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by Jen Fox 7 min read

My biggest takeaway from this strange year:
Adaptability & flexibility are incredibly powerful assets.

 

It's safe to say that 2020 was a year unlike any other. You all lived through it with me, and together we developed a strange new vocabulary to reflect current events.

This year has forced me to adapt and pivot in ways that have pushed me, and in some unexpected ways, I've thrived. I'm abundantly thankful to be able to say that.

I've taken some time off after the Christmas shopping rush to reflect on this past year, and what's happened in both my business and in my personal life. It's something I usually do at the close of the year, but this year it feels more important to reflect. I thought I'd share a recap with you, since from my perspective, YOU all share a big piece in my year.

2020 Year in Review:

In JANUARY, I took a massive leap of faith and invested in myself and my business by enrolling in a business group filled with other women who also run product based businesses. I attended a long weekend retreat in California, and left energized and ready with a plan to tackle my big goal for 2020: focusing on my online shop.

My goal for the year was to try everything, in terms of social media / email / interaction with my customers as well as product launches, and see what stuck.

In retrospect, I cannot believe how incredible the timing was, based on what we know now of the months that followed.

In previous years, I depended on in-person markets and events for 80% of my sales, and on wholesale accounts with brick and mortar retail shops for the other 20%. I made a sale here and there on my website, but it was not my focus.

This year, I had already committed to focusing on shifting my sales over to my website so I didn't have to rely on markets, and OH MAN, was that the best decision I made this year!!

January was also the month that I installed a permanent retail display inside And Stuff, a local retail collective shop. I've loved having my products there this year.

In FEBRUARY, my husband and I went on a belated honeymoon to Belize. We swam with nurse sharks, hiked to caves deep in the jungle, and had so much fun being with each other and away from work for a full 10 days.

While there, rumors about the virus were starting, but we had no clue at that point what it really meant.

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

Back in Albuquerque, I hosted my 3rd annual studio sale in the space I rented downtown, and I invited a few guests - Kat Labate Wright, one of my artists and owner of Seedpod Design, Lauren Toby of Meltdown Jewelry, and Hanna Hedstrom, also one of my artists and her own business owner.

We had SO much fun mingling with everyone and it was a great turnout! Little did I know that it would be my first and last event of the year.

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

This was the month I started pushing my website as the best place to shop all my products, and I was nervous to host a virtual studio sale there, but you all showed up, made purchases, and REALLY increased my confidence that I could make it work.

In March, I started working from home -- I work for the University of New Mexico part time, and I lugged my desktop computer home with me and set up what I thought was a temporary workspace in my living room. Thus began Zoom calls and wearing stretchy pants basically all the time. 

This was the time of year my garden and yard were starting to show signs of waking up for spring, and I began to relish my morning routine of pouring a cup of coffee and taking myself on a walk through the yard to notice all of the signs of life emerging after winter. I felt more connected to nature around my own home in the springtime than I've felt before, and I dug into yard and garden projects full tilt.

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

In March, my husband's distillery & cocktail bar also had to temporarily close due to public health orders. They still are not able to operate at full capacity, and we are so looking forward to when it's safe to reopen fully next year.

I began working on transitioning my studio/workspace back home in April. I had rented a workspace in downtown Albuquerque for several years, but after the little casita/apartment in our backyard became vacant when our tenant moved out, it made sense for me to move in there. We reroofed the structure, and repair some water damage in the ceiling as a result of the patched-together roof that was previously in place. It was a lot of work! 

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

Also in April, fabric masks were needed. I jumped on making masks, and I cut/sewed/shipped over 1,000 masks this year. It was exhausting! I was able to donate to the local food bank because of the mask sales, and it felt good to be able to contribute in my small way. 

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

In May, I fully moved in to my new studio space, all while cranking out hundreds of masks. 

New birds were added to Julia Giordano's collection of artist pouches! The roadrunner pouch has since become the #1 selling pouch in my shop this year.

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

I released a Summertime Gift Set as my first test into how to sell one of a kind, limited edition products online. A success!

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

May through August was honestly a blur. I settled into a wonderful routine of walking the dogs by the river almost every night, working in the yard most days, enjoying dinner on the patio in the evenings, camping most weekends, and filling the in-betweens with sewing and work. These months were fulfilling and balanced! 

