A Labor Of Love

Being a small business owner is fun - it's exciting, every day is a little different, but even though it is my dream job, it is really really hard.  With today being Labor Day I wanted to take a moment to be pretty open about what it really looks like being a small business owner.



I take a lot of pride in the fact that I've built Honey and the Hive out of nothing.  I started this shop of mine during late nights from the kitchen table of our two-bedroom apartment four years ago, and have grown it into a full-time career.  But I think that it's very easy to look at what I've built and make the assumption that it's bigger than it actually is.   I don't have a brick and mortar store or a physical studio, I've set up shop in the extra bedroom of our house.  This room houses my desk where I spend my days painting, two bookshelves that are full of product, and a closet stuffed to the brim with shipping supplies.  This tiny room is where I do everything - it's where I paint, it's where I pack orders, it's where I take product photos, run my website, answer emails, all of it.  And I do it alone.  

During the past four years I have had to wear a lot of hats and learn a lot of different things.  I don't have employees that I can pass the things I'm not great at onto, I don't have an art rep to get me work, I don't have a web designer or developer creating or managing my website, there's no assistant answering emails or packing up orders - it's just me.  Which means a lot of Youtube tutorials and days spent feeling pretty defeated when I can't seem to understand certain coding for my website.  But it also means a literal happy dance ensues when I finally get it.  Honestly, I used to be really embarrassed that Honey and the Hive was a "me" and not a "we".  There seems to be this notion when it comes to running a business that you have to have employees doing things for you and hire things out in order to be considered legitimate.  While there are absolutely benefits to being able to hire employees (and I am in no means putting down those who do have that ability) I finally find pride in the fact that I have been able to manage all of the roles that have been hurled at me along the way.  I might not have the fanciest website, the most expansive portfolio, or even the quickest response time but I'm really happy to know that I've found a way to do all of these things in a way that works.


Honey and the Hive has had a slow growth over the years, it was never an overnight success as so many people who have interviewed me in the past have chalked it up to be.  It's been a long four years, a ton of work, and a lower revenue stream than most folks seem to think.  When I started this, I literally did not have a single penny to invest into it.  I've never had financial backers or investors in my business.  Everything that I have done, I have done from my own pocket.  I still to this day do not actually pay myself a salary, I take what I need to cover our bills and personal expenses and invest the rest back into the business for new products, paying taxes, and keeping this whole thing going.  I'm confident that I'll get to that point someday but for now this is okay.  That means that when I release new products, I'm not able to do huge product releases yet.  Everything has to be very intentional -  the sales of current products fund the creation of new products, and every product is a risk.  If I invest the time and quite frankly the money into making something and it doesn't sell, that is a hard blow to come back from.  It also makes it a whole lot harder to make new products after the fact because the money I need to make something new is still tied up in the thing that isn't selling.  Fortunately that doesn't happen too often, and when it has it has provided me with a learning opportunity and more insight into my customer base so that I can make things that you really do enjoy.

All of that being said, while it may be a slow growth, it is just that - continuous growth.  Each year is better than the last, so much so that in 2017 I was able to quit the part-time job that I held onto as a security blanket and pursue Honey and the Hive full-time.  That was the biggest, scariest, and most absolutely soul fulfilling leap that I've taken so far. By having the extra time to devote to my art and to my business 2018 has been the best year yet.  I am so much happier and I HAVE been able to dabble into more products, fund the production of products that I couldn't in the past, take on more custom work, and collaborate and create art for more businesses!  It's really encouraging to look back at what seemed like a really scary move and realize that it's been the best decision that I could have possibly made.


I don't think that I ever really knew those nights when I was painting at my kitchen table and selling art through Etsy that I would be able to quit my job and really do this thing.  Of course it was a dream but it seemed so unobtainable that being here now and typing this is honestly getting me a little choked up.  I might have a really small business, but it is mine and it means everything to me.  I have worked really hard for what I've built, and it makes me really happy and really proud to look at how far I have come, and think of what lies ahead.  I think that sharing the vulnerable side of things is beneficial for us all - we can all learn from each other and by being open everyone benefits.  Cheers to being open and helping each other grow.


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