A Year In Review: I Thought I Knew More!

We're one week in and it's a new year. Did you reach your goals yet?

As we stroll right into 2017, I already need to do more. Work harder. And set bigger goals. How about you? While 2016 was a great year for me, I still have a lot of work ahead! Humbly Made is going into the 3rd year of business because of you, and I couldn't be more grateful! I started this brand to prove to myself that there was more out there. More to life, and more than the feeling of being a cog in the wheel building someone else's dreams. I want to share more of my journey with you this coming year, in hopes that it inspires you to chase your own path.

A few years ago I felt stuck! I had reached a point in my career where I felt like a cog, and everyday was the same. And I wanted more. Knowing nothing about the road ahead, I took a leap on my own and never looked back. I left my position and set out in search for something greater. I had no idea what to do, no clue how to start and run a business, and knew nothing about the apparel industry before I started. The only thing I did know was I wanted a better future, and what I had done to this point wasn't getting me there!  Heck, I barely had any savings before I walked away from my corporate job. Talk about scary! That was how passionate I was for change.

Instead of convincing myself that I was lucky to have a job and to be content with where I was, I chose to do something about it! I chose to create change for myself by taking action. I focused my efforts on building a new future and invested in myself. Instead of waiting for change to find me, I decided to created it!

Fast forward a few years and I find myself behind the wheel of a growing business, hungry and driven to achieve more than ever! I'm not sharing this to boast of success that I've created, or to paint a picture that I've made it. Quite the contrary. In fact, I merely want to share where this brand has come from and where it is headed for the new year. Below, I wanted to share some key things that I've learned this past year from my successes and failures that have made a difference for me. I hope it helps you make this year, your best one yet!

As we start 2017 many of us have our eye on what's next. Most of us start the new year planning and plotting on how to achieve our new goals. They may be old goals from last year, or new goals setting the aim just a bit higher. We go through the process of planning out steps we think give us the best chance for success. Writing down lists, making spreadsheets, and organizing everything we can think of for the new year to come. Thinking that if we can just come up with the best plan, this year will be our best year.

Now of course I find setting goals and a bit of planning important, but it's NOT what will make your year a success! It just won't! At least not on its own. Planning won't be the one thing that makes this year any different. Simply put, plans just fail! We underestimate budgets, don't account for enough time, or don't know enough to accurately predict outcomes. Preparation and strategies are important, but nothing will change without, drum roll please......actual effort!

I know it sounds so simple, but you have to actually take action. Your actions will set a chain of events into motion that simply was not there before you came along. It's these events that stimulate things to happen and create change. Sitting around writing down each step that you THINK you'll need, is time you could be using to set some things into motion.

See an opportunity and make quick decisive decisions to move forward. In doing this you will learn and adapt much quicker than guessing all the variables that might happen up front. I'd rather spend more energy acting first and analyzing later, than spending time considering every possibility before doing anything! Trying to convince yourself of every outcome will likely just result in decision paralysis, and no action will be taken at all. All the while you could have acted, learned from your actions, and applied your findings to your next effort. Don't get buried in the details considering one approach or another. Look for the opportunities. Act. Learn. Adjust. Repeat.

Remember all those New Year resolutions in the past that you never achieved? It's because you didn't take real action and follow through. You made the plan to do something, heck you probably even wrote it down, then days later you did nothing and pushed that goal to the side. No change happened, and no goals achieved. Now it's just a list of hopes and failed plans. Hey I get it, I've done it countless times myself, I'm not judging. But if it's change that you are seeking, consider doing things a bit different this time around. Quit sitting on the sidelines planning all your moves! Take action! I promise you, you will see results!

If it's something you truly want for yourself it's gonna take relentless effort and unwavering guts to get there. I'm not talking about that, I gave it a try and nothing happened, effort. Oh no! I'm talking that, I work for 16 hours everyday, effort! I eat breath and sleep this stuff, effort. This is how you build a world around you that you actually want to live in. The problem is, many of us burn out and quit way before we start to see the fruits of our labor. I've done it many times, it's easy to do. There is a natural trait that as soon as we feel resistance and interference we seek out an easier path. Or simply quit because we don't like the feeling of failing. That's why many of us don't get even close to our full potential. Push through all that crap, what's on the other side will be well worth the pain and effort.

