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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: 5 (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

Dana on February 19 2021 at 10:58

Oh my goodness that is exactly... [sigh] exactly what I needed to read this morning 🙏🏼 I’m in the US and it feels as if the “hustle” is some sort of crown to wear and instead it is just simply exhausting. I’ve felt pulled in the direction of slowing down, evaluating my intention and purpose myself and suspect finding this very particular blog was meant to be as I popped on IG before the sun is even up because I woke early with all the to-do’s rambling in my head. [longer sigh] Now I’m going to put my phone down, close my eyes and think about how I too can create my business with me in mind. Thank you for the early morning inspiration 🌖

Snapdragon social

I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
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I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
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This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
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It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
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When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
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The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
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The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
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My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
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Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
Abundance.⁠⠀
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And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
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My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
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So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
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I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
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I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
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It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
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My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
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Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
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Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
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But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
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This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
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This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
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White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
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The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
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Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
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We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
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Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
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Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
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It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
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Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
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Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
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So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
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An attempt to keep momentum.
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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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