Growing pains  


I know, I know, the irony of saying "don't freeze" and then not posting for over a month is apparent to me!

It's just been a crazy time. A period of realising that we really do need some help soon. Right now, it's sort of okay, but I have less and less time to do some of the design, development and more interesting, creative marketing that I really want to be doing - and which we now need.

So, it's made me think about the times, as a business grows, when you have to stop being, at some level, a "start up" and start being a little more managed and planned.

These are some of the features about the early years of a creative business:

  • Excitement - which at times means anxiety.
  • Eccentricity - in a strange way you can often be exactly how you like at this time. Work in your dressing gown (I try not to, but it has happened), take lunch at 4.00pm. Decide to sit and read under the sun and work until midnight to make up. As soon as co-workers are about, things become more formal and predictable, at least to some extent.
  • Possibilities. When we began, we didn't know if we were a design company (and if so, designing what exactly?) or a publisher. Our first two projects were a deck of cards about the year after 9/11 and a small series of corsets built from Japanese kimono fabrics. Neither were terribly well thought-out or successful. But both were entirely new for me and I learned a lot. As we've grown, we've had to focus and make decisions. As Alex says - we can't hop like a rabbit from one thing to another. The focus is great, but I've had to learn not to jump around and follow my every whim.
Now we are about seven years old (goodness!) We went through the break-even point and into a small profit quite a while back - in a shorter time than average for a new business, and now it's time to begin to become what we'd like to be in five years time. This means, this year, a move into an office space that's large enough for four desks, and a couple of people to sit at them. Well, one first then the other when we can afford it.

So goodbye eccentricity and doing whatever I feel like. But goodbye also to over-working and to having no-one to hand over to.

But it's odd to face up to the fact that I've put this moment off as long as I can. I have to admit that a well-run business needs to have enough people working in it. I need to allow Baba to grow up a little.

So without being too maudlin I hope, here is a little song for the start-up we were. I know things are going to change this year and I am looking forward to it. With just a tiny touch of regret. This is the third business I've started, and in some ways I always find it hard to take this next step. Then again, if it all works out my reward to myself will be to get into clothes design next year, and that's a big, big compensation.

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