Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Making It!: Navigating the storm

Please help me welcome Adele, our last Making It! contributor. I "met" Adele via twitter and right away I felt a genuine soul at the other end and knew she'd be perfect for this series...

Hello, I'm Adele, the girl behind modernemotive. Originally from the UK, I now live in Toronto, Canada. With a 10 year history in graphic design, in the summer of 2008 I decided to end that phase of my life and move onto something I was passionate about – modernemotive. modernemotive is a design and retail business specializing in eco-friendly social stationery and other paper products.

Navigating the storm
by Adele Miller, March 2009

Let's pretend you're running a business, your launch was a success, sales are steady and growing all while you're getting some great blog press. Life seems sweet right? Well, that was me. I felt unstoppable, motivated, excited about the future for modernemotive and nothing could stop me. Guess what? Life did.

In late February, several events (more than one should have to take on at any given time) stormed into my life pushing my business into the deep sea of neglect. What was at the time my #1 priority was suddenly the last thing on my mind. Other than making sure my existing customers were happy, business came to a screeching halt.

Did my business suffer as a result? Without a doubt. With no new products going into production and minimal updates to my blog/twitter, my daily sales dropped to ZERO fast. Needless to say, I returned to my business mid-March feeling extremely unmotivated and alone. Everything felt stale and sour. After a roaring success upon launch and throughout the Valentines season, it felt like another pouring of salt into my wound.

Like many others out there, I wanted to just give in and blame the economy (an easy target). Yet deep down I knew it was more than that - I knew it was me. If I wasn't present in my business, how on earth would my business be able to sustain itself. In many ways, I'm in an invisible partnership, an evolving one - with myself. Successfully jumping previous hurdles is not a oneway street to success. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing at all.

Of course, when running a business single-handedly we need to take into consideration that some days (or even weeks), the beauty and ugliness of life will consume us. While it may be okay (and perhaps recommended) to take the occasional 'mental health day' can we really afford to abandon our businesses for weeks at a time? Clearly not.

So, how do we navigate our businesses when life is taking us in a different direction involuntarily? Is it even possible when your running solo? What if your business depends largely on your creativity, how then do you find inspiration amid your personal storm?

These are all questions I still need to find answers for. I'm sure contingency plans are out there but it also comes down to each individual. After all, managing stress and other disturbances to the 'perfect day' are relative to each individual. It's certainly something I need to think about as I put together my goals and objectives for this year.

As we now approach April, I'm thankful I'm bouncing back. That burning determination and confidence is returning. Though I may be channeling most of my energy into decorating my condo right now (something less than a year over due), I do feel as though a new chapter of my business is emerging. I'm realizing that the environment within which you exist can truly affect your outlook and productivity drastically. So, in many ways, focussing my energy on my condo renovations almost feels like a wise business decision - an investment. At the end of the day, I spend most of my business life here and I need to make it an environment in which both I and my business flourish. I can feel the transformation all ready and I'm just at the painting stage.

However young my business may be, in its short life I've learnt a lot of valuable lessons. Going forward, I'm excited to fix the problems I see while also creating new outlets for my business to evolve. Bumps in the road may disturb our lives (and businesses) temporarily but perhaps sometimes they are just there to give us the wake up call we so desperately needed.

Visit Adele:,,


Clementine said...

This was so thoughtful and insightful, Adele, thank you! I hope your business continues to get back on track.

hear.t. and hue said...

congrats on being in a place now where you want & are able to bounce back! that alone is a celebration & an accomplishment. i know you'll pick up where you left off ... and then some! :)

Bonbon Oiseau said...

wow--very intense and radically honest-i really admire and can completely understand where you're coming from adele--it is hard to balance life and business as an entrepeneur especially when things come out of left field--sometimes i think of the business as a child that needs constant attention (ok, or a tomagatchi!) no matter what is happening on "the other side" so that it "grows up" well's my "business as baby" model. but it's not always easy. i admire how you're coming back from it and how much you've learned from the experience. Looks like you're rebounding now though... huzzah and hang in there!

modernemotive said...

Thanks Cassie. I definitely feel like I'm back on track. :)

Rachel, thank you. You a right, picking yourself back up should be a celebration. Thanks for the reminder and your kind words.

Bonbon, thank you for you thoughtful words. Business certainly is like a child but I imagine the key is finding the balance. A daily struggle at times.

2 Girls and a Boy said...

Excellent post! I've made friends with Adele via twitter as well and have come to admire and respect her work. I'm anxious to see her grow. Good luck (although I know you don't need it)!

Unknown said...

Oh, Adele — I knew something was up but didn't know anything beyond that (and didn't wanna pry!)... but I'm SO happy to hear that, despite obstacles and battles with motivation, you're back on the upswing. Your work is terrific and you deserve every success. Thank you for sharing! Wonderful feature :)

TesoriTrovati said...

How is it that you are speaking to my soul Adele? I was beginning to think that I was the only one...
My business is jewelry design and that depends solely on my creativity and motivation. Some days it is just too tough. Pair that with the fact that I, like so many others, have a full time job, and this 9p-midnight hooey is just plain too much. Oh what I wouldn't give for a whole day each week of uninterrupted time in my studio! I will check back to hear how you make it through! Enjoy the day! Erin

Marichelle said...

Great post Adele. Heartfelt posts are my favorites - I think we're often in similar situations and rarely do we have the chance to share and compare, so thank you for sharing your story with us here and for starting off the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are on the rebound, and your words ring true. It is constant vigilance with running a biz, and the fact is that life is complicated and we have to expect there are periods which we can't always be as attentive as we would like. That said, we can always rebound back with vengeance!

modernemotive said...

Aww thanks Bridgett, means a lot. So glad to of met you too.

Same to you Miss Emily. Hope you're in TO soon! :)

Erin, I think that's half the problem. We often think we are the only ones feeling this or going through it. I imagine it's more prevalent than we'd expect. After all, we're all human. So glad this post spoke to you and you were able to identify with it.

Marichelle, you are more than welcome. Thanks for giving me such a wonderful venue to share my story. It was really good for me to share and I'm glad I did it amongst your wonderful ladies (and men if you're reading this!). :)

modernemotive said...

So true Rachel, thanks for commenting. The come back can be just what you need sometimes. I find sometimes hitting a low it just what your spirit needs to rebuild itself. :)

sarah said...

Hey Adele,
It's comforting to know that you're doing what you love... even if it means walking a tightrope. You'll get to the other end without falling. Just have faith!

modernemotive said...

Hi Sarah, it is a great comfort. I remember even as a small kid I had a paper obsession. In fact, NO ONE was allowed to touch my paper or books out of fear they would bend them. I do feel I'm come full circle in some ways.