Saturday, April 30, 2011

Business Plan!

Here's a look at just some of the fun tablecloths that we created this week for our great Modern June customers. By Tuesday we will have made 32 custom tablecloths for the month of April. I find that totally amazing, in part because I've never really kept track of the numbers before. Isn't that a horrible thing to admit? During the four years that I've been making tablecloths, I've only made a few at a time, each week.

But, in March it became clear to me that there had been a real shift in Modern June. Writing my book, Sewing with Oilcloth, changed my goals for my business and for my family life--I found it impossible to balance writing, manufacturing and mothering--after months and months of trying. By the time I turned in the last chapter of my book, my family was very unhappy and I had a severe case of burn-out. But on the upside, I found that I really liked writing patterns and I didn't want that to end with the book.  

After a well deserved break from Modern June I knew we needed a new plan of attack. We started by limiting our wares. I spent a weekend tracking which products sold best each month, and by going through years of sales I found which three to six products had to stick around each season. For example, Spring and Summer is all about dining al fresco and decorating the porch with fun oilcloth goodies! I knew we would continue to make our custom oilcloth pillows, placemats and tablecloths for the warm weather seasons.

The new plan had to carve out more time to spend teaching my homeschooled kids, and there needed to be blocks of time for me to move farther into the world of publishing. Each bit of this plan meant that I would spend less time cutting and sewing product, so my team of Junies and I agreed to a new production schedule. We would only create our pillows and placemats during the second week of the month and we would make all the tablecloths at the end of each month. Sounds good, right? Well "best laid plans" as they say!

I must admit creating all these tablecloths has made for a long and tricky week. The number one problem was that we've never sold 32 tablecloths in April before, sales were up about 35% over last year (don't get me wrong, I know that's a good problem). Second, getting all the materials we needed can sometimes be a challenge--our supplier didn't have three of the prints we needed, so we didn't meet our deadline on a few orders (this totally bummed me out, I hate being late!). Then, my poor stitcher was sick all week and she was only able to come to work on Friday. She was real trooper, she really shouldn't have come in at all as she was still feeling totally rotten. I felt so bad for her, but she did save my sanity by coming in.

So, what lesson's did I learn during my first month on the new plan? 
  1. Keep a running list of the orders as the come in and order oilcloth early! 
  2. Set a cut off date for when tablecloths have to be ordered by. Our tablecloth production period  now runs only until the 25th of each month, after which additional orders are delayed until the following month's period.
  3. Remember to order two bolts of each oilcloth and laminated cotton during spring and summer months to ensure having the material needed!!
  4. Have Kathie (The Shipping Junie) come in for an extra shipping day at the end of each month to handle the high volume of packages going out at on time.
  5. Realize that "things" happen and that caffeine is a good thing!
  6. Communication is key--informed customers are so totally cool and understanding!!!
All and all, this month was much better than the last six. Even if I am totally exhausted right now, I have had more time with my family. I started working out, and I started a very exciting new project that will impact Modern June for years to come. (No spoilers!)

I want to thank my Junies for all the support and effort they have put forth for making Modern June a great place to work! I love you all!

1 comment:

Cate said...

caffine is totally a good thing!! Well done on working so hard to keep everything going strong. Good luck with your goals :-)