How I Gained Confidence By Losing

Sugar and Type at Etsy Open Call 2016

Last month, I gained a ton of confidence by losing… (you’re hooked, right?!).

First, I’m going to back up a bit and tell you a story that has stuck with me, and helped me along the way. A few years ago, someone I really admire, Joanna Waterfall, didn’t meet her Kickstarter campaign goal. The way she handled this, and the way she pushed forward totally inspired me, and now her business, The Yellow Co., is touching so many lives, and making such a positive impact. I’ve never met Joanna, we’ve talked and worked together virtually, but that’s the thing about following someone’s story, you take what you need, and it can shape you. I’ll be sharing more about Joanna soon, as I’ve quoted her in the 2017 planner! It’s one of the beautiful things about social media. It’s easy to get caught up in “winning” or meeting a big goal, but the truth is, you can still feel really good if you don’t manifest that “thing”. Give yourself some credit.

I already told you about my trip to Etsy’s Open Call in two parts (part 1, part 2), and today I want to share my story about the actual pitch with you.

We did a total of 6 pitches, I told 6 major companies about what makes my brand unique, what makes my products sell, and why they should work with me. The brands were only allowed to pick two companies each to give a Golden PO to, out of all 36 talented makers, they had to narrow it down to two. I think their job may have been harder than mine. Each pitch was a conversation with a retailer about what their store needs are, and how my products would fit. Going in, I knew my brand wouldn’t be the best fit for each store, but I was excited to practice pitching, and talk to them, and hear from them about what they are looking for. I had great conversations, and my products were well received. I feel really good about the feedback I got, and very proud of my products. At the Golden PO ceremony, 11 people were awarded with Golden PO’s – meaning their products will be available in one of the stores this holiday season.

I left without a Golden PO, and I feel fantastic.

First of all, I didn’t walk away with “nothing”. Either way, I walked away with an amazing experience, tons of new friends, and invaluable feedback. I was also awarded an honorable mention from Whole Foods! That means that they liked my work enough that they’d like to continue the conversation with me (whoop whoop!). I also walked away with so many new stores across the US who I met at the buyer party. I loved meeting them in person, and it was a great opportunity for them to touch my products before they purchased.

Okay, so how did I gain confidence even though I didn’t get the shiny Golden PO?

  1. First, I knew that no doors were closing. Any one of those stores can call me at any time after the event to place an order – they now know me, and my product line.
  2. My new boutique stores are a great fit, some of them placed such large orders that I had to pinch myself. I believe in staying small because I get to work on the variety that I love, so being able to support their small shops at the same time is incredible.
  3. My customers now have more places to buy my products – when my customers are happy, I’m happy.
  4. The feedback I got was on point. While they’re things I’m almost done with just a week later, they were things I hadn’t thought of myself. Simple add-on’s or descriptors that helped my wholesale clients, when I had only been thinking about my retail clients.
  5. I had a ton of fun, and made so many friends, and bought so many adorable things from them (shopping spree!?)
  6. I felt prepared, I knew my brand, I knew my strengths, and I was going to learn. I knew we were all winners for getting selected, and I even asked some buyers for MORE feedback because I wanted to make sure I was presenting the best products possible. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous, or anxious, it just means that I did my research. I asked myself those questions, and I feel a lot of clarity in what I want to do next, and what steps I should take to get there.
  7. This one really stuck with me. I’ve mentioned feeling intimidated by the other sellers, some people who are “internet famous” or are in tons of stores, and I definitely felt those imposter feelings creeping up. While I “knew” that your social media presence means nothing, I finally understood it. The sales, the followers, the features, the stores, they really don’t define any of these makers. You don’t know everyone’s story, and we’re so quick to judge, that it was really nice to meet these people in a vulnerable environment, where we were all feeling nervous, excited, and inspired. I loved talking with the sellers about our strategies, our systems, and what we value (staying small, having employees, working from home vs an office, etc).

I can proudly pat myself on the back for being a finalist, and I can honesty say that I’m so excited about my current product line, and what I am working on.

Don’t forget to read part 1, and part 2 of this story! Thanks to Erik Valand for the awesome photos!

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  • Ilana!! I’m so proud of you. Thank you for encouraging me by writing this- and by encouraging so many with your “can do” attitude. It’s the ones like you who are able to get back up after skinning their knees that the world needs to look out for 🙂 Happy to know you and heres to meeting in person someday!!!