A Letter from Mary Frances, 2020

Happy New Year!

While I realize we are already halfway through January, I feel like this entire month is still the “new year,” and can be treated as such with lots of reflection on the previous year + planning for the one ahead. So with that said, I’ve been doing a solid amount of reflection on 2019. First of all, I want to say my deepest thanks to each and every one of you. To anyone who purchased an MFF piece off the website, worked with me on a custom project, forwarded my monthly newsletters, shared or engaged with me on social media, and to anyone cheering me on from near and far. Your support was felt.

2019 was a year of tremendous growth for the MFF brand. My custom business flourished with 20 custom projects completed by the end of the year and several others already slated for 2020. I released my most personal collection yet - the Anniversary Collection, and reached a personal goal of selling pieces from that collection on launch day. I continued selling my bridal belts through an incredible partnership with Gilded Bridal here in Raleigh, and we far exceeded 2018's sales + accessorized several stunning brides on their big day. I only participated in six pop ups in the entirety of 2019, and though I was fearful this would hurt my sales, it actually helped sales AND my health. (Knock on wood but), I never even got the common cold during the holiday season (sickness has been something I've seriously battled the past 4 years in 4th quarter). Strictly speaking in numbers, my total sales grew by 80% over 2018. I’m proud of this accomplishment. However, my “big crazy over the top goal” that I set for myself at the beginning of 2019 was to grow by 100%, to double my sales from 2018. I knew this goal was a long-stretch so I’m trying to practice grace and be proud of the accomplishments I did achieve. I spent the year more focused on my goals with a stronger business-like approach, and I’m proud of the things I’ve learned about both business and myself in the past year. Not only did MFF sales numbers grow, but I grew as a person as well, and that’s probably of what I’m most proud.

So now, it’s 2020, and it’s time to set new goals. I still have lofty sales goals (hopefully slightly more attainable but still a stretch), but I’m also setting other types of goals. I’m setting personal goals like walking an hour a day, completing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (I started it back in October and it quickly fell by the wayside as the holiday season came in full swing), and giving myself more time to “play” and read.

It’s also about this time of year, the goal-setting time of year, that I try to think of the year ahead in the big-picture format. What do I want my calendar to look like? What collections will I want to release and when? Will there be any conferences, markets, or pop ups that I want to attend/participate in? What major holidays should I focus on for sales + stronger marketing efforts? This last one has been rolling around in my mind since October. For the past several years, I’ve looked at the calendar for the year ahead and I mark down different holidays where most major retailers offer sales + discounts, and I try to brainstorm a solid competing offer. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and of course, Black Friday Week (because it’s no longer just a day, and it’s not even really a weekend anymore; it’s an entire week). Somewhere around the time I was planning my BF Week promotions last year, I started to feel a little sick to my stomach. I thought about the gross consumerism we’re faced with everywhere we look these days - social media, tv, billboards, magazines, etc. Everywhere you look, you’re being shouted at to buy something. And what if, instead of discounting ourselves as small businesses, that money that you, the consumer saves, actually goes back to something worthwhile and good? (To put it into perspective, had there been no discounts available & sales remained the same, my sales would have been 20% higher in 2019 overall. That's 20% more to a good cause. Of course, that's with the assumption that no other factors would've affected sales, but still - it's a significant percentage to consider)

Now, this isn’t a new thing, and it’s certainly no original revelation - many others have said and feel the same way. Allow me to repeat myself: I’m not new in this thinking. But, as a small business owner, a solo one at that with no one to answer to but myself, I made a decision to do something about it. In 2019, I set an intention to grow my sales by 100%. Although I didn’t quite reach it, it was a huge driving factor in how I conducted business and made decisions in 2019. So, I’m going to try another big lofty “let’s see if it works” goal: I won’t be offering any discounts on my website in 2020. I will not have a "25% off your entire purchase" weekend; there will be no, "sign up for the email list and get 10% off your order," and no “I need to move some inventory so let’s have a surprise sale.” Truthfully, this is going to be a difficult challenge for me. Discounts boost sales. Discounts bring in new customers. Discounts get traffic to your website. Discounts do a lot to grow your business; there is absolutely no denying that. Plus, I love thinking of creative ways to offer discounts. Buy one, get one - our march madness tiered discounts - instagram only sales, etc. However, I’m not just going to give up offering discounts, but instead I’m going to offer an alternative. I’m going to offer the chance for my customers to give back.

