Hi everyone! Me again :) Here today to chat a bit about one of my all time favorite causes (on Giving Tuesday!) - The Sailing Stork Fund! It's fitting to write about this today not only because Giving Tuesday is about, well, giving, but also because this upcoming Thursday evening, I'll be participating in a fundraising event for the fund and I'd like everyone to know why the Stork Fund is so close to my heart.
For those who have yet to pick up on this - I live on Nantucket. It's a small island off the coast of Massachusetts (blah blah blah you all already know about it I'm sure) and while most of Nantucket these days is just something out of an Instagram celebrity's dream, there is a whole lot more to living here than just admiring gray shingles and colorful doorways every day.
If you are on Nantucket, and you have medical needs, most of the time you can go to Nantucket Cottage Hospital. If/when their stellar staff in the ER or the OR decide that your medical needs can't quite be met in their excellent facility (it really is an amazing hospital, I'm not being sassy), they have the means necessary to get you where you need to go. Medflights head out of the airport every day, carrying people to Boston and elsewhere to get whatever attention they need for whatever ails them.
All of this is excellent and it's really such a relief to those of us who live here that this is an option. Because in an emergency, all you care about is getting where you need to go to get the help you need. But imagine you are a woman (and yes, I have to say woman because I'm sorry, men can't have babies and I'm about to talk about having babies) and you've just gone into labor and you get to NCH and they realize something's not quite right and they need to get you to Boston. Obviously, you go. You go as fast as they can get you going. You get to Boston, they sort you out, everything is fine and you're in Boston with a new baby and you're so happy and everything is great and oh - wait - you're in BOSTON and not in NANTUCKET and your husband/partner is supposed to be at work in a few days because if they can't work than you can't pay your rent or your bill. So your husband/partner has to choose between staying in BOSTON and his/her wife/partner (I am very inclusive everyone, deal with it) and new baby or in NANTUCKET where he/she has to be in order to work to pay the rent and the bills and OMG this is the thing of nightmares.
But WAIT, here's another one...imagine you are pregnant (if you are a woman, sorry men, you still don't get pregnant) and you're pregnant with TWINS! Oh such joy - TWINS! They'll be so cute in their little matching outfits and their little matching shoes and their little...wait, WHAT DID YOU SAY?! I CAN'T DELIVER TWINS ON NANTUCKET?!
Nope, sorry, NCH doesn't deliver multiples. And it's fine, they just can't...they have one OR and a small OR team and if something were to go wrong with one of the new babes or the Mother they just wouldn't be the right place to deal with a real emergency. All that being said, when you live on Nantucket and you find out you're having twins, you also find out that in 9 months you'll be spending quite a bit of time in America. You can choose to head to Cape Cod or Boston or a similar facility that has the staff in place for multiples, but you can't stay here. DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE IT IS TO DO THIS?! You head off the island around 36 weeks and you wait. You wait and you pay hotel bills and you wait and you eat at restaurants and you wait and your husband/partner goes back to Nantucket to work or maybe you both wait together because you're both taking time off of work but maybe when you take time off you don't get paid - and that makes the waiting so much worse. And eventually you have two adorable little matching babies aaaaaaaand a tremendous credit card bill.
Ok, so that's another terrible scenario in which the joys of new parenthood can be crushed by the overwhelming expense of having to leave Nantucket to give birth. What happens when the medical emergency isn't with YOU, the one giving birth, but with your baby...and you and your newborn are flown off via helicopter only to find out that your new little dude or dudette will be staying in the NICU for weeks...WEEKS! And you're a new Mom, you're certainly not going anywhere - but the NICU doesn't have adult sized accommodations...so you spend WEEKS in an expensive hotel so that you can wake up every day and go hang with your new little best friend. And your husband/partner travels back and forth from Nantucket to get to work and get back to see you and OMG I WANT TO CRY.
I will end this soon, I promise. But I really want this to sink in...living on Nantucket is all puppies and rainbows most of the time but on occasion, living on an island is incredibly stressful and expensive and challenging. When the very happiest moment of your life is overshadowed by the very very real expense of having to leave home to take care of yourself and your new family, it can be overwhelming and devastating and exhausting.
When I had my first little fella, I was lucky enough that everything went smooth enough that I didn't end up delivering anywhere but the NCH OR (I say smooth enough because there is nothing just "smooth" about 55 hours of labor that ends in an emergency c section but whatever, I'm super woman) but my first birth experience was exciting enough that I took a real interest in this journey into Motherhood and how it went for other people. I joined an advisory committee at the hospital that was specific to Pediatrics and Labor & Delivery and it was there that a number of mothers and I learned of all the craziness many people have had to go through in these emergency or multiples (twins etc.) delivery situations. With my first baby, I spent 7 days in NCH with my own house just 10 minutes away and that was adventure enough for me. As I learned of the weeks that parents of multiples had to spend in Boston, or the months that some parents had to spend travelling back and forth from the island to just spend time their babies in the NICU, I was determined - along with my Super Mom cohorts - to do something about it!
