2017 was a tumultuous year. Recently, many of you have been asking questions about how sold out of everything we are. I wanted to share a bit with everyone a little about what's been happening "behind the seams" at Lineage these past few months.
To recap our story- I started Lineage in 2014 as a side job while working on Broadway. I bought a $300 serger, and started sewing leggings in my living room. Today, Lineage is a full time business. I have three part time employees, a factory in NYC that builds for me, and several drop ship facilities that produce our tops, totes, and accessories. Through your purchases, we've raised over $31,000 for charity, and there are customers on six continents. Lineage has come a VERY long way, and I couldn’t be prouder of what I’ve built.
For these past three years, we’ve been self-funded. Meaning that proceeds from each batch of inventory paid for the next batch. I have also been relying on micro loans, pre-sales, and crowdfunding campaigns for large cash infusions. But we are CONSTANTLY out of stock- as soon as we would restock something, it would be sold out later that week (sometimes even on the same day). I was tired of struggling to keep up with demand!
This year, my goal was to scale up. I wrote a business plan, where I worked out every detail of how I would accomplish this. I was finally going to “get it together”, and it was so exciting. I had a contract pending with a logistics company, cut tickets with a year's worth of inventory, and I had some amazing women lined up to offer paid brand ambassadorships to. All I needed to do was fill out a loan application, which I presented to the bank in a thick, neatly organized 3 ring binder. Surely, I’d convinced them to invest in my business.
Unfortunately, the bank was not convinced.
It was so, so disappointing.
But I am tenacious!
So I sought out a mentor with our state’s SCORE program. I reached out to investors. I applied for grants, spending hours in front of the computer researching. I ran another Indiegogo.I started doing trunk shows, and I hit the road as part of a trade show. I even invested some of our own personal savings. And I applied for other, smaller loans, but to no avail. None of these things turned out to be the magical solution for Lineage.
During this time, I was also approached by a handful of large, well-known retailers. I wasn’t able to work together with any of them, for various reasons. It was very emotional- I was getting so excited at the possibility of my little brand going national (and in one case, international), and then feeling so disappointed when it didn’t work out. I’ve had to turn down so many incredible opportunities simply due to lack of inventory… it makes me want to scream!
With my attention being diverted away from the day to day activities of running my business this year, sales have reflected that. I’ve spent the entire year working my tail off, but it feels like I don’t have much to show for it. I feel frustrated and anxious and quite frankly, Lineage hasn’t been FUN for me this year.
In October, an opportunity fell into my lap to fill in a temporary position at a nearby university’s theater department. What was supposed to be a two week stint quickly turned into six weeks, which turned into being offered the position full time next semester. With sales being down for the year (which is absolutely due to lack of inventory, not lack of demand!), it seemed like the universe was giving me a HUGE nudge- so I accepted the offer. Now that I’ve had some time to process it, I am actually quite excited!
Yours truly is going to be an adjunct professor for Spring 2018, teaching theater students how to sew costumes.
What does this mean for Lineage?
We are not going out of business. I ran Lineage as a side hustle while it was going through a period of massive growth, so I can certainly run it as a side hustle again while it is stable. My employees have things on autopilot- orders will still be going out. Without drawing a salary, I will be able to put more money towards restocks. (I know it’s hard to be patient in today’s culture, when people are used to clicking a button and having an item shipped to their door within 48 hours!) More stock WILL come back. However, it will be harder to predict WHEN restocking happens, what prints will be restocked, etc.
That also means I won’t be taking on any new projects or partnerships until summer 2018. I have winter break to focus on finishing up our Indiegogo campaign. During the semester I will be keeping tabs on things and ordering inventory when I can. (I’m already slow to answer email, so I apologize in advance, as that is not likely to change!) But my main goal for the next few months is to rest and recharge the Lineage part of my brain. I want to hit the summer feeling refreshed and inspired, and ready to produce new prints!
Thank you as always, to everyone who has supported me on this incredible journey. You’ve helped put food on my table, clothes on my kids back, and medicine for my senior kitties. Feel good knowing that you’ve supported a small, woman-owned business. And sign up for restock notifications!