I dislike the overblown, frenetic, & scarcity-minded ethos of Black Friday. Plus, dignify always has our own one-day, once-a-year sale earlier in November. So: why participate in any of it?!
This is a tension that I have wrestled with over 6 holiday seasons, end every year, I’m back at the drawing board.
This year, we decided that yes, we would offer free shipping over the weekend as a BFCM (industry shorthand for Black Friday/Cyber Monday) bonus. And yes, what led us there was simple economics. It works, it makes money, it makes sense. But, probably not in the same way that you think...
Three months ago, I wrote about my new attempt at minimizing my wardrobe. I'm not really a minimalist, but I do dabble here & there! I called it "a capsule wardrobe for the non-committal".
It's been a full quarter since I tossed half of my clothes in a box... so, what do I think?
I’ve been trying out a little trick that I learned from Shawn Blanc. Every night, I choose my clothes for the next morning.
This is no unique, innovative idea, of course; making sure that you have pressed shirts & pants is a night-before practice for many, and some parents encourage their school-aged kids to pre-choose clothes, as a time-saving trick for busy mornings (and to make sure dirty clothes are identified before drop-off!).
Shawn's explanation for trying this practice is twofold:
When I talk to people in person about dignify & what I do, there are two questions that I am asked almost inevitably:
I’m sure that neither of these things are keeping you up at night! But, here are my answers, nonetheless:
Being interested in the things that I am interested in – simplification & thoughtfulness in spending & life – naturally I have seen lots of internet murmuring on capsule wardrobes and minimalist fashion.
If those phrases haven’t appeared on your radar: a capsule wardrobe is a pared down collection of clothes, usually classic, timeless items or pieces that are very interchangeable to create many looks using few items. Sometimes the idea would be to augment the capsule with seasonal pieces, but many just stick to these key pieces to avoid owning excessive clothing.
I am no clothes horse, but I have the same kind of wardrobe as most of us have: a handful of items that I really like to wear (t-shirts that fit well, button-ups that look great when they are pressed, chambray shirts, fave jeans) and a LOT of other things that I… occasionally wear (when the tees are dirty and the button-ups aren’t pressed and the fave jeans have coffee spilled on them).
I think that most of these minimalist clothing projects started up in the same way: someone wading through a drawer (or closet) full of I-like-it-and-wear-it-sometimes-ish clothes and thinking, ENOUGH!
About 2/3 of Americans & Canadians own a smartphone, and in this crowd, I know that number is much higher. I am one of them, of course, and I am very thankful for the little computer in my pocket. It allows me to work on the fly, take photos for business & pleasure, and do a zillion other wonderful things (like call my mom).
The oppression of these devices is a well-trodden path, but regardless of how many convicting videos you watch, it’s much easier philosophized than done when it comes to cutting the chain between us & our phones.
This past year, I have experimented with limiting the notifications on my phone, and I can tell you that has been a huge, healthy step in the right direction!
Last week, I had the opportunity to take over an instagram account for One Woman Shop, a resource hub & community for women building their solo businesses. I "carried the #onewomanshopbaton" and spent the day posting photos of what it looked like to work my small business. Technically, I am not a one woman shop, as I wouldn't be able to do dignify without my husband (whom we have, at times, referred to as the "Chief of Everything I Don't Want to Do"), and a growing community of help & support. Nonetheless, I thought I would share with you what a day in the life is like for me!
[There are echoes here of another post I did once: Behind the Scenes Photographing Many, Many Kantha Blankets]
I start almost every weekday with a super early writing sesh: 5:30 wakeup and at the desk by 5:45. It sounds bananas, I know! But, I beat my 3 kids out of bed and get some solid, uninterrupted and undistracted time until 7:30. I started this as an experiment in September, inspired by @seanwes, and I'm not looking back. For me, it's been just what I needed: dedicated time to write and focus before the emails and social media and personal needs of the day stay tumbling in.
[On another version of this photo, I included a little known fact about me: I use my right index finger for the space bar when I type. So ridiculous. Also, does every 31-year old's hands look this old? I need to take better care of myself...]
At 7:30, I stop working to come up from our home office and help herd the cats. We only have one daughter in full-time school (grade 1), but it starts at 8:05, and for a night owl (her), that's rough!
I love taking this break to eat, get a coffee (which I don't make at 5:30am... see previous post!), and take the 10 minute round-trip walk to school.@shawnblanc offered some great advice about staying focused: when he starts to wane or be distracted, he just steps away. A walk, a coffee break, a change of pace/scene for a few minutes to give himself an earnest break, instead of pressing through with half attention.
In true one-woman fashion, I do a bit (a lot!) of everything: writing, tech stuff, packaging, photography, importing, accounting (rarely!), marketing, social media, etc. etc.
Fortunately, my husband has taken over a lot of the order fulfillment, but I still handwrite the cards and help out. So, so not how I envisioned my life -- the dream of owning/running an online retail business was never even on my radar! But it sure is fun now!
Last week marked a momentous occasion for our littlesari blanket business! Icreated & posted an internship position for our business. All spring and summer, I’ve felt this same feeling pressed upon me: You need help. Expand the tribe. Get others involved. Supplement your weaknesses. Don’t try to do it all on your own.
Finally, I was ready for more people around here, I was ready to let go of some things, I was ready to take charge as a leader that can fearlessly captain this ship!
So, I posted it on my personal facebook page, as a start. Then I received a text message from my friend who owns a flower shop:
Huh. Yes. *Excellent* questions. I’m thinking perhaps I should have asked these questionsbefore posting it. Who’s in charge around here, anyways? Doesn’t anyone know what they’re doing?!
Whenever I meet a customer in person, or chat about my job at a party, people always ask me, “How did you get into this?”
When I tell them the story of dignify’s beginnings, I always include that my background was in marketing. That after the initial idea seed was planted (“Shelley, you should think about selling these blankets…”), what began to excite me as I lay in bed at night was thinking about what I would call it, how the logo would look, what the site would be like… etc.
Having adequate-to-good skills in a variety of marketing capacities (writing, photography, graphic design, ad-copy, etc.) has allowed me to do a lotwith dignify while spending almost nothing on outside sources. dignify most definitely would not have grown as it has without these skills (or without some serious $$$ borrowing). So, I am certainly not opposed to marketing as a tool or discipline.
And yet… I do still struggle with certain methods, tactics, and devices used in marketing. I really don’t believe that ends justify means, and some marketing means are just not… good.
Recently, I received an email from a customer who expressed concern over whether the value of our blankets is legitimately “ethical”. With so many places to find kantha on the web from etsy to Amazon – and at a wide range of prices – what makes dignify’s blankets worth the value? Are we simply using the word “ethical” as a marketing scheme?
As a self-run business from an admitted amateur, I realized that while the stories of Basha (our producing partner) and dignify are thoroughly integrated in my operations and thought process, I haven’t always communicated them adequately.
It sounds a bit cynical, sure, but these questions are valid & reasonable – the questions we should be asking.Not just of social enterprises, but of everyone for whom we open our wallets.
But the truth is, Basha is the real deal! It is run by caring leaders who guide the artisans, and teach them, and check on them when they don't show up at work, and run workshops for their husbands about why not to beat them. It is a good place.
An acquaintance just contacted me after her husband, who works in prosthetics, had traveled to Bangladesh for some work & training. Her words:
“He managed to stop at the Basha facility and was completely blown away. He and the fellow he travelled with were almost in tears by the kids' affection for them. They had a tour and bought some blankets. Absolutely LOVED it! “
For more specifics, I have tried to address some great questions & concerns below. Please feel free to comment or contact us for more discussion on these or other questions.