So we started The Sailing Stork Fund, in conjunction with the social services department at NCH. The Fund was put in place to help offset the financial burden families face when they are told that they can not deliver on Nantucket despite their wishes to stay. Stork funds help pay for travel on and off the island, for lodging expenses around the hospital where the delivery is to happen or a baby is being kept in the NICU. In addition to supporting families financially, the Fund has committed to be a resource 24/7 for families who need support or information at all hours of the day. We wanted families to know that if they were headed off the island at any hour of the day or night, that they could logon to our website or reach out to our volunteers to find information on lodging and travel options as well as translators in the area etc.
On Thursday the 29th I'll be selling my goods with a slight markup to support The Sailing Stork Fund. An extra $5 here or there doesn't seem like much, but if we all work together, a lot of $5 goes a long way. Come join me in supporting fellow Nantucket families enjoy these most magical times in their life without having to worry about how they'll pay for it. They can leave that worrying for when they have to start sending their children to daycare...
So today was “Small Business Saturday”, which always follows Black Friday and precedes Cyber Monday...and while I didn’t have potential buyers knocking on my “door” regarding either of these days, I couldn’t help but feel like I was doing something wrong by NOT offering some kind of deal.
So this morning I decided to mark my shop down 10% (and it didn’t make a difference, it was a quiet Saturday) but I found myself being pulled in all sorts of directions...is 10% even enough to make people care? Should I mark it down more even though that seriously cuts in my very small profit margin?
When I first started Wopatula I had things priced on the higher side...I fully dove into the idea that people will pay just about anything for a shirt that says Nantucket 🤦♀️ And listen, I’d rather get $50 than $25 for a sweatshirt anyday, especially now that I’ve begun printing myself and my costs are down - but what I found (and this is only true for myself, absolutely positively NOT all small businesses) is that its more important and fun for me to lower my prices so more people can buy my stuff.
Take a hat for example - a typical adult hat will take me approx 3 hours from start to finish...if I have to make a pattern it might be closer to 3.5 or 4. My material cost, luckily, is neglible because I have a disgustingly large yarn stash and I actually haven’t bought any new yarn this year (and thats a legit miracle).
But all said - I spend a lot of time making one hat that I could be spending folding laundry or vacuuming my house (full disclosure, I’d rather knit) or even working at my real job (where I make alot more than my hat hobby brings in) but, and again this is just for me, I just LOVE that keeping my hats at $35 makes it easier for more people to buy and enjoy them.
I’ve said it before, I don’t have a lot of money. I just don’t. But I try really hard to spend it wisely and on important people and things when I can. During my very first craft show back in 2014, I had put out a collection of things I made...greeting cards with photos I had taken, some stuffed animals I made from various materials, and a few handknit hats I had lying around...I also had just given birth to my first child TWO weeks prior to this show and I was taking pumping breaks in the high school locker room every two hours 😂 This is relevant because it was a big deal for me to be there...I was totally out of my comfort zone trying to sell these things I wasn’t even sure if anyone wanted my shit AND I was two weeks into motherhood (and out of an emergency c section - sorry for the TMI). Long story short, it was a big god damn deal that I was there - and I will NEVER forget when two women walked up to my table, picked up one of my handknit hats priced at $25 (!!!!!) and she said “Well this is nice but that’s just too much for a baby hat” and walked away. Like WTF. I probably should have whipped out my newborn (and my post c section mesh granny undies...you know the kind) and told this broad to hit bricks! But I didn’t. I’m very very nice. 😂
Anyway to round this all out...I have made my choices regarding my prices...I price my swag to be approachable because this is NOT my full time job and I do not depend on this to make a living...maybe someday (guys, you need sweatshirts? I got sweatshirts...) but just because I have made my choices this way does not mean I get to question another business’s prices. I don’t get to judge how someone else values their goods and their creations. And I certainly don’t need to wait for some hardworking craftsperson to knock their prices down just to catch my attention on a Friday thats absolutely ONLY meant for purchasing and decorating a Christmas Tree and nothing else. 🤣 On Thanksgiving I bought some XMas presents online from a small biz that I’ve always liked. I saw something in their Insta story that caught my attention so I jumped online and scooped up $100 worth of gifts. Next day everything was 20% off and for a hot second I was like “daaaaaamn what did I do?!” Then I thought , I know what I did - I paid these people what they need to make to sure that their business survives and their employees get paid and they can keep selling amazing product. Duh idiot, you did what you’re supposed to be doing! I would have saved $20 and seriously, I’ve spent more money in far stupider ways than that.
