Facing Unexpected Challenges with Michelle of Four Letter Word Cards

Next month we will be holding a six-day online summit called The State of Making. As part of this online webinar series we will be exploring how the year has impacted makers and what they can do to prepare for the holidays and beyond. Interested? You can sign up here to be alerted about all the details

Today's post is from one of our summit speakers and #ashasmember Michelle of Four Letter Word Cards. Her year had some, um, unexpected challenges in it to put it mildly. 

After reading, I would love to know about your year in making in the comments below!

Q: Please, introduce yourself, tell us what you do and how long you've been doing it.
A: Hello AHAS peeps! My name is Michelle Baines and I own Four Letter Word Cards. It's a card and gift company focused on colorful language and sparkly art. I started my business in Los Angeles from my home, on a whim November 1st 2014 and I've never looked back. I make all of my greeting cards by hand, as well as print and produce my poster prints as well. I sell some of my designs on coffee mugs and use a local printer for those. I'm a little crazy about quality, so I check every single mug, and pack them like USPS will be playing football with my boxes. 

Q: Earlier this year you and your boyfriend experienced a very unexpected set back that affected you both personally and professionally, what happened?
A: This year, was supposed to be the year of coming out with an official logo and coming up with new product ideas. In order to help my business grow, we decided to move into a larger place and after the Valentine's day rush and moved Feb 20th. I had expected to use all of March to be the month of organizing and new products.

Unfortunately, we moved into a condo that became infested with mold and I was never able to actually unpack my office or do anything that I planned on. The master bedroom was my office and had a leak from the rain - it rained 10 or so times during our stay there and just kept the perfect surroundings for mold to grow. It was awful and horribly depressing - especially because this move was supposed to make our lives better, not worse! We eventually were able to move again in May and have finally begun getting everything in order.

We've had to deep clean every single thing from the other place and hired a cleaning crew to go all through our new house and clean all of the things from my office, as well as every other part of our house. It certainly wasn't what we expected for this year, but we've tried to roll with the punches and pick ourselves up.

Q: How did this affect your plans for your business?
A: Well it put a halt to every plan I had. March is generally slow for my biz, so I was going to use that for holiday products and touching up my website/Etsy. Instead, after we moved the first time, I had to deal with fulfilling orders in a small makeshift office, while having to move boxes around in my office constantly, trying to find the products I needed without unpacking anything. Eventually, instead of our landlord fixing anything, he agreed to let us out of the lease and we had to pack and move again right before Father's Day. 

Q: What was your biggest take away from the experience?
A: Even if I want to be the almighty master controller of everything related to my life and business, I can't. I can only control so much and sometimes, it means I can't control anything. I could either allow myself to stress out about how crappy our situation was, or I could just take a day at a time and breath.

It was incredibly hard and there were times I cried. I felt guilty for risking the health of my family and for choosing the condo we moved into. But none of these things were my fault and it kind of forced me to recognize that sometimes there isn't anything we can do. We do the best we can on any given day and we should be proud in what we've accomplished. (Even if it's something small, like responding to an email.) 

Q: How did this experience change the way you approach your business and making plans?
A: Well, I'm playing a lot of catch up still. I had all these grand ideas for new products this year and while I'm slowly working my way through some, there are some ideas that will wait till next year. I am only one person and I can only do so much. I have ideas flying around in my head and I make those that can happen, happen and I don't stress out (too much,) about the ones that have to wait.

I spent my first year working so freaking hard on everything, worked 15 hour days at the computer on my business. I loved the time I poured into everything but I realized that I also love taking a break and enjoying time with my partner and kitty. Not having control forced me to take care of myself and slowly get things done, rather than working as quickly as I can to accomplish everything. I still have a ton of plans, but I'm okay with pacing myself.

Q: What advice would you give a fellow maker who finds themselves facing a very unexpected set back?
A: BREATHE! Your business isn't going to crash because you don't have time or the mental energy to do everything you want, right this very second. Even though I didn't work on new things at the mid of this year, I've still made more money this year already, compared to what I made all of last year. If you set up your business well, it's going to run on autopilot at times and that's how is should be!

You are only one person and there are only 24 hours in the day. We can only do so much and that doesn't mean we're going to fail. 

Q: Where can we find you online?
A: You can find me in lots of places! The most up to date place is www.fourletterwordcards.etsy.com and www.instagram.com/fourletterwordcards

My official website is - www.fourletterwordcards.rocks

And I occasionally post funny crap at - www.facebook.com/fourletterwordcards