2017 - a comprehensive overview

2017, you treated me well. 

I said at the beginning of the year that 2017 was going to be "my year" after coming out of a year of what felt like floundering. Man, did it deliver. 


A Review of 2017 by Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy


Goal-Setting for 2017

Mitch, my husband, and I had a "business meeting" together on December 31, 2016 and discussed what we thought the year might look like for my business. I hadn't brought in much money through calligraphy that year, and as we sat down we made a scary income goal that was 5x what I had made that year (and somehow managed to surpass it). 

Here are some of the business goals I made at the beginning of the year - with end-of-the-year notes about them below.

1. Teach my first workshop

I ended up teaching 7 workshops with a total of 75 students. Early into the year, the Winnipeg Home + Garden Show contacted me about teaching 3 workshops in their workshop space in April. What a kickoff to my teaching!

2. Have 3000 Instagram followers.

Check! I started the year with 1558 followers, and grew to 3370. I changed my strategy multiple times through the year, began scheduling out my posts a week ahead of time with Later, and started to share more about ME as an artist and person. These posts consistently received the most engagement (behind giveaway posts).

3. Book 15 stationery clients.

This did not happen and I am SO GLAD. I did stationery for 6 weddings and that was definitely enough for that year. I learned how much time stationery took, and realized I need to not be doing my own printing or cutting - outsourcing that for 2018.

4. Book 15 day-of calligraphy clients.

I had the pleasure of contributing to 24 different weddings in various ways, from seating charts to place cards to welcome signage. 

5. Get an iPad Pro.

Yes! I purchased it in February and I can't even explain how it revolutionized my workflow. Best purchase of the year.


A Cruise Through 2017 Memory Lane

Jan 21-22 : Wonderful Wedding Show + Semi-Custom Launch

Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy at the Wonderful Wedding Show 2017

Started off the new year with an exhausting bang by prepping for WEEKS beforehand for the wedding show and the launch of my semi-custom stationery line. I had done ZERO wedding invitations at this point, but wanted to start and made my first two bookings this weekend. What!


April 7 : First workshop

Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy workshop at the Winnipeg Home and Garden Show 2017

I was contacted by the Winnipeg Home + Garden show to teach some workshops on Friday, April 7 in their new workshop booth. I decided to go for it and teach 3 10-person workshops, and ended up with 29 students! I couldn't believe so many people were interested in taking my workshop!


April 23 : Luckygirl Pop-Up (First market!)

Luckygirl Popup 2017 - Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy

First market EVER (unless you count that one community one I did the summer before, but I don't haha). Until this market, prints hadn't been a viable source of income for me as all I'd tried was selling them online (which is challenging in case you didn't know). This market was the first to confirm that there are some people in the world you actually like my calligraphy. Who would have guessed?


May 5-6 : Third + Bird Market

Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy at Third + Bird Spring Market 2017

When I applied for Third + Bird, I had fully prepared myself to not be accepted. I'd heard of people needing to try a few times, and I was BRAND NEW to the scene, so I didn't have the highest hopes. Chandra and Charla took a chance on me and I couldn't be more grateful to be brought into the vendor family that is Third + Bird (seriously). 6500 shoppers came through and blew my mind. Little did I know, Christmas would be even crazier. 


June 21 : Full time!

I didn't realize it at the time that I was now full-time with my business. Until this point, I'd been working various full time jobs ending with a 4-month term position as an Educational Assistant. I thought I might go back to subbing as an EA in September, and didn't look for a new job as calligraphy was taking up more than enough time that summer. Then September came and I never went back! 


May-August : A Summer of Weddings

Cue an array of bad-quality iPhone shots of some of the charts and details I worked on through the summer! Since I've been sharing styled shoots on the blog throughout the year, I'll be omitting them from this run down.


August 31-September 15 : Vacation!

Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy in Arches National Park

By some miracle, the sea of weddings parted and left us with an opening at the beginning of September to get away for two weeks. I left work behind completely and enjoyed two weeks of road tripping all the way down to Arches National Park, Grand Canyon, across to San Francisco, Big Sur, and Yosemite, then up to Portland and Cannon Beach, and finally home. We packed over 10,000 onto our car in those two weeks and can safely say that'll be the last long trip our car embarks on. 


October 12-15 : Scattered Seeds

Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy at Scattered Seeds 2017

After scouring the internet (okay, pinterest) for display booth ideas, I finally came up with a  display I thought would be fun for my Christmas Markets: a wood frame with string hooked around and prints paperclipped up, creating a print wall. Shout out to Mitch for building my frame, my mom for helping me set up, and both of them for hanging out with me throughout my first 4-day market! I couldn't do these without them helping me package, take payments, and grab food. Best market to date! 

