May Happy Highlights 2018 and a few thoughts… ~ Sunray Sister

Hello,

Today I would like to share my favourite moments from the month of May. It’s been a fun-filled few weeks, with so much sunshine! How was May for you? Read on to see my Happy Highlights list, plus a few thoughts and updates…

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The magical stream running through Coombes Valley Nature Reserve

My Happy Highlights for May 2018…

  • Enjoyed a lovely ‘artist date’ morning looking around Leek Open Studios, as part of Leek Arts Festival. I always love open studio events, and look forward to taking part in one myself in the future!
  • Took part in my first ever market in Leek: the Sunday Supplement organised by the Totally Locally Leek team. I had a good experience, and with the new products I’m creating at the moment, I can’t wait to take part in more markets this year.
  • Went for a walk up Shutingsloe in Macclesfield forest with Fraz on a wonderful warm day.
  • Had a cute cinema and pizza date with Fraz; this is fast becoming a monthly special treat for us!
  • Bought a reliable, accurate and easy to read digital watch to help me stay on time, and get used to how long things take, so I can really get on top of everything… hopefully!
  • Started taking deliberate days off, trying to get a better work life balance, and create a clear break between the two, as they often merge into each other. This is definitely a work in progress, but it helps to be able to actually stop sometimes.
  • Joined Gallery Twenty; a local collective based in the beautiful, cobbled, Victorian alleyway/courtyard ‘Getliffe’s Yard’ here in Leek. I’ve been there for almost a month now, and I already feel like part of the team, with my own responsibilities, and I’m slowly adding more of my work/products to the shop, which I’m excited to share with you online!
  • Adventured out on a long solo walk from Leek to Coombes Valley Nature Reserve, then to the Cheedleton station for the Churnet Valley Railway, and headed back home along the canal. These long walks are also becoming an essential monthly solo-date for me to take some time out and explore! Did you read my post about my Roaches adventure in April?
  • So many days of amazing sunny weather and eating outside, which is always so much nicer than sitting inside.
  • Taking part in a business course with Gallery Twenty, which is making me feel a little more positive about money, and more realistic about my dreams and goals. We’ve got lots more sessions left, so lots more valuable information to absorb and put into action.
  • Had a fun night out in Leek with Fraz and one of our friends from Bristol, later joined by Fraz’s Dad and his friends! We even visited Leek’s new nightclub which has a light-up dance floor…!
  • Towards the end of the month, after lots of research and consideration, I finally got myself a good quality printer so that I can make all the products I’ve been dreaming about!

So that was May in my world! What happened in yours? Did you have any big adventures? Small victories? A special moment to remember? Why not share your story with us in the comments or over on Facebook and Instagram? I’d love to hear from you!

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Forget Me Nots in Buxton

In other news: a few thoughts and updates…

I made a lot of promises to myself recently, (and shared a few of them with you), and I feel like I’ve failed: I said I would launch a newsletter, and I haven’t; I said I would be doing live portrait drawing, and I didn’t; I said I was working on a new illustration of Björk, which was actually for a competition deadline, and I missed it.

Part of me thinks I’ve taken on too many commitments.

Another part of me says get your act together and start showing up for yourself! Never mind what anyone else thinks; what do you think? What do you think of yourself for cancelling events and missing deadlines?

With this comes a need for balance. I don’t have too many commitments, I just let them spill into every corner and crevice of my life, so that I never focus, but I also never switch off. I am also trying to become more aware of the inner and outer cycles of life; the seasons, the phases, the energy levels. When we get in tune with these, we can work with our natural rhythms, instead of against them.

I’ve already made a few changes. And these are changes that I may decide to change again next month, or in a year, or after ten years. Changes should always be for the better, but they don’t have to be forever.

For now I’ve decided not to launch a newsletter after all. I’m also only going to post blogs on Fridays, plus these Happy Highlights/month review posts on Sundays once a month. As much as possible I’m avoiding social media at weekends, and also using a scheduling tool for Gallery Twenty’s posts; this is actually really satisfying, as I can get a whole week’s worth of posts done in a couple of hours!

