These last two months at Camp OMHG have been filled with all the things that make our community so wonderful: gathering and sharing stories, getting creative, and adventuring through life and business together. For my contribution to our exploration theme I’m sharing the biggest voyage I’ve ever set out on-planning and investing in the new OMHG + some big lessons I’ve learned along the way. Arianne is posting some of this story and the evolution of Oh My through the ages so hop on over to the Aeolidia blog to see our embarrassing kid photos 😉
I first found Aeolidia in 2009 when they designed the Bamboletta dolls website and I fell in love. I followed everything they came out with after that and I made an offer on OMHG in 2010 partly because I saw Arianne on the contributor list and I wanted a chance to connect with her! When it became really clear our site had outgrown its beginnings as a blog for handmade children’s retailers and had become a community of diverse creatives I started dreaming of our redesign and only Aeolidia would do. Our community had been looking for ways to connect more and full of great ideas (collaborations! craft nights! meet ups!) but the old site was hard to use, crashing regularly, loading slowly, and generally buggy. It was a pain to manage all our contributors and our traffic had become too high for our little old site. I saved the profits from advertising and digital products to invest in our rebrand and redesign. It took almost two years of saving, planning, and brainstorming ideas but in October 2012 we got started with a grand plan to transform OMHG into the first online community centre for creative entrepreneurs!
Ashley and Joel of This Paper Ship got us started by creating the new OMHG logo and illustrations that represent our diverse community. You can read about our logo design process right here. I wanted our branding to be friendly, welcoming, quirky and creative-they nailed it and their designs influenced the rest of the site. Then the brilliant Lauren Hardage went to work on the site design and blew me away with her eye for detail and usability. I have never worked with anyone who could so clearly and quickly capture the essence of an idea visually, almost every one of her mock ups was used as is with little to no revisions. I was sad when the designs were done and I didn’t get the excitement of a new mock up in my inbox anymore!
The truly magical part for me was getting to work with developer Zoe Rooney, who has been an OMHG contributor and friend from the beginning. Without Zoe this site would never have happened, she helped me with all the initial brainstorming and ideas for what the community would benefit from most. Her understanding of systems and WordPress transformed vague thoughts of how a site with a private community, marketplace, and contributor forums could work into a site that does absolutely everything we imagined-then she taught me how to use it! The fact that I’ve met Arianne, Lauren, and Zoe in person made it feel like our site was being built not just by friends but by family.
Building the new site was a long collaborative process but throughout it all the Aeolidia team made it easy, fun, and captured the spirit of our community perfectly. The new OMHG is functional, beautiful, and has made going to work every day a joy! Our community is loving it, new collaborations are starting daily, our sales have tripled, and our traffic is soaring! When your website is your business having one that fits perfectly and makes perfect sense to use is the best possible investment. I am so thankful to Aeolidia for handcrafting a website for our community and a home for all our creative dreams!
The new site and logo are beautiful but what is most exceptional has been moving into the forums with our community and watching that space come alive with new friendships. It truly feels like home and the warmest friendliest place online. We’ve been exchanging ideas + support, having bi-weekly member meet ups, our first monthly weekend work party is coming up this Saturday, and members are meeting up in real life all over the place.
This voyage has taught me three things I want to share with you:
1. Bootstrap That Baby! When I started my first business in 2004 I was 21 with a three month old baby and a fierce passion to build a better life for our new family. I had been making and selling jewellery to friends for years so it seemed like the perfect business concept. Fresh off the non-profit + social enterprise train I did everything the right way and perfectly by the book: a comprehensive five year business plan, market research, and a $15000 business loan from a cooperative bank. I had professional photos taken in a studio by a photographer friend, a custom built website, fancy booth display and pretty packaging. Before year end I had consignment and wholesale accounts as well as two galleries carrying my work. The business had modest success and we travelled up and down the BC coast doing fairs, fashion shows, and delivering orders. Even with throwing myself into entrepreneurship starting off my first business with a huge debt was a hugely bad idea. After two years of investing all my profits into the business I ended up needing to close shop and go back to non-profit work to finish paying off the bank loan. This time I was determined to make OMHG work and not put our community at risk so I saved all my pennies and invested in the new site without taking on debt. I’ve learned that as important as it is to invest in your dreams it is even more important to earn your investment first.
2. Pack for A Long Trek: A big dream doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t give up or get discouraged if things take longer then you want (I understand, patience isn’t one of my virtues!). Start by listening and learning about what your customers or community need and then find smaller ways of meeting those needs as you figure out your bigger picture like how the Guide To Businessy Goodness became our Oh My! Marketplace. You don’t need to make it all perfect right away, experiment, fail, then experiment some more all while working towards your big goal. If I had the money and redesigned OMHG at the beginning it may never have evolved into the thriving community it is now-all the things I figured out along the way became part of the plan in the end. Don’t wait to take a leap because you don’t have the money or all the know how-if you are enthusiastic and committed you can always find or make a way.
3. Have A Dream Team: Find a team or person who completely “gets” you and has the skills to help make your dreams reality. It can be a creative design team like Aeolidia or a mentor, educator, designer, or coach-whoever it is make sure that they understand the bigger picture you are going for and most importantly are enthusiastic about it! For a big project to maintain momentum every one onboard needs to bring energy and passion to it-without the patience, insight and creativity of my team at Aeolidia I may never have had the ability to make this site happen. Knowing your limitations and finding people who can help you build a foundation in the areas you are lacking is the best business lesson I have ever learned.
We would love to welcome you into our community forums & have you join our first Block Printing work party this Saturday, click the banner below to come play with us!
I hope you enjoyed this peek into the process of creating the new OMHG! Join us today at #OMHG from 1-2pm EST to chat about the importance of planning for & investing in your dreams or share a project you want to save your pennies for in the comments!
Thanks for this post, Jess. Family is right on, although family we don’t get to see enough. You’ve built something amazing here and I’m so glad I get to be a part of it.
It is true we really don’t get to see enough of each other-one of the downsides to making our grand plans happen maybe? I love to see us all creating ever more amazing projects but I miss the regular visits-we need to plan a family reunion! Thank you just doesn’t cover how much this site + I owe to your brilliance-so grateful to know you & have you be part of this adventure <3
Ah, the downside to making great connections online – everyone seems so far away sometimes. I’d love to have more excuses/reasons to get together in person!
I loved seeing your journey, Jess and a big thank you for you a) sticking with it all this time and b) for sharing these 3 tips (as they are fabulous) x
Experiment, fail, then experiment some more – great advice!!! x
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