Happy Women-Owned Wednesday!
This week you're going to get a behind-the-scenes peek with... River City Sass! (yes, that's me!!) I wanted to share a little about me and my business since I've been getting prodded by some folks to actually make an appearance in my own weekly column. I know, who'dathunkit?
I started River City Sass for three reasons:
1. Break up the monotony of mom life.
2. Crush my anxiety with a creative outlet.
3. Become more involved with my hometown community and connect with other women-owned businesses.
The more I've been able to participate in pop ups and charity benefits around Sacramento, the more I've been able to connect with other strong female entrepreneurs who are going through the SAME THINGS that I'm going through. We struggle with balancing our family lives with our jobs, we wear all the hats in our businesses, and we all put a thousand percent effort into everything we do.
I love my maker community, I love women-owned business, and I hope you'll love getting to know me a bit better today.
If you chase trends and cater to what's en vogue, you're going to be starting from square one every time you pivot.
How did you get started with your business?
I have been a maker as long as I can remember. My grandmother still has the very first doll I sewed as a kid - bright red thermal sock with neon green skid-proof dots on it, connected with yellow thread, and stuffed with tissue paper. It's hideous. I wish there was a photo of it so I could share (maybe on instagram someday). I knit, crochet, sew, needle tat (doily making for y'all out there who don't know what I'm talking about), weave, spin, you name it. I've dabbled in acrylic pouring, punch needle, collage, oil painting, ceramics, the list goes on. I guess you can say I'm a hobby hoarder.
My first Etsy shop was started over ten years ago and I sold knit/crochet stitch markers and small zip pouches. It was called Scarlet Fox Fibers and I thought I was hot shit because I made something like ten sales that first year. I think the draw for me was that here I was, this little maker chick with absolutely no business plan, and there were people in the world who wanted to buy things I'd made with my own hands. It's crazy to think back and look at some of the items I was making because I feel like I've grown so much as an artist, though I still suck at product photography. Cheers to whoever bought stitch markers from me circa 2010, you da real MVP.
Fast forward to 2015 and I had started a new job, married, moved, pregnant with my second child, and was just in full-on mom mode. The shop was backburned heavily for two years before I decided to start what's now known as River City Sass in 2017. I started off with machine engraved aluminum bracelets, vinyl decal mugs and some other personalized goods. That year sales were better than any previous years, and I was stoked. This was also the first year I participated in a pop-up event and I was hooked.
September of 2018 I purchased a laser engraver and really hit my stride and found my style. I'm 30 and a late bloomer. Oh well, what can you do?
What do you enjoy most about being a small business owner?
My business is the one thing in life that is 100% mine. I am the creative director, photographer, marketer, bookkeeper, brains, and the brawn. I'm the oldest of four kids and was a young mom. I've never lived on my own. I've had to share everything for pretty much forever. River City Sass is on my terms and my time and it's been a really empowering experience. You own your success and your failures as a sole proprietor, which makes me a stronger person.
What’s the hardest thing about being a small business owner?
My biggest struggle is with maintaining a social media presence. I'm the friend who might return your text message a couple of weeks after you send it and largely find excuses to get out of plans before they happen. I'm not trying to be a bad friend or anything, but the social anxiety is real, y'all. I'm a much happier person when I don't feel pressured to talk about myself or my work. It's been a long and slow process to own my successes and feel comfortable writing articles like this, and it's even more nerve-wracking sometimes to try to come up with daily social media posts.
The second biggest struggle I have is with over-committing. As a small business person, you want to take advantage of every opportunity because you have a bottom line to account for and no one else is going to make you successful. This leads to a lot of times where I'm up until the buttcrack of dawn pumping out products for an event the next day because I didn't have enough stock to fill custom orders, consignment, wholesale, and still have enough leftover for that pop up market.
What's the best advice you have for women who are just starting out?
Pick a product and stick to it! I spent way too long chasing 'what sells' and that kind of seasonality in your product lines becomes EXPENSIVE to support. Find something you are excellent at doing and become the best at it. If you chase trends and cater to what's en vogue, you're going to be starting from square one every time you pivot. Identify who your core customers are and make it all about them. You want to be a recognizable brand that isn't all over the map.
I still struggle with a consistent message and image - so identifying what you're best at early is the most important thing you can do.
What is one skill you have that unexpectedly benefited you in your line of work?
I have a really good eye for process and workflow. My day job is leading software development and help desk support teams, so dealing with multiple priorities is something I'm super comfortable with. I've taken on a lot of responsibility in my career over the last five years, which has given me a lot more confidence to speak my mind, stand up for myself, and prioritize my tasks effectively.
Another thing that prepared me for being a more patient and kind person has been my life as mama. I feel like parenthood is just a series of experiences where you're thrown into a new lake not knowing how to swim. The same goes for being a business owner. You learn to make the best of most situations and evaluate what's most important to you. In my case, community and family have been the driving force behind most decisions.
Be sure to check out River City Sass on instagram and etsy for more behind-the-scenes peeks at my life and don't forget to fill in the SUBSCRIBE info at the bottom of this page to be added to the mailing list. We'll send you info on more women-owned-business goodness every Wednesday!