Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

Journal

How shrinking my business increased my income.

In September I was recorded in conversation with Fiona Barrows for her podcast There Are Other Ways - it was a chat about shrinking a business, deciding what was 'enough', about being really intentional in making a simpler life with plenty of freedom and joy.

In the wind down chat afterwards, I happened to mention that it had made money much easier too - and it was obvious that Fiona had assumed that my income would have gone down with my workload, and that we both really regretted not having covered the topic of money in the recorded part of our conversation.

So this mini-post is a way of addressing that omission.

When I first set up Snapdragon as an online business it grew fast - it grew from just me to a team of five, it changed from being at my kitchen table to in a bespoke wooden workshop in the field behind the house. I had big goals - income goals mainly - and they required constant growth. The way I ran Snapdragon was the perfect example of a capitalist business - scale up, employ staff, increase turnover, leverage profits to grow ever faster.

If you know my back story you will know that in 2016 I realised with a thump that the business I had built went against pretty much everything I aimed for in my personal life. The slow, simple, seasonal life I had created for myself was completely the opposite of my constantly growing, rapaciously hungry, business. I screeched on the brakes, moved myself out of the day to day running of the online gift side of the business, and set about creating something new.

In the end, the actual stopping took a while - and it wasn't until January 2020 that I completely disbanded the Snapdragon team and became a Company of One. I chose to work a lot less, I lopped off a lot of income streams, I employed skilled freelancers only when I needed them, rather than having anyone on a payroll. Most importantly, I formally decided on what 'enough' looked like for the business, ensuring it didn't have ambitions to grow bigger than that (for my natural inclination is always to scale things up, to make them bigger, more impressive, more like a 'proper' business).

And what happened was really interesting - instead of the rollercoastering 'boom or bust' stream of money of the old business something much gentler and reliable appeared. Where I had always seemed to be chasing my tail, borrowing from myself to pay people, betting tens of thousands of pounds on future sales, now my income was steady, predictable, nurturing. My connections to customers became stronger, I could ask them directly what they wanted, I made fewer mistakes.

However, now that I have almost a whole year's financial figures I can be confident that it is more than a gut feeling. My personal take home income doubled, I was able to drop down to working four days a week, I had time to prioritise my health - more importantly the quality of what I am doing has gone up, I feel very proud of what I am working on now. I am full of enthusiasm.


Best of all, business donations to charities have gone up - aside from the percentage of profits that go the The Snapdragon Foundation, Snapdragon Life has given significantly to 23 other charities over lockdown - some were donations in kind but most were cash.

It is as though there was something magical happened when I aligned the values of my business to those of my personal life, I kept wanting to talk about it but worried that it was maybe just wishful thinking.

Over the past couple of centuries the way people have been advised to run their businesses has been to aim for a state of perpetual growth - the cult of the entrepreneur over the past fifty years has overlaid that with the idea that you need to work constantly, putting in long ours at the expense of all other parts of your life. This may be true if you want the kind of multi-national business that can be sold, or one that has shareholders and multi million pound deals. My experience suggests that it isn't the case if what you want is a small business that funds and is in harmony with a lifestyle you love.

Comments: 4 (Add)

Sue Adlam on December 29 2020 at 12:14

Bravo Jane. That's exactly how I'd like to build up my business once I've finished all my studies!
Happy New year.
Sue 🙏🏽 x

Gillian Crawford on December 29 2020 at 12:31

Well done, Jane. You have been innovative in your approach and I’m so glad you are reaping all the benefits of your new business model. Gillian x

SnapdragonJane on December 29 2020 at 12:32

Thanks Sue - good luck with all the studying! J x

SnapdragonJane on December 29 2020 at 12:33

Thanks Sue - that means a lot J x

Snapdragon social

This weekend the valleys were full of mist - great screeds of it swelling up as the afternoon lengthened and the air cooled.⁠⠀
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This is a rescue horse who now lives a couple of fields down - if I happen to be passing his gate around 4, he is up  stretching his over it, looking for friendly scratches and food. ⁠⠀
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A perfect time keeper.
It doesn't take much . . . . ⁠⠀
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These stems were picked in the five minute walk from the house to the Studio.⁠⠀
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A teasel head, some rusty dock seeds, a bleached shell of columbine, bright rose hips.⁠⠀
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None looked very promising outside but indoors, tucked into test tubes, they look wonderful.⁠⠀
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As they would in bottles . . . .⁠⠀
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The rose hips are the last of the berries to go from the hedges - the birds strip everything else as soon as it gets cold, the elders and rowans first, then the haws.⁠⠀
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Inspired by their bright longevity I have ordered a small clutch of rosa moyesii 'Geranium' - with their spectacular bottle shaped hips - to make an informal hedge down by the airstream.⁠⠀
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My plan is to plant them amongst crab apples to keep back the dull green march of the Scots broom. ⁠⠀
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I have honeysuckle in mind too.⁠⠀
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This is the Studio - nestled into the dip of the valley, surrounded by wild meadow and trees.⁠⠀
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At this time of year it is a cosy den, the stove lit, the fabrics piled up around me.⁠⠀
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Today I am finishing off some large embroidered wool cushions and sending out lots of craft kits in the post.
This was taken last week when we had snow. You can see Dixie’s dachshund toy abandoned in a drift.
A winding path, a bare tree reaching up, blue sky above ribbons of mist, patches of scruffy frost in the rough grass.⁠⠀
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I have walked this road more days than not this year.⁠⠀
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It never gets old.
I said I wasn't going to make a wreath this year.⁠⠀
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But then I saw one @talenamaria made on behalf of @jamjarflowers for the @papier Instagram feed and I was smitten.  The glorious mess of the hedgerow encapsulated in a twiggy ring.⁠⠀
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The birch twigs from further down the grid were still in the hall  and I had some dried hydrangeas left over . . . .⁠⠀
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(I also say I never watch video tutorials as I get distracted too easily and find that they are often too long - but Talena's is good and short and easy to watch and follow.)
A snowy gate, photographed last week, snow piled up on rungs and branches.⁠ ⠀
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I loved how the field on the other side was completely untouched. ⠀
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A fresh sheet of paper. ⠀
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A new week. ⠀
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If you want to make a little wool tree like this one the step by step instructions are now on my website - www.snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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If you want it to look exactly like this one, you can also buy a kit with all the bits to make three trees ⁠⠀
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I first made these trees for a Country Living Fair in Glasgow back in the mid 2000s - raiding my button box for the decoration and dyeing old blankets for the wool. ⁠⠀
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Sometimes I still see the trees from that generation appear on people's Christmas windowsills and it makes me very happy.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

Learn more about why here

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