Then there’s all the ‘real world’ stuff. I’m still doing my 365 day challenge (even if I don’t share the artwork every day), and I’m currently closing in on my final 100 days! Wow! I’ve been reading a lot; diving in and out of multiple non-fiction books, as well as slowly making my way through the Harry Potter series for the first time…! Plus podcasts, videos, music and films. Singing and dancing. Walks out into nature and taking photos of all the pretty flowers! Piles of notebooks with lists, plans, notes, ideas. Sketchbooks full of work. A commission that keeps getting put to the side, is finally almost done. New products coming into reality… Things are actually going well.

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On top of Shutingsloe trig point near Macclesfield

Speak soon sisters, and remember to share your happy highlights from May in the comments or on social media. Stay creative!

Peace and love,

Rachel x

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Shop News and December 365 Theme ~ Dear Diary #12

Dear diary,

Goodness, have I been busy in the past few weeks!

First up, I got some of my handmade products stocked in a local shop!!! The adorable shop and café called ‘Tea Cake’ is also new to town. But they are already jam-packed with gorgeous products from local artists and crafters. I feel so proud and grateful to be included in such a wonderful shop, in a magical Victorian side street called Getliffes Yard in Leek.

Then, I re-launched my much neglected Etsy shop, and kicked things off with a seasonal sale, which continues until 20th of December. I have Christmas cards and handmade textile gifts for sale at the moment.

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To promote this sale, I also made a new YouTube video, after a couple of months without uploading. It felt so good to be making a video again, and I already have a few more videos lined up for the following weeks, and hope to stick to a weekly upload schedule.

Next up, I am doing a Christmas fair again this year! My first ever market was a Christmas fair last year in Bristol. This will be my second market, and I will be taking a slightly different approach by doing live portrait drawing/painting, whilst also promoting my portrait commission service (which will be launched officially in the new year), selling Christmas cards, and possibly some textile gifts.

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Speaking of portraits, I have been spending every day of November drawing faces for the first month of my 365 day art challenge. It has been brilliant! I am making progress, discovering how to get work done every day, and realising what tools and mediums I prefer to use. Below are my four favourites from the month so far, with just a few days left.

Now I have a new theme for December: ‘what I ate today’. I was originally going to write out separate food related prompts for each day, but I think the one negative point from November was feeling too restrained by the words I chose. This way, having an open theme for the month, all I have to do is draw/paint some or all of what I eat each day. Sounds fun!

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(I am working on improving the quality of my scanned images! Sorry for the slight fuzziness here).

That’s all for today!

 

Peace & love,

Rachel x

100th Post! Plans for the Near Future // Dear Diary #9

Dear diary,

This is my 100th post on this blog! Wow!!! Thank you for being here and letting me share my creative journey.

I have been on so many little wild adventures recently, and can’t wait to share some stories, photos and artwork here soon. For today though, since it’s a milestone post, I just want to reflect and consider my plans for the near future.

This week I’ve started working on my own website, via Squarespace which is an extremely affordable and user-friendly website-building platform. It basically has all the building blocks to create a sleek and professional website to showcase all your work, add a shop, include a blog, all the usual information pages and more! So it’s pretty brilliant.

My main reason for wanting to create a dedicated website (rather than sticking with social media and a blog), is to start building a professional art portfolio. Since moving north I have been reconnecting with my love of painting and drawing, and exploring nature. I have also been feeling a renewed confidence in myself and my ability to become a full-time artist… one day. Of course that one day won’t get any closer if I don’t start working TODAY, and keep showing up EVERYday!

From this professional portfolio I would love to eventually show more work in galleries, get private commissions and possibly even editorial jobs and work in published books! Who knows!

At the moment I’m doing a lot of sketchbook work, but next I want to get out onto loose paper and other surfaces, and create finished pieces of art, to sell as originals, prints and merchandise. I’m also interested in rediscovering linocut and hand-carved stamps (which I have briefly explored in the past), to either use as stand-alone designs, or combine with paint, pen and collage for a truly mixed-media approach. Or a bit of both.

