growing pains, part 2…appreciating what we have

January 29, 2009 |  Category:   life the biz


Mark and I revealed to each other yesterday that we were both thinking, independently, the same thought: that despite all the tough questions we face, in many ways, we feel like we are in the best possible situation in our respective fields in the current economy. Though there are many challenges and annoying expenses incurred in working for yourself (hello, self-funded health insurance), we do not live in fear of our jobs (I have been morbidly obsessed with this site lately and for newer blog readers who may think this is sounding a bit smug, we did survive a layoff last year which started this whole journey). We’ll probably see a slowdown somewhere down the road this year, but this is also the normal rhythm of freelance and owning a business. While it doesn’t necessarily get easier dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of an unstable income, you do learn to brace for it. Food sales and design work is impacted by the recession just like everything else, but it’s weirdly comforting to know that we own some amount of control in our jobs which we wouldn’t have otherwise if we were on staff.

The food industry is a fickle affair, which is why I don’t think I’d ever leave design work. We need our income and we need something to fall back on should the business fail to maintain a profit, so I can’t foresee ever jumping into the business full time unless we can expand the brand to include some design (more recipe cards? A book? kitchen accessories? I would LOVE). Over the past 6 months, I have met many talented artists, writers and crafts people online who have inspired me to want to pick up that drawing pencil and X-acto blade again (spare time, on the other hand, has not cooperated). Much like us, these small businesses are surviving and flourishing by carving a road that is the opposite path from corporate work life. Many of us have the same goals – to be able to make a living doing what we know and love, often while precariously juggling the demands and schedules of the family we are trying to support. It’s been both inspiring and comforting to “talk” to these people everyday via twitter or facebook or blogs, to watch the businesses grow, to share good news and celebrate achievements, and to commiserate and support when needed. Starting a business may not be for everybody. In so many ways it is much easier to go to a job, but I’ve come to respect these creative people so much for being brave enough to strike out on their own and resourceful enough to truly make things happen. It’s been the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy environment filled with often depressing and heartbreaking news. So yes, as many of you have commented, our dilemma is a good one to have. I think we just need to stay positive and focus on the amazing things that are still happening around us.

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  • nichole January 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Very well put, Jenna. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments.

    It’s been the support, encouragement and high-fiving on etsy/twitter/blogs that makes me see the rosier side of this economic debacle.

  • patricia January 29, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    It is wonderful to see that so many of us are in the same proverbial boat. Your words echo what I’m sure so many of us feel. There IS another way to get around these messy times and it’s good to know that we’re not alone.

  • Fog and Thistle January 29, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Great post Jenna! You express so much of what a lot of us are thinking and feeling.

  • Stella January 29, 2009 at 8:36 pm


    At work, we’ve been appreciating our “relative abundance,” which is definitely what you speak of. Thanks for declaring and sharing this.

  • unha January 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    i agree with you. there are days I just want to cry and crawl back to my bed, but things are hopeful. hard work pays off. so let’s just keep at it.
    btw, i need some whimsy fix.

  • mike January 30, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    great perspective to maintain. just beware of burnout! i consider myself a pretty good amateur cook. if we lived in nyc, i’d volunteer to bake a few thousand cookies! for now, i’ll have to just purchase them!

  • Brenda January 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    My dad and I have had similar discussions. He’s an independent certified organic grower (kiwi!) and raises organic, hormone/antibiotic free eggs from free range chickens! We both think that, unless the bottom completely falls out of the economy), we’ll respectively have our own markets: folks who will continue to want to support indie biz owners, local food, handmade stuff, etc. We may not be millionaires from it, but we don’t need to be — we’re doing what we love. I’m so grateful I don’t have the overhead expense involved with the food or aggie industry, but also know that what I make isn’t the necessity that food is! 🙂

  • jennifer February 2, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Um, yes…a cookbook! Brilliant!

  • Dana February 25, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    It really is so rewarding to spend your time and energy working on your own business. There is something about the quality of life that accelerates when you are passionate about what you do. Good luck!!