So, let us all remember to shop smart, spend our money in the right place, and support each other as we all figure out how to keep ourselves and our businesses moving in the right direction (for us).
Preparing for the next market is always so daunting...boo hoo me, I know I know...but as someone who literally makes everything I sell by hand, it means that every free moment I have needs to be full of productivity. And when you have two young children who have a real knack for taking up all of your time, it can be very challenging to maximize productivity. :) If constantly needing more time to work wasn't stressful enough, I also need to try hard to make sure that I am using my time to make things people will ACTUALLY WANT TO BUY. My inner thoughts these days are literally the things that crafting nightmares are made of.
After a great Ladies Night, I *think* I've got a good handle on what I should be working on to prepare for the Nov. 29th Sailing Stork Soiree, but that doesn't keep my mind from racing faster than my hands can make. It's like Thanksgiving dinner...I want everything on the table, but my plate and my stomach just aren't ever big enough.
So I'm doing my best to set expectations for myself that are realistic (wish me luck...we'll see how long this lasts) so that I can eliminate at least one level of anxiety from my daily routine. If I go to bed knowing that I did what I could and it was enough, hopefully I'll sleep a little more soundly each night. Again, please please please wish me luck :)
When I started Wopatula I did what most over excited new business owners/brand creators/excessive dreamers do...I jumped in feet first without using my head as much as I should have. I didn't test out my markets, I didn't have a great selling plan, and I bought way too much. When I say that I really mean, I BOUGHT WAY TOO MUCH. Before I printed everything myself, I had to order to meet minimums...that being said, I ordered way above and beyond those minimums. And then I had inventory up to my eyeballs and I realized I had to SELL IT ALL. And my friends, this may come as a shock, hold on to your hats...people DO NOT come knocking on your front door in hoards to buy all the inventory you have sitting in your living room. They just don't. And when they say "Hey I love that shirt" that's what they mean - they love your shirt. They didn't buy your shirt yet, they might not even intend to buy your shirt...they just love your shirt. I've come to realize that THIS IS OK, but coming to this realization has been one of the hardest (and most expensive) parts of this small business journey.
I won't lie...I've spent a lot of the past year wondering what the hell I did and what the hell I was thinking even trying to move forward with this brand/business/over excessive dream called Wopatula. At one point I came to the conclusion that I needed to get to Jan 1 and just close up shop - bye, see ya later, adios. But every time I think about that I realize how sad I'd be if I had a cool graphic idea and I never followed through on it. And I thought about how much I love to knit my hats and see them head to their new homes each winter.
And so I won't be closing up shop this winter - I'll keep going and I'll just keep a close-to-unhealthy level of optimism so that I can continue to keep my chin up and keep making. I'll use my old inventories in creative ways (I'm thinking tee shirt headbands, beach blankets, maybe shopping bags?!) so that I feel better about my terrible purchasing history :) And hopefully I'll strike some sort of selling/marketing gold and at some point in the (near) future I'll figure out how to light a fire under this brand's ass.
Lastly, here is my very important public service announcement - I am absolutely NOT the only person who feels this way. There are a trillion other small business owners and craftspeople on Nantucket and in the world who literally ALWAYS need a boost from the rest of us. Whether it's a "Hey I love that shirt" comment or, better yet, a purchase of a shirt you love, you will literally make someone's day by reinforcing the idea that they are right to be creating and making and sharing their talents.
I don't have much money as a person and I am absolutely guilty of usually hitting up big box stores for most of my buying but I have made a pact with myself that for the rest of the holiday season, the only purchases I will make will be from small businesses. If it means I will buy someone one gift instead of two, that's ok - it is far more important to me that my money goes to a real person and a real person's dreams.
Last night was Ladies Night at Bartlett's Farm and it was a GREAT NIGHT! So much fun meeting new people and getting my goodies into lots of new hands. I'm so excited to spend the next few weeks filling up my inventory again for the Sailing Stork Soiree at the Nantucket Culinary Center (November 29th! Save the Date!).
If you were one of the many ladies that I handed my card for custom info, hello again! And thanks for understanding that had I written anything down on paper last night it would already be lost and I'd be sitting here going "Now what do I need to start making...". This is my reality :) and I embrace it.
If you saw something last night that you loved and want it in another size etc, shoot me a note and let's get going on it! Email is best (firstname.lastname@example.org) but you are also welcome to write a message on Instagram or Facebook if you prefer. And if you have a new idea for something you haven't seen on my site or Etsy store, let's see what we can do! I love a good challenge :)
I do have to insert a small warning here - custom orders will take a bit of time (usually between 1-2 weeks depending on whether or not I need to order the right supplies) and there may be an increased price (again, dependent on cost of supplies). I try to keep all my stuff priced pretty reasonably, but also need to make sure that at the end of the day I haven't given anything away. :)
Really excited for a great shopping and making season with everyone!!!!