The truth is, I’ve had this wrap up written for a while, but I was uncertain if it was a good idea to admit that I too am sometimes afraid, uncertain, uncomfortable. As a business owner, it seems like we should know what’s next — like we should always stand firm in our purpose. But this is what 2022 was like, and in the end, the boldest thing I can do is to show up and not be ashamed.
At the start of 2022, I was not at all sure that I wanted to keep doing Volante Design. We had just been through two years of COVID lockdowns, fear, and uncertainty. At the end of 2021 our fledgeling marketing department was showing cracks. Jared was heading off to Hollywood, and Emma and I were struggling to communicate. Financially we had been treading water, growing tired, making no progress — just surviving. Call it vanity, but after eight or nine years of doing something, I wanted to have a steady sense of progress, or one of arrival.
David and I had the tough conversation: when do we scale back? When do we concede that bigger is much harder and maybe a smaller operation is what can work? Neither of us quit easily, so we decided to give it another year. We had to fulfill our Kickstarter after all! So we dug in and committed. We’d re-evaluate at the end of the year and see if our hearts were still in it. One more year, one that had less COVID, or at least less shut downs, and we would see if we could catch a real foothold after two years of “making it happen.”
This year was not an easy one. Emma, our prior marketing coordinator, left giving not much notice while David and I were away visiting family. The Kickstarter production hit snag after snag and fulfillment took forever. Pricing on everything changed and continues to change. We restarted the events department more or less from scratch: some folks left while others had to be fired. In the midst of those “little hurdles” we tried a bunch of new tactics: we went to TRF, we rebuilt the marketing department, and we killed the Designer’s Workshop.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing we did this year was dare to fail. I’ve often said to my staff that the amazing thing about owning a small business is we get to make it up. Sometimes that’s exhilarating — like getting to write your own hero’s journey. Other times it feels a little like leaping into the dark off what is presumably a cliff. In reality, though, it might just be a step down.
But we carried on, did our best to shape the story, and did our best to jump when it wasn’t so clear what to write next. Mostly I think we landed on our feet. Slowly it seemed like we had an idea of what the next step was, and it felt less like we were gearing up for another jump.
We hired some new folks, and we changed some other people’s jobs around.
There is something unfathomable that happens when you get a group of people together that like the work they’re doing and do it well. To say it feels like magic is not an exaggeration. It’s the perfect DnD campaign, or the perfect SSS combo score. We don’t have it all the time, but when the team gets together and things click into place, it is the most satisfying thing I know. This began happening for us. Not everyday, but in glimpses. I started to feel that something was working. I’m not even sure what, but something here is worth it.
We got back to that sense — the feeling that what we’re doing has momentum and that we can crack the crazy code that is marketing, running a business, designing new things, and producing products in America.
It doesn’t really get easier: the old stuff gets easier and then there’s new stuff that crops up to puzzle you. Once you get a cool fix for last year’s stuff, a new thing changes and you have to restart the race. It can be fun, and it can be hard.
David and I are also expecting twins. This has not been an easy pregnancy and it’s pushed me again and again to essentialize what I do for the company — what I must do that nobody else can. I have had to step back and surrender to the idea that I can’t hold all the cards or juggle all the balls that Volante Design has up in the air. By and large the team has caught them. We have worked out a way to make this little business keep going. It has been a new sort of vulnerability that I would never have knowingly signed up for. One that I am grateful for.
This year I’m grateful that we have different challenges than last year. I am deeply grateful to the team who showed up this year and who grew into new roles. Emily has come so far since she was a sample maker! She runs production and is taking on operations next! Leslie is our newest member of the team but has begun shaping the marketing department in big ways. Megan has stepped up to learn more and more about production to begin replacing Emily in some roles. Ellen has said yes to helping with all sorts of new projects and does everything with impressive, quiet diligence. Jeremiah never fails to make the marketing team laugh. He has an extraordinary eye, and he’s remaking how we present our products. Qi did events and added social media onto their plate this fall. They are so creative and open to trying new things! David Y is steadfastly cutting and organizing our production runs. He likes to build things and he makes a mean cookie. And then there’s David Volante, who is one of a kind. They make me brave enough to jump, over and over again.
Here’s to a kickass 2023, with maybe a few less hurdles and two brand new little Volantes!
Thank you for being with us! We genuinely would not be here without you. Happy New Year!