There's an old African proverb that states, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We'd been "going it alone" in business for about eight years when a simple connection challenged our view on that position.
One day, Wendy received a call from Lauren, her daughter Hailey's longtime friend. The purpose of the call intrigued her.
"Hey! Im thinking about starting a women's networking group—want to join?" Wendy recalls being flattered, but a bit perplexed. After all, we knew we would be the oldest members, both in age and in years in business. We were being asked by a 20something to enter into an arena where we'd never been invited or even thought to stick our toes. It didn't take us long to decide to jump in with both feet!
Before we tell you more about the group, we're going to let you in on a little secret. As women who come from a family of highly educated professionals, Wendy and I have struggled to own our title of business owners. We know we have the skills and experience as artists to produce a high-quality product, but we've battled the perception in the marketplace of artisan business owners as glorified hobbyists who aren't really as serious about profit as they are about their product.
We started LucyBlue to provide supplemental income for our families by making something we knew met a need, and we have always strived to be as professional as possible. We just weren't sure our business was being perceived that way. It bothered us, but we didn't know any other women who were also trying to succeed in business . . . until Lauren called.
When the networking group met for the first time a few weeks later, we found ourselves interacting with a diverse, talented, and select group of entrepreneurs with one thing in common: we were businesswomen in need of encouragement, advice, and guidance that comes from being in community.
The ground rules were simple: this was an invitation-only group where there would be no duplication of products represented by the members. Meetings were mandatory. We were there to help each other work smarter, not harder, and share knowledge about everything from taxes, shipping, website development, the need for a presence on social media, packaging, and product focus.
Some had businesses so new they hadn't done face-to-face sales before, so they asked us how we took payments via credit cards and how we determined the price points for our products.
One woman with four young children learned she could print postage at home so that she didn't have to stand in line at the post office to mail her products. We had no experience in social media, while most of these women were already utilizing it to promote their brands. We were truly helping each other succeed professionally.
Because we've built our business through sales events we created and promoted, we decided we could coach these women through how to put together a holiday market. We agreed that there was great value in exposing our customers to each others' products and share with our community what some of its entrepreneurial women had to offer.
The nine of us—with businesses in cake decorating, essential oils, event planning and graphic design, handmade pottery, mittens and scarves, photography, and rustic, vintage home decor—create the inaugural "The Merriest Market" in 2016.
And we're doing it again this year! Next week: Details about The Merriest Market 2017.
Can't wait until The Merriest Market to meet Wendy and Susie in person and shop LucyBlue Knits? Check out the Road Show schedule and come touch and see and try on our inventory! Mention when you visit our booth that you read our weekly posts and receive $5 off your purchase.