After teasing you all on Instagram Stories, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. As of August 31, I’ll be taking a leave of absence from my 15 year career at a company that I love to focus on Wooly Doodle full time. It's time to turn this little side hustle into an empire.
There you have it! Blog post done.
Just kidding. There is actually SO much more to it so I hope you’ll read along about how I got to this point because I assure you it’s been a bumpier ride than what social media would have you believe.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the beginning. I’ve told my story over and over and if you want to read more you can do so here, here, here, here or here. The condensed version is that a few years ago I bought a cheap sewing machine, watched some videos, started sewing etc.. In April of last year, while I was on maternity leave, Wooly Doodle went from being a subsidized hobby to a tiny little company that started to grow. The growing didn’t stop and by November of 2017, I started to offload all production in preparation of my return to work.
I figured if I could have Jessica’s team and the Toronto production team handle the sewing, I could keep Wooly Doodle as a side hustle and return to the job I loved and successfully navigate both. So, with a positive attitude and a whole pile of naiveté, I returned to work in April of this year.
For four months, I worked my fulltime job and spent almost every evening at the office and most of Asher’s naps on the weekend there too. It wasn’t enough. I got people to help me. It wasn’t enough. I got more people to help and it wasn’t enough. I was falling behind, making mistakes and feeling levels of anxiety I had never felt before. Add to this my husband's demanding 60+ hour work week and our home environment was becoming more and more negative and tense.
The breaking point
The sense of urgency for change hit hard and fast. Either I was going to shut down Wooly Doodle or I was going to step away from my full-time job. If I didn’t I would inevitably fail at both. For me, it was a no brainer. I would always regret not trying to give this business my all and I knew I would feel resentment towards my full time gig if I made that choice. Even though it was a no-brainer, it was still a difficult decision.
I had always fantasized that Wooly Doodle would one day do so well that I could do it full-time but in that fantasy, the cash was rolling in and I was diving in a pool of coins like Scroodge McDuck. This wasn’t the current situation.
Sure, the business is growing like crazy and I couldn’t be happier about that. On the outside people probably think I’m making fat stacks. The truth is that if I had a dollar for every time someone said ‘you’re killing it’, that would be a better source of income for me than the business itself.
Here’s the honest truth. I have yet to pay myself. There are two main reasons for this:
- Growing a business is damn expensive. The more you grow, the more you have to put into production so all the money coming in quickly gets put towards the next season or two.
- Mistakes and learning opportunities cost money. Overhauling my entire production model involved an eff tonne of learning and many of those lessons came with a price. Also, trying to run a full-time operation on odd hours here and there meant that I made a LOT of errors and didn’t have time to setup all the right processes one needs for a profitable business model.
The good news is that things can really only go up from here. Customer service will only get better. Accuracy of orders/shipping will only get better. Managing the money coming in and out will only get better.
The path forward
On September 1 the leave of absence begins. I am so grateful the company I work for has supported me in this way. I realize it makes this decision 25% less ballsy but also lessens my risk-adverse husband’s anxiety by 25% as well.
I have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to fix but I believe in this company so much and I get chills thinking about what can be accomplished once I can dedicate full-time hours to it. I am hungrier than I've ever been and a have my sights set high.
Things may not be unfolding how I once fantasized but they are unfolding the way they’re meant too. I feel so confident about the future of Wooly Doodle and that is because of all your ongoing support.
How do I feel about leaving my job? That is a tough question to answer. I flip flop between sheer excitement and bitter sweet sadness. Before I left on maternity leave I knew that job was one that I was meant to do and since returning, I haven't felt the same. It quickly became like one of those boyfriends you may have had who were amazing, your parent's loved them and they checked all the boxes on that list you made but your heart just wasn't feeling it so you dumped them for that reckless and risky guy on a motor bike (let's just hope in this case, it doesn't end in heartbreak). I owe so much of Wooly Doodle's success to the people I've worked with and the roles I've had and all those paths have led me here.
I was describing how I was feeling to someone the other day and I gave a race car analogy (because I’m a boy mom and I’ve been watching too much Cars lately). I feel like a race car behind the start line that is revving it’s engine, the driver has laser-focus and they just need the race to start.
I am in the zone, I am ready to take-off and in the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive - you aint seen nothing yet.