With regards to ‘merchandise’, I’m thinking of greetings cards, postcards, gift tags & wrap, letter-writing sets, notebooks… as well as digital downloads and ‘printables’ such as colouring pages from my line drawings and computer desktop wallpapers. So many possibilities!

Of course all of this means that I will also be re-launching my Etsy shop (which is a little empty at the moment!) and researching local art markets, plus I have already contacted some local art shops. And my Squarespace website will also enable me to create my own online shop.

Alongside all of this I also have a renewed enthusiasm for my YouTube channel, which has been steadily growing all by itself over the past couple of months, despite my lack of new content! I now have more than 100 subscribers, and almost 5,000 total views across my 13 videos, coming mostly from my very popular pen-pal video. That’s already half way to the minimum views needed to become ‘monitized’. So I will keep working at creating videos, especially focusing on art related content.

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A recent piece for a collaboration I’m working on!

So, to summarise:

  • I’m going to create some finished artwork to sell…
  • …and build a professional art portfolio
  • …which I will showcase on my own website
  • …with a view to show in galleries, get commissions, possibly editorial work!?
  • I would like to create merchandise and prints from my artwork…
  • …to sell via Etsy/local shops/markets/my own website.
  • I’m planning to continue working on YouTube videos.

 

That’s all for now. I’ll be back next week, sharing some recent adventures and art to go along with them! Until then, stay creative!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

My Reading List: Non-fiction Edition // Sunray Sister

Hello lovely sisters! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

Today I have a short, sweet and simple post to share with you: all the books on my current reading list! They are all non-fiction, as I’m so obsessed with learning new things about myself, other people, nature and the universe, that I don’t have much time left for fiction. I prefer to get that from films and cartoons (which I may share in another list-post soon)!

Currently I’ve almost finished ’21 rituals to change your life’ by Theresa Cheung…

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…and below are all the books I will be reading next, along with links to further information. There are quite a few so I split them into three categories: business/creative, personal and spiritual. The books are mostly on my Kindle, a few are on my shelf, and others I will loan from the lovely library! Have you read any of these? Are any of them on your reading list too?

…and that’s it!

I’d love to know what you’re currently reading, and what books are on your reading list! Comment down below or find me on social media.


Coming up this Wednesday I will have a new YouTube video! In the meantime please subscribe to my channel and watch my latest video below. Your support and feedback means the world to me, especially during these first baby steps of my creative career!

Right now I also have a sale on in my Etsy shop! Get 30% off everything from now until the 8th of May!

Spring sale now on

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

 

2017 Business Goals Review January – March // Sunray Sister

Welcome back sisters!

Following on from my Happy Highlights post – where I reflect each month on the small things that made me smile and the big things that I achieved – today I want to zoom in a little closer to focus on my Sunray Sister 2017 business goals, and think about where to go next.

From now on I will be doing these goals reviews every month (on the Sunday after Happy Highlights), in order to closely assess and re-evaluate my goals (business and personal) as the year progresses.

Here is my original list of goals, as explained in my 2017 business goals post:

  • Focus brand on spreading positivity through creativity
  • Write business plan
  • Stick to products which are sewn/made of fabric
  • Use reduced and sustainable packaging
  • Create YouTube videos
  • Have 60+ items in Etsy shop at one time
  • Have 50+ Etsy sales
  • Get public liability insurance
  • Have a stall at 20+ craft fairs
  • Get products in at least one local shop
  • Attend 5+ Etsy seller monthly meet-ups
  • Increase social media following to 300+ on each platform
  • Use a social media strategy
  • Write blog posts at least one week in advance
  • Gain 20+ WordPress followers

I have highlighted the ones which I have already made some progress with, and will discuss further below…

Write business plan

At the end of January I attended a Prince’s Trust Explore Enterprise course, which focused on starting a business, and gave us all the tools to go away and write a business plan. Since then I have had a 1-1 meeting with a mentor, which gave me a much-needed boost. I now have more clarity and enthusiasm to continue with my ideas, get serious in terms of creating a business, and get back to making products and art again!