We tend to think that those who have found some type of success have had lucky breaks. That they knew the right people, or had some leg up that you didn't have. While some of those things may have weight, the truth is they just put forth more effort. Worked so hard that they gave themselves the best chance to create success. Above all, your effort and follow through this year will put you closer to hitting your goals than anything else. The more effort you put in, the more chances you have for success to present itself. I know it sounds simple, but if it were, everyone would find the top of the mountain! Relentless effort will create more opportunities for you in the new year than any planning or scheming you will do.

While 2016 was one of the best years I've had with the brand, it wasn't all roses for me either. I failed goals, missed targets, made poor decisions, and the list goes on, but that's ok! I just need to give more effort this coming year. The failures mean I'm more battle tested and have experiences that I've learned from. Now, you may have noticed me posting new tees each month as a part of my "Designer Series" project. This was a goal I set last year and I'm extremely proud of my effort and follow through. Not one month was missed and we made some really quality products for the world. However, the project didn't come without its challenges and plenty of failures.

The goal of the project was to collaborate with designers from around the country and provide quality designs for my customers every single month. While the project was a huge success in some ways, it also fell short of my expectations in others. In full transparency, this was the first time I've really set out to take on this type of project and I had no idea how to handle it. But none of that mattered to me, I just wanted to get my project off the ground and set into motion.

I underestimated just about everything, focused efforts in all the wrong places, and neglected other aspects of the brand. But because of all those failures, I learned a ton about myself and what I can do better the next time around. Best of all, the project actually happened! I didn't get lost in the details and I figured things out as needed. All I had was the concept, just a simple thought to launch a new design every month with other talented designers. Without questioning every move and planning every step, I just made decisions based on what was in front of me. Running and gunning like this I ran into a ton of unforeseen problems. But guess what, we adapt and adjust once we know the issues. I solved problems and adjusted course as need when a new issue presented itself. After a few launches I was able to see challenges in my way and move past them. I acted on my idea, learned from the previous launch, adjusted my approach, and repeated for 12 months!

Below I wanted to share some highlights from the project to illustrate the success and failures of my actions. Could I have done more? Sure, but none of these results would have never existed had I not taken initiative to act. The failures taught me valuable lessons, and the successes helped me push the brand forward. 

Successes from the project:
  • Successfully launched and delivered a new design every month.
  • Shipped new products to almost every state around the country.
  • Boosted blog content with interviews and behind the scenes posts.
  • Offered 29 new styles and options to HumblyMade.com. 
  • Each month received a 4.5 star rating on new products.
  • Increased the Humbly Made newsletter by 56%.
  • Boosted traffic to the website by 65%
  • Increased social media following by 37%.
  • Made 12 new friends with designers who I truly admire.

Failures from the project:
  • Failed to get 4 of the 12 months to meet production goals.
  • Inconsistent with blog posts showing more process. 
  • Underestimated production timelines and shipping. 
  • Neglected to introduce other products to the site.
  • Fell short on promotional efforts to grow the project.
  • Was unable to get the project picked up by media outlets.
  • Sales fell short in the later months. 

As you can see, there was a lot of good that resulted from the project, most of which would have never came to be, without action! And while the results were still short of what I set out for, I am incredibly proud of what was accomplished. Above any sales or figures, the biggest take away was how it trained me to understand what relentless and driven determination feels like. I showed up everyday for a year and delivered on my promise to everyone involved. Heck, even some of the designs created opportunities for the designers that I never could have foreseen. The effects that came from the project ended up extending far beyond just dollars. Of course I couldn't have done it without all the incredible designers that joined the project, thank you all for your efforts. Friendships were forged, and connections were made.

As I look to the future of the brand I'm driven and excited to evolve and grow my efforts. I want to inspire you to get out there and attack this year, no matter what you do. Any success I've had to this point has been because of your support, and I thank you so very much for that! I want to share more with you and I hope there was even one thing in here that got your motor running! And with that I leave you with my mantra for this coming year: 

"May your fire burn so bright that others gather for warmth"

Other Notable Successes from 2016:
  • Now offering custom printing services.   
  • Year long completion of the Designer Series Project.   
  • Featured on the Design Recharge Show.
  • First year to pass my corporate salary.
  • Overseeing apparel production for two major sports blogs.
  • Featured on the Creative South Podcast. (episode 22)
  • Printed shirts for the NBA.
  • Launched 36 new products for the year.
  • Hand pulled thousands of unique and quality designs.