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

In July, I partnered with local artist Robyn A. Frank to release a new pouch collection. This collection was a departure from the pouch styles I had previously offered, and I was really pleased with the response to her work. This pouch is the best seller in the collection.

I released a full collection of Limited Edition bags in August -- I tested the waters to see what happened when I released a collection all at once, and it was so much fun! Creating that collection and seeing the response from you all was truly incredible - a highlight of my year. That's REALLY when I started to realize that shifting my business almost entirely online was actually going to work.

August was also filled with more camping and backpacking. I've tallied it up and I camped/backpacked for 50+ nights this year!! We try to get out of town and into the desert or the mountains as often as possible. This year we were able to camp more than usual, since work schedules shifted and there was a bigger incentive to have distance from others.

2020 year in review: Foxly Handmade

2020 year in review, Foxly Handmade

September was a busy one. We took a camping road trip to southwestern Colorado and I launched a new custom product while on the road -- Memory Pouches.

The first run of pouches was so fun, many people sent me their images and I made custom pouches. It was also a bit of a lesson for me, as the time spent for this project was greater than I'd anticipated. This was a moment when I tried a brand new product without knowing what the outcome would be, and it was scary!

To be truthful, I'm unsure if I'll offer this custom option again in the coming year, but I've come to really value the lessons that arise when I push myself and try something new.

2020 year in review Foxly Handmade

At the end of September, I took a last minute trip to Phoenix to visit my uncle, who was unwell. I'm SO GLAD I created the time to make this trip, as it turned out to be the last time I saw my uncle. He passed away a few months later, and I cherish that time I spent with him that weekend.

October: I launched a limited run of Balloon Fiesta pouches that featured the art of Hanna Hedstrom. So fun! The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is known throughout the world as the largest hot air balloon festival, but unfortunately it wasn't able to happen as planned this year. This pouch sold like hotcakes and the small number I made sold out. Yay!

 2020 year in review: Foxly Handmade

November and December were a total blur, and I created dozens of one of a kind bags for some limited edition launches leading up to Christmas. I was so grateful to find the help of another skilled stitcher to help me create zipper pouches, so I could focus on making one of a kind bags.

When it took me a solid 3 days to pack and ship out dozens and dozens of orders after a busy Black Friday weekend, I really realized that I had grown enough to enlist help for this season next year so that I don't sacrifice my mental well being. Another lesson!

In November, I added another artist's work to my lineup of zipper pouches -- Nicky Ovitt's Animal Guide series!

2020 year in review: Foxly Handmade

Despite not having ANY in person events for what usually is my biggest event season of the year, I was able to more than double my sales from last year during this time. I don't say this to brag - but to celebrate how far I've come this year, all thanks to you!

I've felt truly supported by my small community (you!) of people who buy, share, and appreciate what I do and what I make. I'm honored, and floored. Thank you.

...............................

Looking into the new year and reflecting on the past, I feel grateful, I feel wiser, I feel grief for things that were lost, I feel hope for things to come, and I feel like I'm starting to finally make my way and find my path as a small business owner. And THAT is worth celebrating.

Things, personally, I'm excited about for next year:

  • cultivating my flower garden, growing veggies, and planting more trees in our backyard
  • getting the opportunity to travel & visit family
  • going on more hikes, camping trips, and cross country ski excursions
  • continuing to nurture my amazing friendships & creating new memories with friends
  • prioritizing balance over perfection & constant productivity
  • working on the next phase of renovations/improvements in our home

Things, business-wise, I'm excited about for next year: 

  • launching a limited edition pouch of the month (!!! stay tuned!)
  • working on my own art and illustrations (a rusty skill I am starting to cultivate more)
  • transitioning production of zipper pouches to other skilled local stitchers to free up my time/brain to bring you fun NEW stuff more often
  • exploring the idea of making my pouches available as a wholesale, made to order product for visual artists to sell in their own shops
  • setting up at markets again & seeing your faces!
  • spending more energy promoting this little contraption I invented for my other business

If you made it all the way, congratulations! I'd love to hear how your year was. You can always message me on Instagram, or be in touch via email: hello@jenfoxstudios.com. I'd love to hear from you!



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