Wednesday, May 23, 2018

7 Year Itch

My first handmade Edith doll

I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately, because things have been really slow in my stores. I haven't had a sale on any platform in two days, despite doubling my number of eBay and Amazon listings and starting the 30 Minute Method on Poshmark. I would blame it on eBay's widespread new update, as they completely revamped the entire platform and that kind of stuff often takes a while to get back up to speed, but it's every site. It's scary, because the last time I remember a slowdown like this was right before the economic crash that led to the Great Recession. Just like today, I would read about how the economy was booming and wonder what I was doing wrong. I'm not an economist but I've been selling for a lot of years, so take it for what it's worth.

Thinking back, however, made me realize it's Atelier Mandaline's seventh anniversary this month! And not only that, I've come an incredibly long way. Seven years ago I was home with three young children. The Body Shop at Home closed leaving me, as an independent consultant as well as freelance graphic designer for their headquarters, out of not one but two jobs. I was selling occasionally on eBay but the throes of motherhood left me little time for it or anything else and I felt like I was losing myself. I had recently become interested in doll making and repair and taught myself to make pressed felt dolls. I decided to write a blog to document my learning process and also to force myself to use my art and writing degrees with some accountability and regularity since I would presumably acquire followers. My very first post was about my obsession with re-creating Edith from The Lonely Doll books, published on May 10, 2011. Mandaline Artful Living, as the blog was then known, was born and would grow into the Atelier Mandaline brand, collection of shops, social media pages, and finally, my own website.
My second handmade Edith doll

I never imagined too many people would be interested in my doll making, but now I have stores on eBay, Facebook, Etsy, Poshmark, Young Living, and of course my website, and I sell on Mercari and Amazon too. My blog has hundreds of thousands of readers from around the globe and I have thousands more followers on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Poshmark, and Vero (I'm up to nearly 20,000 followers on Poshmark alone!). My offerings have expanded to include everything from doll supplies to my own fashion boutique. I'm still struggling to find a reliable manufacturer to help me expand my website shop but I feel really proud of myself. I built my brand and bootstrapped my business entirely by myself and I did it without taking on any debt through the Great Recession and while raising three kids, two of whom had to work through (and one is still working through) significant special needs. My business and brand aren't the only things to experience impressive growth. When you compare the first felt Edith doll I made with the second one you can see how much I was able to improve my skills (in photography as well as doll making), and those dolls were only made a few months apart. Nowadays I sometimes amaze myself when I save dolls that I would have just thrown away in the beginning and my production speed is exponentially faster. Of course, much of the improvement in speed comes from no longer dealing with a two year old! I always wanted more children and would be thrilled to have another baby, although I've given up on that dream, but I have to say it is so much easier to get things done now!

I have to say, although I may have built my business and brand alone, I absolutely could never have reached my current level without all of you. My readers and early, blog followers, my customers, all those who took me under their wings and mentored me and gave me advice and became my wonderful friends and in some cases even sent me gifts and free inventory, I will never be able to thank you adequately. Even the Internet trolls who sent me hate mail when I didn't do well enough or made an identification mistake or when I over- or under- restored a doll in their opinion, thanks to them too, because they forced me to improve my game. They, and all of you, made me stronger and better. I'm not going to let a few bad days take that away from me. I'm going to keep going, improving, and growing, as I always have.

As a special thanks to you all, I am having a huge sale. You will find extensive markdowns on eBay, Etsy, Mercari, and Poshmark through Tuesday, May 29th, even including some of my newest pieces. You can link to all my shops from my website. I have so many new products planned. I even have a new Edith version in the works, so I hope you will keep watching.

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