Today I am going to write on the topic of funding again, a follow on to the Making It post a few weeks back. Having reached the halfway point in the year and for our work on the Founder’s Circle blouses for the 100 Blouses Project in June, we also reached a point of exhaustion as a team. Our instructor, Lisa Lambert, was on the tail of prom season and wedding season is in full swing, the apprentices juggled child care and other jobs, and I needed a break. It was tempting to think that the solution was getting more funding and going full time. If we could just do this during daylight hours we wouldn’t be so tired.

And yet, that inevitably left a lot of power in the hands of other people, in a way that took away our sense of agency. I would find myself thinking that the future of this work depended on that next email from this group or that one indicating whether they were on board to support us or not. After my last disappointment with this, I woke in the middle of the night suddenly thinking about the business plan. Backing up, the idea for the Founder’s Circle was to make 10-20 blouses as a proof of concept, to determine what pricing would be feasible, how many hours went into each garment, what investments would be necessary to make it efficient enough to be profitable.

Somehow in the fatigue and slow pace of the work I lost sight of that. I tried to look for a way to make it easier, less fatiguing, maybe we can get support before we have delivered 10-20 finished blouses. And so I started meeting with other groups to try to get us there. But inevitably I would stalk my emails waiting for the answers that finally came to “no” or radio silence. And then it comes to me – the thing I need to do is to make the case for myself that this is a viable business. It is much clearer when you put it in those terms – I need to continue to build out the plan until the picture is clear enough that I am willing to assume the risk. And the good news is that this process is the same, whether it is for me, for a venture capital group, a foundation or a bank. I can repurpose this information for other groups but the very first task is selling it to myself.

Now you may think, yikes – you don’t believe in this? Not so. I believe in this with all of my heart. But the step we are working on now is compiling the information to make a business case for it. To have a plan that we can implement that has a reasonable chance at success, with numbers and action items. Yes, I had hoped that I would have it now, that the final blouses would have gone out this summer and this fall I would have all the numbers together. Yes, it is frustrating to know that we need so many more months to get there, however that clarity freed up so much more energy and is a lifeline for decision making.

For example, if I am being honest (which is clearly the direction I’m going with this post 🙂 I have been concerned about opening the womenswear space. Our team is already so busy and running a space and taking on that overhead feels extremely daunting. But once I reorient myself in the process again it becomes more clear: I need to have the information necessary to be able to decide whether we have a viable business. We need a minimum viable space in terms or organization and set-up to be able to make accurate estimates about the hours we are investing into each garment. Working at the tailoring shop will not get us there. So this next step is a non-negotiable.

So all that is to say that we are proceeding forward with a renewed energy and focus. We are finding more flexibility in our schedules for the work to keep people from burning out and we will continue to make the tough decisions that lead us to a plan that will allow us to go full time and flourish as a team and a company.

Go, fight, win. Thank you for your support on this wild and wonderful journey.