This is a follow up story for 2Puggles. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Steve Smith and I run a one-person woodworking business called 2Puggles. 2Puggles makes and sells all things wood focusing on bookmarks, clocks, earrings, and flower vases. My tagline is 2Puggles lets nature shine through my work.
My customers are first and foremost people who enjoy the look of natural wood and are willing to pay extra for a handcrafted product. My target markets vary by product line.
For my clocks, I call my category affordable luxury as I target my pricing to be not cheap but not out of reach for the average household looking to put a statement piece in their home. The clocks are 10” and up in diameter featuring one-of-a-kind wood grain. The typical customer is a new homeowner, or as a wedding or housewarming gift.
Bookmarks and vases are geared towards the inexpensive but unique gift giver. They are priced from $5.00 to $50.00 and give a thoughtful gift-giver on a budget some great options.
Wooden earrings are targeted at women who want interesting lightweight earrings.
In spite of the pandemic or perhaps because of it my sales for the past 12 months have grown to $2000 per month.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
My focus previous to 2020 has always been in-person sales. 2019 was a great year where I had refined my show schedule to doing a few shows and making most of my sales in the fall during these shows. I had a website and dabbled in online sales but it was never my focus, but in-person sales were my emphasis.
Include gaining knowledge in your metrics. Look at failures and moments where knowledge is gained as revenue to fuel your efforts going forward.
One of the reasons I keep 2Puggles a one-person side hustle is because I am first and foremost a full-time teacher and I do not want the pressure of fixed costs and making payroll. All of the profits from 2Puggles are invested into company growth. My lifestyle does not rely on any income from the business. That puts me in a position to not worry about a sharp downturn in my business.
As 2020 evolved my game plan was to put a little bit more emphasis on Etsy but basically put 2Puggles growth on hold until the pandemic was over. One marketing decision changed my directions and turned what I had planned as a lost year into record sales for 2Puggles.
I had plenty of cash and plenty of inventory so I decided to start experimenting with online advertising. With help from my classes, I bought ads on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. My students learned a lot and we got a lot of exposure. But no real traction in sales and to be honest I do not enjoy social media so I did not feel like that would be a good long-term strategy for me without consistent help.
In June, I decided to devote $5.00 per day to advertising on Etsy. After doing research I knew that I needed to be patient and allow the algorithm to do its job for a month or two before deciding if the results justified the cost. Advertising in June brought a bit more traffic and a couple of sales but I did not cover my ad expenses. July was the turning point that changed the entire year. Typically, July is the slowest month of the year but instead, there was a slow uptick in business. 2Puggles ended up grossing over $1000 for the month. It was the beginning of a steady increase in Etsy business that resulted in a record year for total sales for 2Puggles.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
There have not been a lot of new lessons learned this year but it has reinforced decisions I have made about the business. My decision to keep 2Puggles a one-person business with no fixed costs allowed me to enter the downturn in 2020 relatively stress-free for the business. I was prepared to have little to no revenue and wait out the pandemic until in-person sales resumed.
While in-person sales have always been 2Puggles main revenue source I have always kept other sales channels open including Etsy and my website. Although neither was the main focus at the start of 2020, I had spent enough time on them to have the knowledge and skills to make a fast pivot to focusing on online sales.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
For 2021, 2Puggles will be sticking to the current product and expanding online sales. Etsy is currently 500% (!!!) up year over year from last year and showing no signs of slowing down. In my current business model, I have to make all of the products so I am staying plenty busy filling orders.
My five-year plan is still intact. I am 61 years old and a full-time teacher. I will be retiring in the next 4-9 years and I plan to build 2Puggles into a viable brand and business that I can operate on a larger scale once I retire and can do it full time.
I have slowly been acquiring high-quality tools for the woodshop including a sawmill. I now have the ability to start with a tree and create products from unique grains and parts of the tree that are not commercially available.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I read the book Profit First this year. I highly recommend this book if you are a full or part-time entrepreneur with fixed costs and need to stick to a budget.
My two favorite podcasts for a budding entrepreneur are “Side Hustle School” and “How I Built This”. They both do a great job of detailing the highs and lows of starting a business. Side Hustle School episode # 203 is particularly good.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business
I give two pieces of advice to all of my entrepreneurship students.
The first piece of advice is to know your business bottom. Although I do not think it is necessary to dwell on it, I do think it is important to have a plan if the bottom falls out of your business. What are the bare minimum resources needed to keep going? What will I do if the business is suddenly shut down? Personally, I have experienced this twice in the form of a very random surprise flood that filled outbuilding with five feet of water, and when September 11, 2001, occurred and the bottom fell out of my business. In both cases, there was thought and a plan in place so time was not lost figuring out what to do.
The second piece of advice is running and growing a business requires linear effort resulting in very nonlinear results. Particularly, in the beginning, determine some non-revenue key metrics to set as goals for your business. It can be as simple as creating a checklist and checking off all of the tasks or setting a timeline of small goals and celebrating reaching them. Include gaining knowledge in your metrics. Look at failures and moments where knowledge is gained as revenue to fuel your efforts going forward. I have an expression I used to use as a high school coach and I use it now for my business. “I am happy but I am not satisfied” I’m going to take today and make tomorrow that much better!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
No, I am staying at a one-person company but feel free to reach out. I enjoy helping craft and artistic businesses get started.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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