I have a life and business update to share with you all! I've been writing this in my heart for 2 months.
At the end of July, you may remember Steph flew into New York for a week of 2024 planning. While the team spent the days brainstorming what collections we wanted to do in 2024, what new marketing initiatives we wanted to take on in the new year, what events we wanted to start doing again, at night, I was grappling with a growing sense of panic and despair. As the week went on, it dawned on me. After pursuing growth and growth and growth, endless growth over the last 8 years of building Wonton In A Million: our operations were no longer sustainable.
A lot has changed since I started the company:
- In 2015, our founding year, I was living in my parents' house, rent-free, in the bloom of my 20's, the world as my oyster. I worked a full time job that paid me well to do something I loved (UX/UI design), and I spent every night obsessively trying to grow this little art-project-turned-business with all the stamina and hope of a starry-eyed, unmarried, 20-something-year-old.
- In 2016, I was baffled one morning to find that my Etsy sales had surpassed my paycheck that week. Then and there, I decided to quit my job to take Wonton In A Million full-time (although I didn't leave officially for another 6 months).
- In 2017, I moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Valentino, and that same year, Wonton In A Million hired its first employee, Janelle. Two years later, Valentino joined me full-time on the business as well, bringing our total headcount to 3.
- In the years since, our revenue doubled, and then doubled again. Valentino and I got married, bought a house, and had a baby. Janelle took over managing our Shopify store, customer service, product photos, while we hired another fulfillment assistant to replace her. The world shut down and opened back up. During the pandemic, along with all e-commerce stores, we experienced a boost in sales as we all stayed home and found joy in our community and our planners. In 2022, ahead of Logan's arrival, we hired a designer and a marketing director, in case I had a rough pregnancy and/or delivery—bringing our total headcount to 7.
- But as we were growing our team, the planner community was changing too. And so was I. It got harder and harder to generate the same amount of sales we used to. We had all accumulated so much over the years, and were now happily spoiled for choice by all of the wonderful planner shops out there. I shortened our release cycle to every 2 weeks, because that's what we needed to maintain operations, to hit payroll, and still, that was not enough. It got harder and harder; we put in more and more of our own money to spend a little more time trying to make it work. We really wanted to make it work.
Alas, in July of this year, I allowed myself to admit it out loud. The numbers just didn't make sense. So, at the end of August, we let our team go. Our beloved team. We’re back down to just me and Val now.
As I've gotten older, I've learned that there are seasons. There are seasons for hustling, and there are seasons for slowing down. There are seasons for building, and there are seasons for enjoying what you’ve built. I'm in a season of rest right now. I have not allowed myself to slow down since I started Wonton In A Million, not even after Logan was born. Every time he gets a little bit bigger, I marvel and panic that I am running out of time, because I hadn't finished loving that littler version of him yet, and look—already, he's bigger, yet again.
You see, as our industry's market conditions were changing... so was I. I'm not that starry-eyed 20-something-year-old that wanted to take over the world anymore. I still think it would be really cool to collaborate with my idol (Hello Kitty) one day, to write a book and see it on shelves, to see the Steam Team come to life in an amusement park. But I no longer think those are the coolest things.
The coolest things:
- Logan's first tooth came out last week! Every time I see the one tooth sticking out of his bottom gums, it cracks me up.
- Yesterday he learned how to excitedly raise both arms into the air (like he just doesn't care). Now whenever anyone raises both arms into the air, he will do it too. He will also randomly do it in the middle of eating, and everyone at the table will imitate him, which sends him into a fit of giggles. IT'S SO CUTE 😭
I never realized how full of joy day-to-day life is with a baby.
So you see, it was time. For many reasons, it was time to move on to the next season.
In this next season:
- I hope to figure out how to run the business in a way that'll allow me to do it for the next 10 years. Wonton In A Million isn't going anywhere. I still love it to the depths of my heart. But I need to slow it down. I am figuring out what that looks like.
- First: no more releases every 2 weeks. I want to design and release what and when I'm moved to, at a pace that is good for my body and soul. (Within reason - we still have to pay bills!)
- I want to FINALLY become a morning person so I can go to mommy-and-me classes with Logan before he ages out of the "baby" group (why are all baby classes in the AM's, asks a lifelong night owl who had a baby night owl?)
- I want to learn how to cook Chinese food from my mom, while she's still here to teach me.
- I want to figure out how to write again.
If you've read all the way here—I know this post is all over the place. It’s open-ended, because right now I feel open-ended. I don't really know where I'm going from here. But I know that this represents a shift in how I am thinking about Wonton In A Million, so I wanted you to know.
I am feeling into what this next phase of life and of Wonton In A Million looks like. I want to give that the time it deserves. The store will remain open as it always has been (and hopefully always will be). Our releases through the end of 2023 are slated to come soon (2024 Planners, Wonton's Stationery Store, 2024 Calendar), and I'm excited to ship out this year's Lunar New Year Advent Calendar to you all. After that? I guess we'll see!
I hope you'll come along with me onto this next part of the journey, like you've done so many times before. You all have made so many of my dreams come true—I wonder what we'll do next together?
I love you all so much,
P.S. Our 2024 Planner release will be next Saturday, October 7! I originally had it scheduled for this Saturday, but the planners just arrived, my parents are on a cruise this week so we don’t have their help with Logan, and I have had a few days of nausea from getting the COVID and flu shots at the same time. In the spirit of taking it easier, I am pushing back the release so we have more time to prep. Thanks for being patient and also excited for our planners! They’re even more gorgeous than I’d hoped
Our team, who will always be our team , at our "last day" dinner at the end of August 2023 (left to right in bottom photo): Brianna (former fulfillment assistant and Janelle's middle sister), Natalie (fulfillment assistant), Janelle (our first employee, who started off as fulfillment assistant and turned all-encompassing shop manager), Peggie (our super talented designer), Cynthia (me!), Logan (my then-9-month-old), Valentino (my husband and COO), Jobelle (former fulfillment assistant and Janelle's baby sister), followed by my dad, mom, brother, and sister-in-law who all help keep WIAM running. If anyone's got any leads on illustrator/graphic design roles or social media manager roles in the tabletop gaming industry, please send them my way so I can pass them along!