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  • Joan Chamberlain

2020 Word of the Year: Pivot

Updated: Dec 7, 2020



As we wind up 2020, if I had to define the strategy for my new business in a word I’d choose the word Pivot. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

I started the year certain that I would launch Peg Pennyworth in February. I had a respectable number of original designs for infant onesies, nursery decor, and stationery and the print-on-demand (POD) market was taking off. POD has made it possible for a lot of creatives to offer their designs on all types of apparel and merchandise without carrying inventory. Having had a business in the past, based on a product I designed and manufactured, not carrying a warehouse full of inventory is one big check in the "plus" column. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable solution for a new business, right? As soon as COVID-19 hit, the POD market came to a "whooaah, not so fast" halt, as they had to work out how many workers they could have on the floor at any one time. In addition, the suppliers of the blank merchandise were having issues of their own. Pivot #1.

Pre-COVID, I was also gearing up for local makers’ markets and arts & crafts fairs - in person shows - frequently offered in the spring and summer in cities large and small all across the country. I find it fun and energizing to meet customers face-to-face and find out what they're attracted to. We all know how that went. Pivot #2.

No stranger to detours when it comes to business, I decided to slow down, take my time building out my portfolio of designs, experiment with my product line, and find a local printer that I could actually meet and discuss projects with in order to reach out to the wholesale market. Researching, calling, and emailing local printers for quotes was not providing the answers, when I actually got an answer, I wanted in order to produce Peg Pennyworth for the wholesale market. Pivot #3.

By mid-summer there were lots of people embracing this whole “let’s start a business from our living room” idea, and they started jumping on the POD bandwagon. The POD companies, who had figured out how to ramp up production while staying safe, were now swamped and running out of product on a regular basis. On top of which, trying to stand out in an overflowing sea of products had become the most recent challenge. Pivot #4

It’s beginning to sound like I’m whining, or worse, making excuses for not being one of the rising-star entrepreneurs on Instagram who stumbled into a six-figure income right out of the gate. Maybe add bitter to the list. Fair enough, there are a lot of things I could have done differently this year and there were many things utterly out of my control.

Ultimately, though, maintaining my sanity and physical health, in a rocky and tumultuous time, were my priorities. Each pivot was a chance to deepen my commitment, ruthlessly evaluate which products I wanted to develop, and expand my knowledge of various markets. I feel a little leaner and a little clearer about where I’m headed with Peg Pennyworth. Until the next pivot.

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