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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.

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Comments: 7 (Add)

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Sue Adlam

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

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

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

SnapdragonJane

Thanks Sue - that means a lot J x

Dana

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 🌖

Catherine Hunt

I absolutely love this. Ethical and Sustainable have become such words to plump up sales, to continue the capitalist manifesto. "it's ok to buy stuff if it's sustainable and ethically sourced, right?" not so much if it's still buying stuff we don't really need - in working smarter we truly will be able to collaborate to create truly sustainable lives for more than the few that reap the gains. We are looking to do the same, working with each other to provide products and services that enhance our lives. Such as your bundles of joy from your online shop. Today, on my day off, i will be making paper pots - planting seeds for new growth. Thank you Jane, i'm so proud of being a Studio member and thank you for all that you bring to enrich my life experience - you are truly an inspiration x

Aileen Courtney

Thank you for opening up your thoughts and heart. Your intuition proved right! There are so many ways to do things in different ways and you have found and shared one that is working for you.

Snapdragon social

Stillness is such a difficult skill to acquire.  I suspect that so much of the rushing about that we do is simply an attempt to avoid being still.
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For if we stopped, paid attention to ourselves, to the world around us, let everything sink in - well that might be very scary.
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But I do think it is the most important skill - a five minute pause, a checking in.  I'm not talking about meditation here - nothing as formal as that - just a stilling and listening and paying attention. Appreciation, recognition, renewal.
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It is something that I am very bad at by nature - but I have been taking lessons from Dixie. 

For if a spaniel can relax into stillness, nosing into a shaft of sunshine, then I'm sure I can.
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Teasel isn't quite there yet.

#aseasonalway #springerspaniel #springerspanielsofinstagram #slowlivingforlife #lessonsfromdogs #bringyourdogtowork #storiesoftheeveryday
One thing that gardening teaches you year on year is that so much is beyond your control. Some things will thrive, others won’t, and mostly it will be nothing to do with anything you’ve done. 
Some years will be great for one crop, terrible for another. This is a great year for garlic here, awful for beans. 

It’s the same with business - a lot of things happen that are due to the ‘weather’ of the world. We can pivot and turn, change our tactics, Google ‘how to make reels’ and so on - but we can also choose to embrace and lean into what is working well. 

My Friday letter today is about social media and all the ways I’ve used to connect with people over the past 21 years - if you fancy a read you can sign up in my profile. 

And in the meantime I’d love to know what’s growing well for you. Or indeed, what has been a disaster! 

#theartofslowliving #livethelittlethings #nothingisordinary #natureandnourish #embracingaslowerlife #aseasonalway #seekthesimplicity #scotlandsgardens #growyourownfood #cornersofmyworld #greenthumb #rusticgamesttong #cornersofmyworld #simpleandstill #vintagegreenhouse
Each year I have a personal project running.  Something just for me. Something that allows me to experiment and play. 
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The first year that I became obsessed with using the plants here to dye textiles - back in 2019 - it was twelve skeins of a raw slubby silk yarn that I  had been hoarding for decades. They became a patchwork cable blanket that now sits on the back of the sofa.
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In 2020 it was double knitting yarns, in dozens of colours, knitted into a stripy jumper to keep me cosy in the Studio.
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Last year I dyed linens and am gradually making them into patchworks and appliqués - many I am squirrelling away for a project that I may or may not ever begin.
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This year I am using mini skeins - in an attempt to keep it more manageable - and exploring the differences in colour caused by the pH of the original extraction. 
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There are four skeins for each plant, two for neutral extraction, two for alkali - with one of each pair being dipped in iron to 'sadden' the colour.
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If science had been like this at school I might have paid more attention . . . .

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty #plantdyedyarn #naturaldyedyarn #foragedcolour
This is a tomato salad that was inspired by one I ate a few years ago in a cafe in Mingun, Myanmar,
There it was mainly made with green tomatoes, sharp against the shrimp powder.
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In Myanmar the military junta have begun to execute activists arrested after the coup in February 2021. The brutality and violence continue, the quashing of democracy, the corruption. 

11,759 people, arrested after the coup, remain in detention, 78 people, including two children, have been sentenced to death.
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You won't usually find much out about Myanmar in the 'fed to you' media, but this week there has been reporting and a Dispatches programme about mass killings  was on Channel 4 on Monday.  The Guardian has consistently been the newspaper reporting most on the aftermath of the coup and you can also follow hashtags like #whatishappeninginmyamar here. 
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There may seem little we can actively do about the horrors in the world, but people involved always say that what matters is knowing that people care, bear witness and don’t simply forget when the news cycle moves on.
We always have a slight breeze here - a blessing as it stops the midges flying.
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It often gets up at night after a warm day, seeming to breathe its way round corners. 
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If you walk through the garden in the evening at the moment, the scent of Lilium regale drifts about you in eddies of spice.

#simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
The more I travel down this road the more I realise that deciding how you live, which values you honour, what you will prioritise all have to be deliberately chosen. 
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You can’t just drift into a slower, more intentional life. 
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You can’t buy it. 
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You have to make a commitment to actually live it. 
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And that’s not always easy. 
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It is why I go to events like last weekend’s summer camp @thegoodlifesoc . 
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It is also why I surround myself with a supportive community where my choices don’t seem weird.

It is why my to do list today has sitting with a coffee taking in the swoony scent of the sweet peas on it. 

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
This is the actual physical Studio.
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It is a little cabin between meadow and wood - a space for creativity and connection a space that I deliberately and intentionally worked towards for a number of years.  There is a sunny deck looking onto trees for the summer, a wood burning stove for the winter.
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The Studio is also another thing - it is a club of amazing people who are intentionally prioritising their creativity and connection to the natural world. 
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It is a community of great humour, support and inspiration - the best thing that I have ever had a hand in.
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The Studio Club is closed to new members at the moment and the doors will open to new members again on the Autumn Equinox. 

I'm currently working with @fbarrows, who is providing a gentle and encouraging outside eye, as I decide on what we will be doing in the club over the next six months.
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I've been surveying all the members to find out exactly what it is they enjoy most, what they feel I could do better. 

In this week’s Friday letter I've included a link to a short survey, because I  think it would also be useful to know what people who follow me, but are not members, feel about these things. 
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If you get it, it would help me so much if you could take a minute to fill it out - there are only five questions and there is also a bribe . . . .

#slowlivingforlife #simplelife #whereiwork #simpleandslow #creativelifehappylife
The more we actively take time to pause, to sit still and watch, the more we see. 
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My Friday Letter this week is all about taking advantage of some unwanted early wakening and starting to use the binoculars which have been hanging on the coat rail for eighteen months.
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Twenty minutes with a cup of tea, the binoculars and a lawn full of early birds and their worms.

#momentslikethese
#the_gentle_manifesto
#daysofsmallthings
#natureandnourish
#aseasonalway
#daysofsimpleandslow
#ournaturedays
#aquietmoment
#pocketsofslow
#thesweetlifeunscripted
#folkandstory
#pause
snapdragon.life
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About Snapdragon Life

In the Studio Club 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.

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