Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 year-end review

2009 was a really good year for sarah + abraham! Here's a look back at the highlights...
In January my bird note cards were featured in a Real Simple online article, 5 Bridesmaid gifts under $50, and then my calling cards were featured in the May issue of Real Simple. I ended up with over $4,000 in sales from just those two features!
In March I launched a new collection that I was super excited about, but it turned out to not be as popular as I thought it would be. I ended up retiring several of the items pretty quickly, and only a few of the designs have turned out to be consistently good sellers. I learned a great lesson from that experience that I need to stick with the elements that my customers love most about my products and not stray too far from that when adding new products.
In April I updated the look of my website and improved the navigation features, which significantly cut down on the number of questions I receive about options.
In May I started offering canvas prints. They haven't been as well received as I had hoped, but sales are picking up, and I think they're a nice complement to the rest of my products.
In June I began offering water bottles, which have been a big hit! Dacia at Lima Bean Kids has been amazingly helpful, first sharing the vendor who printed water bottles for her, and then when that vendor didn't work out for either of us, sharing the new one she found, who has been absolutely wonderful to work with.
In July I began offering fabric clutches and calling card cases. They haven't sold as well as I had hoped, but again, I feel like they compliment my other products nicely and make a nice gift set with note cards or calling cards.

The biggest event of the year for me was hiring a part-time employee in August. I placed an ad on hoping for nothing more than someone willing to print/fold/cut/package orders. I was completely overwhelmed by the response I got. I received 380 resumes in 10 days, interviewed six candidates, and wanted to hire all six of them! I couldn't believe how talented they were, each with a slightly different background (photography, illustration, marketing, etc.) but still willing to start out filling orders.

Jen, who has a marketing background, has been a perfect fit! I love handing off the tasks that I don't want to do, but more than that, it's been great to bounce ideas off her and brainstorm together. She has had some really good ideas and helps me stay focused. For the first time ever I have a strategic plan, and we're being proactive about marketing and PR.
In September I made some more changes to the design and navigation features of my website. I love having more product photographs on the homepage and being able to view products by either design collection or product category.

I also started sending out a monthly newsletter, which has been really well received. In 2008 only 15% of my sales came from repeat customers, but during the second half of 2009, 30% of my sales came from repeat customers!
In October I began offering custom stamps from PSA Essentials. I haven't sold a whole lot of them, and they don't have a very big profit margin, but it's nice to be able to offer them, and it's super easy to fill those orders.

I also offered 15% off Christmas items in October in the hopes of spreading out my Christmas sales a little. My sales from November 1 – December 19 (13% of the year) accounted for 28% of my total sales (compared to 31% last year), so I think it helped a little, but not much. I estimate that about 80 customers ordered earlier than they otherwise would have.
In November I launched my new olliegraphic collection, which has done really well. In just the first two months olliegraphic items accounted for 22% of my sales, and Meg has been great to work with. She's such a talented illustrator, and her style fits so nicely with the rest of my products. I also think that using the same color scheme for both my silhouette line and the olliegraphic line really helped to tie everything together visually on my website.

The holiday season was a completely different experience this year with Jen here helping me. In my 2008 year-end review I mentioned that on my busiest day I had 21 sales and that I had 15 days with 13 or more sales. I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted.

This year on my busiest day I had 46 sales and 35 days with 15 or more sales. But it was totally under control, and no big deal at all! It never really got to be too much. There was a day when I had my two biggest sales ever back-to-back, but Jen took a bunch of work home, and came back with it all completed the next day. During our busiest week we worked 82 hours combined, so I definitely couldn't have done it all on my own!

Which brings us to the beginning of 2010. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm planning on launching a new blog in February. I've really thrown myself into the project with a lot of help from Jen and my husband, Mike. We've made a lot of progress that I wouldn't have made on my own, and I'm really excited about the direction the project is heading! (more on that in a future post...)

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Jummy said...

I think it's a great idea to look back on the last year and see what worked and what didn't for your business. I predict you will have even more success and growth as the year progresses.

Alison said...

Thanks for sharing. It is great to hear about the things that have worked for you. Congrats on a successful year, lessons learned, and the joy of working with a new employee that compliments your working style. I look forward to hearing more and seeing the new blog in February.

the monkey's mama said...

Congratulations on a great year! I can't wait to see what 2010 brings you (and us!)

olliegraphic said...

Congrats on a fantastic year. I've really enjoyed working with you! Now bring on 2010!!!