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June 24, 2013

why starting a business is hard on the most basic of levels.

This past Christmas I made Rich mugs. I went to IKEA and bought four white mugs, and at Michaels I bought a black glass/ceramic marker. I made him a few different ones, and had a ton of fun with it.
At this point, I was still working a retail job for almost nothing, and thought it might be fun to open up an Etsy shop and custom make some of these bad boys for the people of the world.

Here's the thing. Any type of business, no matter how small, is a commitment. Obviously I know this, and I'm sure you do too, but I just want to emphasize that little fact. You have to love what you're starting up, and in this case, I did. I had a lot of fun making these mugs for Rich, and I thought it would be fun for a long time, but I've decided now that it causes more anxiety than anything.

These are a few of the problems I have encountered over the last seven months that have caused me to put this on hold for now:

1// people are very particular about what it is they want in a custom anything. Some of the orders I got were verrrrrry interesting. I thought that when I posted the pictures of the mugs I made Rich, that people would stick to those basic designs with different names and sayings. No. No, it was not like that.

2// it is very stressful thinking about whether or not the person who ordered the mug is going to be happy with it.

3// money, money, money. It costs money to buy materials, it costs money to ship, it costs money to list things on Etsy, and it costs money when you make mistakes. I feel like I probably didn't make any money from this little endeavor, it was most likely a break-even situation in the end.

4// the markers I use have to sit to dry for four hours, and then get baked in the oven for 40 minutes. At first, this wasn't an issue because I worked either until 4pm or from 4pm until about 10. I had time to make my mugs and make sure that I would be home to bake them on time. Now that I'm a nanny, I leave the house at 7am and get home around 6:30. By the time I get home, eat dinner, workout - whatever it is that I'm doing - I do not have four hours and 40 minutes to wait for a mug to dry and bake in an oven before I go to sleep, let alone the time it takes to create the mug. Refer to number 1 and imagine how long some of these could have taken.

5// the DecoArt markers are really cool, but they are limited in their abilities. When you first open one up, it can write pretty thin, but once the tip is saturated with the glass paint, say goodbye to intricate designs. Also, the tip will sometimes develop a stray "hair" and create it's own little design on the surface of the mug. And when you make a mistake, for the most part you can get it off with a tissue and a little bit of water, or you can run the whole thing under water and start fresh. If you make a million mistakes though, and just can't seem to get it right, the mug becomes less and less forgiving. This has resulted in quite a few inner tantrums and mugs in the garbage.

6// the mugs i got from IKEA are very basic. They're white, hold a normal cup of coffee, they work. However, they sometimes have a weird surface area, and I can't figure it out. No matter how clean and dry it is, or how well the marker seems to be working on its own, when I draw something on the mug it looks like it's wet, and the ink starts to streak like I'm drawing through a puddle. But the mug. is. not. wet. It blows my mind, and I don't understand why it happens.

7// bubble wrap is expensive for what it is.

Those are a few of the more annoying issues I have with this little "business" I was trying to finagle. I think I had a good idea, and I'm not completely dismissing doing this again in the future, I just need to think about everything that goes into it a little more and will definitely need better materials, particularly better markers. And I really need more time than I have now unless I could figure out a more efficient process.

I'm not sure if this was advice or venting. Probably venting, but even if one person who reads this thinks twice about an idea they have and decides to refine it more before starting up, I guess it was worth writing about my failures.

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