the chainmailer I wouldn’t have understood why raising my prices was going to improve my sales. If not for my friends who scavenge, pick, junk and dumpster dive on my behalf (Without being asked! They just freakin’ do it! I’m one lucky monkey.), I’d never have come up with half the shit I make, because who has the time to do the work of an entire flock of magpies their first year in business?
And if not for everyone who accidentally or on purpose gave me a pep talk when I was feeling low, I’d probably have thrown in the towel and, I dunno, run away with the circus. Again.
So, really? Thanks y’all.
I learned that I didn’t do it alone. That’s awesome.

So now I’ma do it again. Everybody says it gets easier after the first year. I have a nice, big inventory now and it’s getting bigger, I’ll have two more shows than last year (if I get in, of course, but I feel pretty good about it), and I don’t owe anybody any money.
I call that a successful first year in business. Here’s to another.

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Research

Heading out to the Chicago Zen Center today for an open house.
I love Buddhism. Of all the belief systems out there it’s my favorite. It’s inclusive, egalitarian, peaceful, focused on the internal landscape as a path to betterment rather than displays of status, and thanks to the current Dalai Lama, more progressive and willing to evolve than any other.
My own experience is mostly with Tibetan and Indian Buddhism, so when I read that the Zen center was having an open house I got excited. The way the philosophy evolved in China and Japan is very different from how it evolved in India and Tibet, and I like to learn things, so off I go.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. People ask me a particular question at my shows. Because I work with multiple mythologies, everyone wants to know what my religion is. My answer at shows is that I believe in them all equally, but that’s a bit of creative wording so nobody gets butt hurt.
I? Am an atheist. Nope, really.
I don’t believe in an invisible force (unless you count physics) that controls the universe and everything in it. Not a god, goddess, or other. Well, maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster, may his noodley appendage bless us all.
Now, don’t get all bent out of shape. Being an atheist just means I don’t play favorites. I personally don’t have a use for religion in my life, but I don’t judge those who do unless they use it for hatefulness. In that case however it’s not the fault of the tool, but the user, if you get my drift. Humans need structure and religion is just another form of structure. Viewed that way, it’s easy to relate it to any number of other ways we employ to organize our thoughts, lives and priorities and temper the insecurity inherent in, ya know, life.

I do, however, believe that the impulse to belief is universal and serves a purpose in many instances. It can bring comfort in grief and strife to believe in a god. It can bring communities together, impel people to overcome their natural selfishness and be supportive of others, and create some really amazing art and architecture.
Somewhere in our monkey past the structure in our brains that believes in god also gave us an evolutionary advantage. What that may have been (or still is for all anyone knows), is up for debate, but all cultures the world over believe in some agent or god/s or the power of ancestors to influence lives.
And the stories, the art and many of the rituals that have evolved because of that impulse are, some of them, indescribably beautiful. It’s that beauty, that story telling and endless symbolism, that draws me to religion despite my personal stance that there isn’t an agent or a power or what have you.

Religion can be incredibly divisive. That’s sad, but human. I choose to focus on the unifying aspects and the joyfulness people create with it instead. Why? Because it’s a depressing fucking world we live in! I don’t need any help, and I reckon nobody else does either, seeing how miserable the state of affairs is for the human animal and every other organism it influences because of a multitude of things, religion being one of them.

So, I choose glitter. And Buddha. I encourage you to find the glittery Buddha side of things too. It’s a better world that way.

Aaak!

Taxes. Omg, wtf?
Things I’m learning as a new business owner: Hire someone to do your taxes.
At least the first time around. Holy crap. Cuz this is way more complicated than ever I knew it might be.
One 30 minute conversation with a CPA and I have more homework than I had my last semester of college. And here I thought I’d been a good little monkey and had all my tax ducks in a row for this. All you’ve got to do is save your receipts, right? Hahaha! Wrong.
I have to measure the space I work in, and the space I sleep in. Assets. Apparently I need to list them. And here I thought I didn’t really have any but my car. But nope. I have to list those spaces, my work tables, my mileage on supply runs to the crafty store, my tools and any space the occupy, my tent, tables, mannequins. Probably my tampons and toilet paper, for all I know. He even wants me to come up with a time frame for when I may have found things in the alley. No shit.

Also, social capital, I haz it. My tax guy? We used to do poetry open mics together way back in the day. Who said artists can’t have useful day jobs? I hadn’t seen him in probably 20 years when he wandered into my tent at Glenwood and tells me he’s a tax guy and to give him a hollah around tax time, because he and his dad work with artists and other such people with funny incomes all the time, and they’re cheaper than H&R Block and such. Whatever they cost, I will totally pay them. Because seriously, this? I couldn’t have figured out on my own no matter how informative Google might be on the subject.
I’m kind of freaking out, but tax guy senior (his dad, who is 73 and has been doing taxes since he was NINE) assures me the first year is the hardest, and after this it’s just a matter of filling the appropriate numbers in the appropriate lines. Lawd but I hope that’s true.
Ok, time to go find where I put all those Ill Dept of Revenue thingies I’m gonna need…

Decision time

Ok internet, help a gal out.

Two shows, both in August, both somewhat expensive to do. One has a higher show fee, one has traveling costs, so they equal out, more or less.

One in Evanston. Demographic, blue to white collar. Somewhat affluent, but not RICH rich. Slightly weird, but not really. As a town it definitely thinks it’s more alt than it actually is. There are about a gazillion yoga studios and two Whole Foods there, if that tells you anything. But also kind of a high crime rate in the south part of the city and plenty of Section 8 housing. So way mixed bag. Which for me has been good.

One in Glen Ellyn. Demographic, white collar. Affluent, conservative, kind of starved for weirdness. There’s plenty of money to go around there, but while they might ogle my wares appreciatively, they might not be ballsy enough to actually have it in their home.

My numbers were significantly better in Rogers Park, the mixed demographic neighborhood, than they were in affluent Elmhurst last year. Elmhurst crowds bought more high ticket items, but overall sales were ok, not awesome.
Still, there’s a lot of dough in them western ‘burbs. The kind of dough that buys things like shawls, the sale of which could make my month in a big way.
Which leaves me in a quandary. Which show do I apply to?
Internet, what say you? Anyone have an opinion? Anyone done either the Evanston Lakefront Arts Festival or the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts who cares to weigh in? Been to either? Have friends that do them?
Anyone? Bueller…