Now this is an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for five years, since the day I started this business. I remember mentioning it to my mom when I was first starting my business - mom, I want to have give-back component to this business. She hesitated and said, “take care of yourself first and then take care of others.” It’s the airplane theory - put on your mask before helping others. Now, I certainly don’t know that I’m fully “taken care of,” (in fact, i know I'm not, and a no-sale year might seriously hinder my gross revenue) but something about this year feels like the right time to try this methodology out. On weekends where I would otherwise be offering a discount, I’m going to offer a give-back opportunity instead. Rather than saving 20% on a piece of jewelry, you’re going to be giving 20% to an organization of your choice. And to make it even more personal to you, my dear customers - a percentage of the money you’re spending on my site will go back to an organization of your choosing. At the beginning of the weekend/week/however long the “promotion” is running, I’ll announce how much of the sales that weekend will be giving back, and all you’ll need to do is name the organization/cause/charity of your choosing in the notes at checkout, and I’ll do the rest. I’ll donate a percentage of your sale to that organization in your name. Now, I know this may not seem like much. And honestly, I may need to change the model at some point where I choose a single organization per “promotion period” rather than having the customer choose, but bear with me as this idea is a complete work in progress. But, I believe it’s a worthy one. And I hope, you’ll believe in it, too. Please share your comments, ideas, and thoughts in the comment box below - I’d really love to hear from you!

Warmest wishes for a Happy New Year, my friends,

Mary Frances

 

PS - There are so many fun things on the horizon for the MFF brand in 2020. For starters, a new look + slight name change are coming VERY soon so stay tuned for details about that. Also, in the spirit of fun & reflection, I’m going to share the 2019 “Best Of” Awards here on the blog soon as well! If anyone is a fan of The Office (& by default, The Dundies), think of these as The Frannies.

 

PPS - If you aren't completely turned off by this idea of a "no-discount year", please consider finding a sweet little Valentine's Day gift in my collections - you can shop Best Sellers here. Promise I'm working on restocking all your favorites!

2 comments

Hi Fran,

Sounds like your business venture had a great year. That’s tough for any business. Not many can say the same. I like your idea of giving your ‘discount’ to others. It will introduce some new data tracking and reporting requirements that might not be simple, Especially if everyone can pick their own charity. Some people won’t want to think too much about it and it might turn them off if you make them work too hard for a small donation. You might be making hundreds of donations for under $10, where processing costs may eat up much of the value. One idea, which you probably already thought of, would be to have something like three choices of recipients. “Click the organization you would like your discount-donation to go to.” Or alternatively, offer types of charity, (then you decide at the end of the year which individual NP’s get the money, and send one check to each) “Please choose one of this year’s targeted needs- Support to low/moderate income entrepreneurs; Support to working single parents; Environmental support for the Outer Banks.” You also need to decide whether the donor’s name goes to the NP. NP’s would love to have lists of people to solicit for funds, but the donors might not want the marketing attention after the fact. I’d suggest making the donation from MFF in bulk once a year and taking the deduction there, instead of getting into all the reporting around who gave what to whom, if your tax accountants let you do that. Which reminds me that of course you’ll get help from a tax accountant on the whole thing, even the wording of how you describe this offer, because it will matter and could get you in trouble if you say it incorrectly. (Damn accountants . . . )

Anyway, I really like it. Have fun with it!

Gren

gren January 21, 2020

Wow! Big news! Honestly at first I was shocked and a little panicked bc sales are what had made your pieces attainable to buy for not just myself but being able to purchase for gifts. However, there are companies out there that have the no sales model, like Nugget, and people accept and get on board. I do like that donation part and in some ways it forces people to be generous and give back when they normally wouldn’t. However, it’s an interesting thought for families who already heavily give to other organizations— like us. Give a little less to them in anticipation of giving through you and then having more of a budget for purchases? I’m rambling, but so proud of you for taking a big leap!!

Katie Hartung January 21, 2020

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