In time for Scattered Seeds, I also launched a whole new line of 20 prints and totally re-done card line. I can't tell you how many hours and days and weeks went into that!


Nov 2-5 : Calgary Make It

There's not much photo evidence this one happened. According to my successes at local Winnipeg markets, I assumed I'd easily be able to pay off the steep booth fee + the travel expenses of heading to Calgary. Even if I didn't, I knew I needed to try. Somehow this market didn't quite click and I ended up in the negative. But, I'm not one to take any experience as a right-out failure and was so glad to make wonderful vendor friends (my booth neighbours rocked) and was hopeful for how my future market in Vancouver would go. This one taught me I could do the market in Vancouver on my own, as I had taken my mom along (seriously, thank God for my mom) and hadn't needed her as much as I thought.


Nov 24-26 : Third + Bird

Jennifer Bianca Calligraphy at Third + Bird Christmas 2017

Enter the craziest market of the year. After an amazing spring market, I knew I needed to be part of the Christmas market. Chandra and Charla (ladies behind Third + Bird) did something right and brought in over 14,000 shoppers - that's more than double from spring! I couldn't believe the love and support that happened over the course of this weekend. Winnipeg, you're actually amazing. Shoppers and vendors and market organizers alike. Mitch helped me all weekend long and it was so crazy we nearly needed a third person to be a our food/water supply person, haha.


Dec 7-10 : Vancouver Make It

After a not-so-amazing Calgary experience, I chose to head to Vancouver on my own. One of the trickiest things was figuring out what I wanted to do for my booth. Should I ship my whole display with a courier? Should I see what I can take on the plane? I ultimately decided to take all my product on the plane and figure out my booth with IKEA goods once I got there. Once again, the market didn't turn out as I expected though it did go better than Calgary. This market taught me so much about my independence and optimism: I could do it on my own, and if it didn't go great my world didn't fall apart.


Lessons Learned

Something you don't see in an overview like that is the hours and hours and more late-night hours of printing and packaging that happen before a market. Or the time spent putting together blog posts or instagram feeds or looking for new markets to try or keeping a website up to date (okay I didn't do that last one). It doesn't show the countless hours of email, proposal drafts, design proofs, print shop updating, or packing and mailing of online orders. It doesn't show the lack of sleep, the 3am work nights, the slacking in the self-care department. In the midst of all of that, I learned a lot to change for the next year.

  1. More realistic timing expectations. Everything takes longer than I expect, so I'm going into 2018 with a little more white-space in my calendar, knowing that it'll get filled with the things that take a little longer than expected.

  2. I have to be strict about shutting down. I worked weekends and late nights (like 3am, oops) too much last year, forgetting to take care of myself often. I'm hoping to shut down by 6pm for the most part this year. On evenings where Mitch isn't home, I'm cool putting in a few more hours if I WANT, but I won't be pressuring myself to - luckily, most of the time I do it because I want to. I need to remember that I'm more than a business owner. I'm a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a mentor.

  3. I have to say "no" sometimes. I know already that I plan to limit how much I participate in styled shoots. Although they've been great to add to my portfolio, they've become an unneeded stress.

  4. Save more for taxes. LOL.


2018 Goals/Plans/Dreams/Intentions

  1. Start making fonts!

  2. Teach more (including online - watch out for some blog posts!).

  3. Increase the percentage of my income that comes from online sales.

  4. Emphasize self-care and set up boundaries for time off to be okay.

  5. Grow my Instagram following but also my engagement. I don't care about the amount of followers if no one cares about what I'm posting! This means also being more myself on Instagram. I don't want to be there to be someone else.

  6. Go beyond prints - I'm dreaming of new products!

  7. Grow my email list to 2000. That feels big but I'm putting it out there.

  8. Develop more non-calligraphy creativity. I want to dive into more watercolour and acrylic painting.

  9. Paint a mural!

  10. Write more - you might see an announcement for a personal blog soon as this doesn't feel like the right place for most of my writing.

  11. Read 52 books.

  12. Finish learning Spanish on Duolingo.

  13. Develop a regular yoga and meditation practice.

  14. Listen and read through the full Bible, and memorize 400 verses (I'm at 190!).


In Closing...

I loved 2017, I'm going to love 2018, and I'm excited for you to be following along. I can't thank everyone who stood by me this year as I disappeared for what felt like months at a time in busy seasons, or everyone (ahem, family) who helped me get ready for markets or tear down by displays. I've fallen in love with the vendor community in Winnipeg, and I can't wait for more friendships to form.