Down to Business, Life Outside(ish) Baby

Small Businessperson Aching for the Downfall of American Capitalism

This post might seem a little convoluted—there’s money involved! There’s the mission of the business involved! There’s change and restrategizing! The main thing here is that when you have intrinsic motivation and you care deeply about your own work and your community of supporters, you will feel good about aligning your mission and your goods with an asking price.

A couple years ago, I did an interview with @makewayforgayby when I had shifted my mission, but hadn’t quite caught up to my ideas. It’s still a good interview. You can check it out here. This is my favorite quote from it:

We can’t tell kids they are limitless and then start their lives out teaching them that something as arbitrary as the dresscode is something worth shaming over.

I have been mastering my craft and shifting my vision since 2012, constantly itchy, feeling disappointed in myself, feeling like my work is something that could be (and really, yes) could be picked up on Etsy by a hundred other SAHPs (stay-at-home-parents) for half the amount of money because they were fine charging their work at $2/hr. For a great sticky while, I saw which direction I wanted to go towards, but I didn’t know where to get there. I have had some iteration of a shop online for six years now, and I had this very site up and running since 2015, mostly serving as a landing page so locals could find out about our former brick-and-mortar, be redirected to Etsy, learn about the Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market. When I started building this site after feeling deeply moved by podcast life (this site is powered by Squarespace!), I decided to shift from hobbyist sewing to paying myself kind of sewing. Here were my thoughts at that time:

This is the third year I’ve been deeply involved with the little shoes, and I’ve been struggling to find a perspective that allows me to feel less defined by my baby shoemaking. Part of this struggle with my identity is due to my addiction to words, reading and writing them and acting them out. A lot of this struggle is related to it. Do I want this to be the defining thing? I use the word “defining” because most of my free time is going to sewing instead of indulging in my primary interests.

Anyway, I read that article, and while I’ve been viewing what I’ve been doing (sewing for a million fucking hours a week) as a job, I haven’t been treating the whole thing like a business. Mainly meaning I’ve been paying myself the wages of a hobbyist. Hobbyists work for free. For negative, actually, since it’s a damn hobby they invest their money and time. I did some calculations and realized I was making about $5/hr. All the terrible feelings about this defining me is obviously because I’ve been treating myself like crap.

After I identified that, guess what I moved my hourly wage up to?

SEVEN DOLLARS AN HOUR.

I don’t want to sit here and write in circles forever about money, but I really was lowballing all of my prices because I didn’t feel good about my work. I didn’t feel connected with most of the families and individuals I was meeting. Two years ago, I made almost $30k in sales from the farmers’ market+shop, but after I took out expenses from rent and bills and the cost of organic materials, it turned out I could only pay myself less than a thousand dollars for the entire year.

The really cute shop where I refused to sell my items with retail pricing markups so I basically worked a year for free. Woo!

The really cute shop where I refused to sell my items with retail pricing markups so I basically worked a year for free. Woo!

So, I’d be like, “THIS WORK IS HANDMADE WITH LOVE” and I fucking meant it, because it wasn’t being made from any amount of monetary support that could even support feeding my family. I was working 8-10 hour days for about $3/day. Here. In America. Because that’s what the SAHPs on Etsy told me through their pricing that is all I am worth and I believed it.

What is my point?

My point is that I am no longer disappointed in myself and afraid to own my own identity. I am in a place where I not only see where I want to go, but I am walking that path and I am doing it in a way that is headed towards sustainability. A huge part of getting there was figuring out who I was doing this for and why and those are boring questions but they were boring questions that took years to articulate.

I pay myself $18/hr with no markups so I can sell directly to you peoples. I read somewhere that crafters should pay themselves $50/hr because they can do something no one else can do. And then double that price.

Well.

If I paid myself that, a pair of softsole baby shoes would run $125.

If I paid myself that, I could only sell to fairly well-off people who maybe couldn’t relate to any of my blog posts. People who might not relate to my life at all, and a huge component of why I am running this tiny biz the way I am is so I can have conversations with those around me, all of us in this community who push against the machine to let our kids play comfortably in all the colors.

I don’t believe in the pricing strategies dictated by capitalism, which say that you make a good, figure out what it is worth and charge twice that for wholesale accounts, and then double that wholesale price for retail. So. . . we’re all paying 4x the cost of goods, paying the outsourced laborers pretty much nothing and the middlepeople retailers are the winners here and we are supposed to feel thankful when the corporations drop their per-item margins on Black Friday.

The uh consumer and the corporation. . . but where the consumer has the power!

The uh consumer and the corporation. . . but where the consumer has the power!

In my ideal vision of this shop, I will be able to work with my local garment manufacturer here in Albuquerque, NM and continue to grow this community of people online and continue to work directly with you parents and friends of kids. I don’t want to have a pair of leggings cost $55 when the laborers make almost nothing.

I want them to cost a fair wage for me, and be without the markups of retail for you.

I want them to be a fair price for me and you.

I know it’s probably poor practice to be a businessperson and talk to my community of customers about pricing strategies. . . but who fucking cares. I wish that more shops out there would break it down for you so you knew what you were paying for. I wish that America had more manufacturers to bring down the cost of Made in USA goods, but that would mean actually paying people American wages and what corporations want to do that? It’s why those bastards hire under the table or pretend that they haven’t loaded their employee rosters with undocumented workers who they can treat like trash.

Darko.jpg

I’m just a person. A person with a family that happens to be a queer family, with a goal to help us consider the flaw in our mission to help boys and girls grow up to make equal wages all the while treating them differently. From birth. Putting all the colors and all the patterns on all the kids isn’t just so the kids can be allowed to be more curious, more open-minded. It is also so us and those who interact with us can see there is a different way to look at this problem of inequality. It’s a problem we can literally see on the color spectrum.

I still believe we can’t tell kids they are limitless and then start their lives out teaching them that something as arbitrary as the dresscode is something worth shaming over.

The U.S.A. is the one country I have a difficult time finding unisex kids wear in. What gives? Is it the capitalism?

I bet it’s the capitalism.