This is a follow up story for Life and Limb Printing. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Adam Tanaka and I own a screen printing and merch company, Life and Limb Printing. We specialize in apparel and headwear decoration.
Life and Limb Printing is down quite a bit from last year but I have been head down creating several revenue streams covering various industries that have been great and allow me to maintain focus and more freedom.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
In March and April, Life and Limb Printing was down about 85% from last year. I lost $85,000 in 3 days at the beginning of April. It kept plummeting for a couple of months after. It did feel like no end was in sight and of course, this pandemic was out of the blue and had no clue how to maneuver through. I began to start restructuring the company and setting new systems in place. One of these is becoming a little more automated, which would help with our efficiency and how effective our now small team could be through slow and busy times. To date, we are 30% down from last year and continue to push through. By the end of this year, aside from any other strange occurrences like bird sharks, we should be in the black. Which could simply mean we are profitable by $1.
Know that your time IS valuable and equip yourself with time management skills and other tools to not only better your business but also yourself.
I have not taken on any new employees, and although I have less staff than I did at the beginning of the year, I don’t intend to hire anytime soon. I have found that if you have an intelligent lean team, much more work gets done.
I have completely scrapped the cold calls or sales emails to potential customers letting them know we exist or trying to “sell” them on needing apparel. Times are constantly changing and I think although the pandemic has not been good to most, I was able to step back and see the importance of some things and the waste of other things. In turn, we restructure/rebuild!
Our existing customers for the most part seem very happy with us. I say for the most part because there have been some that don’t understand that our timelines have changed so instead of receiving orders within 10 days, they may get them in 15 days. Those extra 5 days don’t go over well with some. But I know my team and I are doing our absolute best and I am ultimately proud of where we are and where we are going.
With Life and Limb Printing, we have no new marketing improvements, no new campaigns, partnerships, or crazy PR….we moved to rely more so on word of mouth. Yes, I know it is old school but this was a move that has brought in more business in the last 2 months. If you do good work, people will find out. We are not on the edge of our seats selling like maniacs right now. We are strategizing internally, putting out good quality products, and building new revenue streams to pull from, such as a Life and Limb Printing spin-off clothing brand called lifexlimb. Lifexlimb is geared towards nostalgic 90’s - esque flavor with a mix of extraterrestrial/ufo parody and I LOVE IT. My team has worked their asses off bringing this to life and deserve all the credit.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
In early April, I did spend a couple of days wanting to throw my hands up and call it quits but realized this thought alone was making me extremely unhappy and I was at one of my lowest points I think I’ve ever been. It was then when I stepped back and decided that instead of hitting the ground running, trying to bring in substantial revenue for Life and Limb Printing, I needed to focus on my mental and physical health.
I began seeing a cognitive therapist and started reading quite a bit more. I breathe deeply and try to appreciate what is around me, feeding myself affirmations throughout the day. Believe it or not, my energy levels began to spike and I started seeing a small bit of light, which in turn became greatly inspiring. I started seeing that I’m not actually stuck and it is ultimately up to me how I get through this time in my life. I felt my creativity coming back, so I started diving into other ventures I’ve wanted to do or try for a long time, and some that were completely new to me.
I will soon be launching a baby/kids supply line called Cavehouse Supply, a new product in pet care, filming online screen printing courses, consulting for other print shops, and writing a book. The cool thing about each of these is that they are no longer thoughts, but I have taken steps daily for months to keep all of these ventures moving forward and I am excited about where everything is going!
In terms of partnerships, my baby/kids supply company Cavehouse Supply has partnered with Child Mind Institute with portions of sales going directly to the awesome people there to further the research and information for childhood mental health.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Life and Limb Printing will remain a company based on quality products and core customer focus. After setting up more automation by the end of the year, my team and I will also be pushing our new lifestyle brand as well. This will bring in a different audience but I am very much looking forward to it.
I am excited about the new business ventures I am working on and will soon be launching. I have never truly done product development that requires a patent, so with this new pet product, I am anxious and thrilled at the same time to see where it goes.
Plans….this word is something I have learned to keep out of my vocabulary for the time being. It was much harder to plan further out than a day or two months ago and it has become a bit better for sure. But I have realized that life doesn’t care about your plans and that if you have a business that you have worked hard to grow and maintain, you keep going and do not stop. You face the hardships, the struggles, the pain and you use these negative effects to reshape back into success because you OVERCAME. It is where you place your focus that will determine your outcome. If you tend to focus on the negative hits you and your business are taking, you’ll feel defeated and give up. If you acknowledge the negative hits, allow them to pass, and take hold of the good things happening to you and your business, you will continue to press on and failure will no longer trip you up.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
So my choice in books has been a little different than last year for sure. But they have helped in certain areas where I felt drained or couldn’t figure out the next steps.
Laugh all you want, but You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero has been awesome. It has been a guide for parts of my mental space that felt beaten. She lays things out simply and is very straight forward. I love it. She’s awesome.
Jason Miller’s Welcome to the Funnel. This is a must-have for anyone with any online sales channels. There is so much to be said about this book. Please check it out.
Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller is one I am just starting to dive into. I am no good at marketing strategies and I'm going to give this book a read and can’t wait to see what information I can gain.
As always, still listening to How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz. I believe, for the time being, it is sharing the name with How I Built Resilience. If you are looking for inspiration or not wanting to feel so alone through this weird time, check some of these episodes out.
A friend of mine showed me the podcast Supernatural and I have become pretty obsessed with this. If you are into UFOs, aliens, weird hauntings, and conspiracies, this could be a good little break for you.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I think right now, where we are at this moment in time, instead of trying to sound like I know the answers for success, I would simply say the 3 words that are my everyday affirmation - JUST KEEP GOING - no matter what, just keep going.
A “pro tip” I learned is nothing lasts forever, good or bad. Use any time you have to reshape, rebuild, learn, grow. Know that your time IS valuable and equip yourself with time management skills and other tools to not only better your business but also yourself. Your business can’t function successfully if you feel scattered or worthless.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am always accepting applications but at this time, we are not hiring.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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