The Souky Souky Hiatus – Part II
The other day I told you all about why I stopped blogging and why I started up again. Today’s post is reserved for all the things that happened in between. Most notably, starting and running my business, Souky Souky. If this is your first time hearing about Souky Souky, you might find it helpful to read this.
Got it? Basically, over the past year and a half I created a little side-hustle business – a throw pillow shop. I love textiles and home décor and I wanted to try my hand and designing and selling my own. I was very much in need of a creative outlet and, not gonna lie, was hoping to sell so many damn pillows that I could quit my day job. So today I want to update you all about it.
But before I do that I want to acknowledge one thing: for a thousand different reasons this is a hard post to write. Over the course of past year and half, I have experienced such high highs and such low lows. I cannot possible wrap it up in a simple word or post. There is too much there. So this is definitely going to be the quick, summary version. Also, I’m not gonna lie, sharing some of this information feels pretty scary.
To simplify things, let’s do this question and answer style.
Question: Is Souky Souky successful?
The short answer is, “No”. By all traditional definitions (i.e. profitability), Souky Souky is not a success. In fact, I have just recently broke even. Which is to say, I haven’t lost money but I haven’t made money either. None. Don’t get me wrong, I have sold lots of pillows (LOTS!) but I have not made a profit. In fact, for basically the entirety of the business I have been very much “in the red”. Every pillow sold was chipping away at the total amount I had invested. Until that was gone – profitability was out of the question.
Now if you have never started a business, you are going to be inclined to think that I must be a pretty terrible business owner to have not made a single profit in a year and a half. To you I would say, two things: 1. There is a strong possibility that you are right & 2. It is very difficult to become profitable within the first few years. Especially if you are running a business that requires “stock” (products) up front. You have to buy that in order to have anything to sell.
In addition, there are so many expenses upfront that have nothing to do with the actual product itself– websites, business cards, table fees, price tags, bags…yadda, yadda, yadda.
And just because you have inventory, doesn't mean it will all sell. If it doesn’t sell, you eat that cost.
What all this means is that you have to really set your prices at point in which your business can sustain all of the expenses that you will inevitably incur. This is usually waaaaay higher than the cost of production. It has to be. But if it is too high, no one will buy your product and you are stuck with everything.
Ugh. It is such a catch 22. And quite frankly, I’m not sure I ever figured it out.
It is also safe to say that I made many mistakes along the way. And some of those mistakes cost me. Like the time I ordered 500 business cards from a company without first getting a sample. They came. They sucked. And I threw them away. Or the many times when I sourced a fabric that I thought would be perfect and it simply did not sell.
Then there arre the other mistakes; the things that happen that are out of your control. Like the time when one of my African mudcloth shipments was completely damaged. Ironically, about 8 pieces looked like they had been literally dragged through the mud. Unusable. I had to swallow that cost.
Oh gosh…I have so many stories like these. So. MANY.
So, in terms of profitability…my business is not (YET!) a success. In other ways, I would call it successful (but that is a story for another day).
Question: Do you enjoy having your own business?
Yes…errrrr….sometimes…but also, no. Basically, it is complicated. When I first started it, I loved it! It was so exciting and new. Everything felt like a fun adventure. But as time wore on, I have to admit that I found it less enjoyable. Like I said, running a business is hard work. And when you aren’t making money but working super hard…it is difficult to stay motivated. Also, I have a full-time job. So doing all of this on top of working full time burnt me out (of both jobs) pretty quickly.
Another thing that I think is a big factor for me is that I embarked on this journey by myself. In hindsight, I think it would be way more fun and sustainable to have a business-partner in crime. I think it would be so fun to work with someone and bounce ideas off each other. It would also keep me accountable and motivated. Oh yeah, one more thing…it turns out that if you want to sell things to people you have to try and SELL them. This is my least favorite part of this business. I don’t like being a salesman. Having a business partner that enjoyed that aspect would be a huge relief.
Question: Is Souky Souky still a business?
Yup. Well…sorta. This is tricky because technically it still exists but I definitely took a long break from it over the past couple months. I suppose that is the beauty of not having a business partner and still having a day job. I don’t NEED to put any effort into the business if I don’t want to. It takes the pressure off. Over the summer Souky Souky was in business purgatory - awaiting judgement day. I used the summer months to rest and reflect. Was this something that I really wanted? Was it worth the time, money and energy? Well…I think I now have my answer to that question…more on that in my next post….Ahhhhh the suspense! ;)
Question: When will you sell your pillows in the United States?
I’m not sure if I ever will (at least in any official capacity). I think it depends on about 1,000 factors - like if and when I ever make an actual profit and where we move next. The reality is that some day we will move from Beijing. Where we move is likely to impact Souky Souky. Who knows…maybe if we move home it will become my actual job and I will do it all again (but make less mistakes). But honestly, this is all up in the air. Time will tell.
Question: Knowing what you know now, would you do it all again?
For sure. 1000 % yes. I have learned so much about creating and running a business and about myself. I have met amazing people and seen my ideas come to life. And I have so many pretty pillows to show for it! It has been so rewarding and so very humbling. I gained such a profound respect for small business owners who are out there sacrificing and fighting and making it work. These people deserve our support! They deserve our money. I’m telling you they are working their tails off to get you the best products. And they probably aren’t raking it in. So go out and support a small business. You are literally helping them realize their dreams. How awesome is that?
So there you have it. A little update on all things Souky Souky. I want you to know that I have felt so supported throughout this whole process. If you bought a pillow, encouraged me in any way, gave me business advice or just liked an Instagram post…I hope you know that you fueled me every step of the way! So thank you! You will probably never know how much your support has meant to me.