So I’m in the middle of taking a business idea and making it a reality. Earlier this year I had an epiphany that we could use our photography equipment and love of traveling to remote places and turn it into a new way of earning a living. Something that would involve the whole family and allow us to stay nimble with our schedule. That idea, drum roll . . . was to go to beautiful places and create custom photography that would be printed on slabs of birch wood. The art pieces are very atmospheric and natural. We plan to sell them at makers markets and create an e-commerce site.
The easy part was taking the first couple of trips to take photographs. We accomplished this over the summer and traveled to West Texas and Colorado to get some scenic photography. Our plan was to do a desert & cactus (West Texas) inspired series and a mountain & aspens (Colorado) inspired series. This photograph doesn’t pick up on all of the wood-grain that you can see in the sky. They make a great impression in person which is why makers markets are critical for us to grow a fan base.
I have to say how important the encouragement of friends has been to my progress so far. I have a friend helping to create a logo and the website and she checks in to make sure I’m still working on this project. I have another friend who has started an apothecary business this year and I’m astounded by her progress so far. Just a few days ago she nudged me to apply for a makers fair. So I did, and I wouldn’t have if she hadn’t nudged me. I have yet another friend who just launched a clothing company for children and has offered to provide me with information about the markets she has attended in Austin. And then there is my husband, my co-worker, who is a really talented photographer.
The biggest challenge to me so far has been figuring out how to price our art, how to ship it and how to handle having inventory on-hand. I was hoping to drop ship the wood prints to people that ordered through the e-commerce site so that I wouldn’t have to take the financial risk of sitting on inventory. Drop shipping means that the company that does the printing on wood would ship the prints as they are ordered directly to the customer. But drop shipping would mean that I couldn’t add packaging with our company information or a postcard with a thank you note. It’s a costly proposition to have prints shipped to me one by one and then shipped out again to each customer. I’m going to have to order inventory to keep my prices and costs reasonable. And I have no idea how much to keep in stock in my home. We don’t want to take out any loans so we are using income from the event side of our photography business to launch the retail side our photography business. I also don’t think we can keep our costs low enough to offer a wholesale or consignment option to stores that might want to carry the wood prints. Wholesale means that we sell our prints to a boutique and make a profit off of the transaction and then the store turns around and sells it at a mark up to their customers.
We’re fortunate that we aren’t totally starting from scratch. We already have photography equipment for instance and skills in that arena. We already have a tax id and experience with charging and remitting sales tax to the state of Texas. We already have an LLC formed, and this is more like a new revenue stream under the umbrella of Andy Sams Photography.
I’m okay with taking things step by step and a little out of order. I feel pressure to have our e-commerce site and branding in place before I try to make my first sale so that I seem like I’ve got it all together. But I’ve decided to ease off a bit and build at a slower pace. To prove the concept to myself little by little. We’ve never done a retail business before so it’s going to be a lot of lessons learned along the way.
Right now, I don’t have huge expectations for income from this project. I decided that it’s really important to learn how to take an idea and put it into reality. It’s important to get into the habit of building businesses even if they might fail. We have to start somewhere when it comes to being entrepreneurial and this idea felt like a comfortable place to start for us. We can keep rolling over our skills and experiences into new initiatives. This represents a gigantic mental shift for me. To keep my family finances intact I was really focused on frugal-ism and managing what we have. Entrepreneurism represents actively growing our income and growing our lives with new networks and skills. You can only accomplish what your mind allows you to conceive of. I have to put one foot in front of the other in growing my expectations of what we can create and accomplish. Most importantly, is that I’m aiming for a soulful living. We love to travel, we love being together as a family and our home is decorated in a very natural way and we turned up short when trying to find natural atmospheric art for our house. We hope that these wood prints bring joy to their future owners and homes.