A small business is born
Back in 2011, as a SAHM to my darling 8 month old Madelynn Fionnah, I found myself a bit bored. Yes, I loved being able to have uninterrupted time with my growing infant, and she had two fabulous traits on her side: being genuinely easy, and a crazy good sleeper. However, I had free time, energy to burn, and a need to have something for myself, so I began hand-stitching little onesies for her. In August of 2011, Nolafionnah Handmade Children’s Clothing was born with 13 designs, and I opened my Etsy shop. (I was often asked about the name; it is combination of two of my favorite things, this great city and my daughter.)
Little did I know that I was newly pregnant with our second daughter, so for the next year and a half it was a side gig while my hands were full with two babies. I did add in a single needle embroidery machine, and eventually a sewing machine, and I taught myself how to sew children’s clothing. I’ve always enjoyed working and being a financial contributor to our household is important to me. My husband supported my dreams, and I dived in to being a serious business owner.
I eventually found myself with a steady business that was growing monthly, then yearly.
For several years it was amazing; I could barely keep up with my standard 4-5 turnaround because I made each and every piece by myself. I lovingly, jokingly called it my one-mama sweatshop, but that is truly what it was. Reinforcement in the form of my amazing mama was called in when I was picked up by a booming local business to make a zillion Mardi Gras scarves, and I was even on Zulily one summer. My whole identity was wrapped up in being the owner of this wildly successful business, with a social media following. My own two girls were the models of the business, along with real friends and customers’ kids. Mothers would recognize my girls (first) then me (second) and gush about how much they loved my work, and that I had been dressing their babies for years. I was so proud of what I had built, and that it was helping support my family.
That is not to say it did not have its struggles.
It took a year of hard work, tons of trial and error, and blood, sweat and tears, and even an emergency surgery at one point when my six needles high powered embroidery machine caught my finger once… or twice… And in its peak seasons, it took a toll on my family. I lived in my studio during football, fall, and Mardi Gras while I depended on my husband and my parents to take care of and provide fun and joy to the girls. It was impossible for me to step away from the influx of orders during busy seasons and I was too much of a control freak to hire someone to help keep up. I struggle to admit that my marriage suffered, as did my parenting. My girls would drag their toys into my studio to play at my feet while I worked around the clock to stay on top of orders. My husband would do the birthday party circuit solo on the weekends while I stayed at my desks, my machines running at all times. While it was emotionally fulfilling, I was exhausted mentally and physically at all times, and it showed.
The Beginning of the End
In the first quarter of 2018, there was a visible drop in business. I tried to tell myself it was just because it was an early holiday season that year, but it never did recover. Etsy has been slowly moving toward an Amazon mentality encouraging sellers to have impossibly fast turnaround times, with free shipping, and only promoting those shops that do, and that can quickly be the death of a small handmade business; this was not just my shop, this was the rousing cry from Etsy facebook groups, among many top sellers. This isn’t to put Etsy fully at blame; there were other factors in play, as well, and as I struggled to try to save my slowly failing business, the joy and passion I had always had for it began to fade.
Back to being a SAHM
In July of this year, I quietly closed my shop. It was always known that when it became an expensive hobby I would have to walk away. No formal announcement was made because it was just disappointing and, until now, I was not ready to talk about it. My girls cried as hard as I did when I told them it was closing and for now, my studio still sits, full of wall to wall fabrics and blanks. I am forever grateful for the experience of owning my own business. My amazing customers supported my dreams for eight years, and I truly loved creating special pieces for so many of your little ones over the years. With the Nolafionnah chapter closed, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who has a Nolafionnah piece in your little one’s collections.
After years of being steadily employed, raising babies, and then owning my own business, it is a very difficult thing to be unemployed.
For the first weeks, it was great, and then I got bored with myself. For anyone who has found themselves to be on the job hunt, they will agree with me that it is an incredibly humbling experience. It takes a real toll on your self-worth with each passing week. However, there have been some good things to come out of unemployment. Having this time on my hands has given me a chance to catch my breath and refocus my energy on the people that matter most, my children and my husband. I am a much more engaged mother to our girls, and we are actively pursuing their interests at such a critical time in their development. I am in training to be an assistant coach to my oldest’s Girls on the Run team. My emotional and physical health have also been on the front burner. In time, I know I will get past the grief of my small business closing, and I look forward to new opportunities that may present themselves.