After selling our first business over two years ago, we were tired, burnt out and not sure whether we wanted to start another business or if we should just get a normal job and work a regular 9-5. It seemed appealing, not having to deal with the constant hustle of growing a business, having normal working hours, a lunch break and dare I say it a weekend. For six years we had lived at warped speed, sacrificing ourselves, our health and freedom. After carefully considering this idea we ultimately decided that we love printing, and it was our love for creating that outweighed the benefits of a more ‘traditional’ and ‘stable’ lifestyle. BUT we did decide that it was time for a change. That if we were going to do this all over again we had to set boundaries, and ensure that we grow at a slow and steady pace rather than rushing through the entire process and burning out along the way.
So we set very clear boundaries this time round, but most importantly we had a vision of what values we held sacred, what we were willing to sacrifice and what we were not. We had long discussions about our non-negotiables and started again with a fresh start. We have to re-look at these every now and then, when tempting opportunities come our way, or we feel scared and sometimes pick a path that isn’t 100% what we had planned, but these list of values are what guides us in all of our decisions.
This is when my interest in slow living started to develop. We had set these very clear boundaries and vision for our future, but I was still restless. Still always thinking that I needed more, to prove more. Deep down I knew that this wasn’t truly what I felt, but I started to realise that the way I was brought up made me feel the need to always over achecheive to somehow prove that I was worthy. My self worth, was tied up in the success of my business and this was the root cause of me always wanting more. When I realised that this wasn’t truly me, and that my worth went far beyond the financial success of my business was when I could truly adopt a slower pace of life, and start to want less. To see less as more, to realise that there is so much beauty in the process and the journey rather than the destination.
This is only the beginning of my journey, I still have to break myself out of old habits and ways of thinking, but for the most part I am very aware of the way I want to live my life. That I don't want my business to consume me and strip me of my identity, but rather be harmoniously intertwined in our lives and bring us a true sense of joy and satisfaction. The biggest challenge we faced is offering a very artisanal handmade type of service, and wanting to stay true to our core value of staying small. We didn’t want to have a large team, we wanted to keep it small so that we could stay connected to our customers. Get to know them personally and be a part of their business journey. Sometimes it is so tempting to say, let's push this bigger so that we can do more, serve more and offer more but then we go back to our original vision - we can see this does not Align with our core values. We are open and honest about our limitations with our customers, and don't feel scared or ashamed to say our products take a little longer to make because good things always take time. This allows us to work at our own natural rhythm and still enjoy what we do instead of feeling a pressure or anxiety. I’m not saying we never feel those things, but we always try to reach a balance of when things have gotten a bit out of hand, we refocus our energy to gain that balance.We aren’t about delivering the cheapest product in the fastest turnaround time because that would cause us to stray from our values of being local printers, who do everything in house and by hand.
We try to adapt a slower approach to business by focusing on five main areas, and making these non-negotiable.
1. Purpose over profit
Now we aren’t saying that making a profit is not important to us, obviously we need to be profitable in order to keep our doors open, but this is by far not the only reason why we are in business. Our main goal is to help our clients create a lasting connection with their clients. To help them add value to their product or service and most importantly, create packaging & print that is mindful and creates a fully immersive experience for the end user. We want our business to support our family, as well as our employees' families. We want our clients to feel confident about the products and services they offer, and most importantly we want to create printed material and packaging that has meaning and purpose behind it. That tells a brand’s story, and ultimately creates a lasting connection between the brand and its consumer. We are also mindful of the planet, and how we can make our products more sustainable for the environment and for future generations.
2. Having clear set boundaries, and learning to say no
This is probably the hardest part for me because I really have trouble saying no, even if I really want to. Somehow I always feel as if I am going to let someone else down, and that it's somehow wasteful to turn down opportunities that come your way. But I am slowly learning that by saying no to one thing, I am actually saying yes to all the things that mean the most to me. For example, saying no to a rush order, means saying yes to my family knowing that we will still keep our weekends sacred. It’s saying yes to the customer who has been patiently waiting for their order to be ready. and it's saying yes to myself, saying that you are in control and you are steering yourself in a direction that is important to you.
Boundaries are also particularly important to me, as it allows me to see myself separately to my business and make more rational decisions, because my worth and value is not connected to my business. Now when we have a customer complaint, or we make a mistake I see myself separately and no longer feel like I am being attacked personally which helps me deal with these situations more effectively.
3. Having a clear direction and vision for our business
I used to be obsessed with mapping out a clear path forward, and then being disappointed or dissatisfied when things didn’t go to plan. But now I realise that while a destination is good to have, you don't want to let it make you have tunnel vision for your future, or not enjoy the scenery along the way. By having a clear direction, and lifestyle you wish to achieve through your business it's a lot easier to navigate when you find yourself off the beaten track, or when an obstacle gets placed in your path. I am not so adamant on the way I think things should play out and more focused on staying true to my values and principles along the way.
4. To enjoy the process
This is a daily practice that I have to remind myself of over and over again! I find myself getting overwhelmed by all the moving parts of our business and tend to feel exhausted, stressed & directionless. But lately I have been reminding myself to focus on the process and not the outcome. This is very liberating for me because my mind is often a million miles ahead of my body & business. It's easy to feel dissatisfied when you are always focused on the future. So what I do is I see every task in my business as an opportunity. Sending emails is also a chance to listen to music, design work is also an opportunity to listen to my favourite podcast, be creative and make a connection with a client. By reframing things, you can find joy in the most unlikely places. Instead of rushing through these tasks to move onto the next and the next, I savour them and enjoy them for what they are. Somehow I manage to get more done, because I am not trying to multitask and I am fully engaged with the work I am currently doing. I also set time aside for the work that absolutely lights me up - like writing a blog post, working on helpful guides & designing new products. I treat this work as something sacred - light a candle, put the perfect background music on and be grateful for having a business that allows me to express myself in ways that are truly special to me and that nourish my soul.
5. Only do what is absolutely essential
Ok so I must admit, this is something that I am still working on and don't have it all quite figured out just yet. But I think the best way to have a slow sustainable business is to only do what is absolutely essential. The only way you can know what is essential is to know your core values. Just because you are “supposed” to do something, doesn't mean you should. I would say try not over complicate your process by having too many steps involved, try and simplify and eliminate wherever possible. As I say, this is something that I am still working on, so I don't have all the answers figured out just yet. But what I am constantly doing is jotting down areas where I feel like work is hard, taking up time or not supporting our values. I will then figure out ways to simplify things and cut out areas that aren't essential or don't bring us joy.
My hope is that one day this becomes the norm for business & life, that people will start to appreciate slow by not seeing it as a way of doing less, but doing a little less with a lot more intention. I was so inspired by the stillness of this last season of my life, that I created some fine art prints to put up in our home and remind me on the journey we have taken to live slowly and more sustainably. It was in this process that I truly found myself, my voice & my light.
You can view our prints here.