Thursday, March 10, 2016

Typical Shelly Fashion, part 1

Go make yourself comfortable because this is gonna be a long one.

I've told the story dozens of times.

"Why did I move here from Boston?  Well, I've lived there my entire life and have worked in the same IT career for more than a decade, and I felt like my life was missing new experiences.  Cody has been working on an Etsy store now for almost a year, and it started to get to the point where we realized that we could probably live off of it if we cut down on expenses.  Both of us wanted to leave New England and find somewhere out on the west coast where we could settle down and work on building out Misfit Cords together.

We were originally aiming for somewhere in the Portland area, but didn't know that most apartments on the west coast charge application fees to even try to rent there.  That, combined with our being a couple (strike one) with a cat (strike two) and no guaranteed employer meant that we were largely out of luck.  After 11 straight days of staying at various Motel 6s across the country, I was starting to genuinely fear that our whole 'take a chance' attitude was going to lead us straight into homelessness in a strange part of the country.  The fear of failure was entirely too real, especially given that I had told everyone I knew that I felt confident I could make it work.

And then...thank our lucky stars!  Cody called a landlord from Forks, and he told us that he had a house that he was trying to rent out.  He was a fisherman and planned to be out on the water for the next few days, but told us that the door was unlocked and we were free to head over there and stay there until he came back.  If we liked it, we could rent it.  And, lo and behold, we both really like it here!"

If only you guys knew what crazy thoughts I was having underneath this hat!
It was to be expected.  Telling the same story over and over again comes with the territory when making a major life transition, especially given that I'm an outgoing strangle-dressing woman with dreadlocks who just moved to a small town.  One of the first questions that I'm inevitably asked (after "are you here for Twilight?") is what brought me out here to Forks, to the point where I feel like I'm reciting a speech from memory when I answer it.

Today I want to flesh that anecdote out just a little bit.  There's a lot more to the story than the truncated version that I tell people when I first meet them.  In fact, when I think about it, a lot of what I'm about to write consists of things that are central to my life philosophy that I've never really shared to a large degree despite trying to lead as open of a life as I can.  It's the story of my relationship with concepts like "art" and "fashion" and "identity" and what they mean to me.  It's the story of the vision that Cody and I are forging together and the trials and tribulations that come along with it.

This is the story of Misfit Cords.

The love of my life <3
I'll start with another story that I've told dozens of times.

"Roughly a year ago or so, Cody was working at a dead-end job that he didn't enjoy.  We were working opposite shifts with opposite sleep schedules, so despite living together we were only seeing each other for two or three hours on any given weeknight.

From the start of our relationship, Cody would make me art to express his feelings towards me.  The walls of our apartment in Boston were lined with all sorts of paintings and drawings and little comic strips that he would draw of the two of us going on crazy adventures.  A few months into the relationship, he surprised me with a pair of patchwork pants that he had made for me.  Unbeknownst to me, he had been creating his own clothes since he was a kid and had an incredibly keen sense for the type of clothes I like.

He followed it up with something else that I use to this day - a purse he made for me that matched most of my other clothes.  It started to become a tradition with us - we'd go to thrift stores together and buy loads of cheap stuff, and he would make me stuff when he had the time.  I loved going out wearing stuff he made for me!  And eventually it became obvious that creating art is where his skill and passion was - not only did I love my new wardrobe, but I got generally good feedback from other people.

So he quit his job and went full-time running an Etsy store.  It was a large risk at the time, but it ended up paying off rather quickly as it only took a few weeks before he started getting consistent sales.  He found a niche in making patchwork top hats out of upcycled materials from thrift stores - no one else was doing anything like what he was doing, and there was demand for it.  He started getting orders for custom-made hats from all over the world, and almost exclusively from interesting people.  Not only that, but he started getting 5-star ratings and repeat customers and good reviews.  It was clear that he was succeeding at it, and quicker than I ever would have believed was possible!

What every office should look like.
In fact, I started to get a bit envious.  Here I was, waking up at 6:30am five days a week and driving in two hours a day of traffic to go into an office to do what I was told, while he was home making original creations and forming a business from scratch.  He didn't report to anyone and was wholly accountable for his success or failure.  The timing of my burning out on IT coincided with the growth of the business - eventually there was so much work to do in growing out the store that he could no longer do it himself.  

A plan was hatched - I would be able to handle the web part of the business, which in turn would free up time for Cody to 100% dedicate himself to creating new things.  It would also give me time to pursue the things that interest me - specifically blogging.  So when the decision of "should we renew our lease in Boston?" came up, we decided not to.  And here we are."

Straight from the hood.
But life is never as simple as the stories!  There are a couple of simple realities that I don't think I was prepared for:
  • Moving across the country has a lot of stupid small expenses tied to it that add up pretty quickly.
  • Taking the store offline for a month killed a lot of the momentum we were having on all fronts - we could only take so many supplies, we had to stop creating for a month, and we took a corresponding step back from the sales numbers we were making before we left.
  • I am not nearly as comfortable as I thought I was going to be with trying to advertise Misfit Cords.  I thought it would be easy since I have 100% faith in the quality of Cody's work, but all of the same issues that I had with Facebook when I started this blog applied to the world of trying to boost pageviews on social media.  It all just feels so incredibly impersonal to me and outside of my comfort zone.
  • The freedom that I wanted to experience - working for myself instead of spending my time at a job - can be downright terrifying when I don't know what the next steps to take are and have no one but myself to hold accountable for it.
  • That terrifying feeling is even worse when there aren't any other distractions (like a steady job or social life) to get in the way.
I'm just going to admit it right here in my journal - there are times where it's extremely stressful to be in the position that I'm in.  I went through this when I transitioned - the idea of putting our all into something and potentially failing at it is scary as hell.  All I can do is to take that fear and to stop, understand it, process it, and then allow it to motivate me to work harder.  I like that I'm feeling like the semi-occasional moment of panic because that feeling tells me that it will be all the more worth it if and when we succeed.

"Just be yourself, yo."
I did some reflection on the trouble that I'm having advertising Misfit Cords on social media.  I don't like the idea of spamming people on social media for the purposes of trying to sell them something.  The idea of fighting on the internet to have our store be heard over all the others just feels incorrect to me.  As soon as the goal becomes selling instead of creating art, it becomes exponentially harder to remain inspired and motivated.  And the clock isn't going to stop ticking.

And here's the answer that I came up with - I need to bring my art to the table.

I mean...right?  One of the main reasons that I moved out of Boston is that I wanted more time and freedom to write, ideally for a living.  The reason that I like writing is that I genuinely enjoy the feeling of connection that comes with giving everyone an open invite to experience what we're actually going through as we try and build up Misfit Cords.  I'm doing this as opposed to paying Etsy or Facebook money to spam our advertising to as many people as possible - I would rather market the store by sharing its story and inviting those who are interested in it to follow along with us.  :)

Don't be a mad hater - be a mad hatter!
To everyone who got to the end of this post, I want to end things with a simple request to those who want to help support us:
There's always going to be a small voice in the back of my head that's worried that we made a mistake in coming here that isn't going to pay off.  We'd be foolish not to be at least a little bit nervous.  I write this with the full awareness of the fact that plenty of people won't like Cody's creations or my writing, and that's fine. But with great risks come great rewards, and to me a life spent doing what we want for an audience that wants to see it is as fulfilling a life as we could ask for.


  1. I love reading your blog posts, keep up the good work!