Stick to products which are sewn/made of fabric

Even though I have not yet made many new products, I have been focusing on my sewing behind the scenes, and showed a few examples at my first ever exhibition as Sunray Sister a few weeks ago. At the same time, I have realised in the last week that I really want to create drawings and paintings to sell too! Don’t worry, I have a plan for the art to work alongside my dolls. All will be revealed soon.

Create YouTube videos

I have definitely achieved this one! On Valentine’s Day I launched my first video, and have been creating one video per week since then (expect last week!) Check out my channel and be sure to subscribe to support this new branch of my creative tree! Find my latest video below:

Write blog posts at least one week in advance

This goal hasn’t quite been met. But it is certainly at the front of my mind. Writing this blog feels so important, natural and fun to me. I have started planning my weeks more thoroughly overall, using the ‘bullet journal’ system, and just need to find a good time to focus on blog writing.

Gain 20+ WordPress followers

It may not seem like much, but I now have six followers here on WordPress, and this means so much to me. Clicking subscribe means you believe in someone, and want to support and see more of their content. So thank you, thank you, thank you a million times! If you are not subscribed, what are you waiting for? Simply find the little blue follow button in the menu, or click follow in the bottom right corner if you are already signed up to WordPress.

A few small steps. A gradual journey. It’s hard work, but it is so important to keep my eyes and mind open, keep reflecting, make changes if something isn’t working. And keep going.


I hope to see you again this Wednesday, when I will definitely have a new YouTube video! (It finally uploaded after a few failed attempts!) Have a brilliant start to the new week!

 

Peace and love,

Rachel x

New Handmade Creations Coming Soon // Sunray Sister

Welcome back sisters! Here is a quick look at some of my recent design ideas. These will be transforming into beautiful new handmade creations for my next Etsy shop update on Saturday 4th of February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

And remember, you can’t love anyone else, until you accept and love yourself. So this Valentine’s make sure to make time for you!

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Hoops and cards – coming soon!

Hoops

Classic embroidery hoops with a sweet or motivational message. Using, of course, my hand-dyed fabric. These can be hung up in your home to bring a smile to your face every day!

Cards

You may have seen my illustrated Christmas cards last year, but one of my 2017 business goals stated that I need to stick to textile products only, in order to establish a clear brand. So I am creating some embroidered cards to send to your loved ones!

Bookmarks

Simple fabric bookmarks, with options to personalise with your, or your loved one’s, initials. They will make you want to pick up that book and get reading!

Keyrings

These will be similar to my square brooches, but on a keyring instead!

Zip pouches

Useful and cute, what could be better!? These pouches can be used for anything from stationary to make-up, or just whatever you like.

Brooches

More square brooches made with sturdy kilt pins. Find some in my shop now!

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Bookmarks, keyrings, pouches and brooches – coming soon!

So keep your eyes out for these new products coming to the shop this February!

See you back here this Sunday for a HUGE announcement, bringing together lots of things that I’ve been hinting at recently. I am going to share my big plan with you all! See you then sisters.

Peace and even more love than before,

Rachel x

Market Applications and Daily Planning // Sunday Sunray News

Welcome back sisters! In the past week I have been making some progress towards my 2017 business goals. Not much has actually happened, but I have a lot of exciting plans, so this turned out to be quite a long post! Let’s dive straight in…

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Market Applications

One of my 2017 goals is to have a stall at 20 or more craft markets or fairs. So this week I have applied for one, and am in the process of applying for another! The first is actually an art fair, taking place in Bristol this May, aimed at young artists working in all media including textiles, so I think I would fit in well. Fingers crossed!

The second application, which I am still working on, is for Country Living magazine’s pop-up market in April. The deadline is the 20th of February, but entries have to be sent by post, so I better get on with it. Shout out to my mum who found this one for me!

There are so many markets that I have heard about in the past year, and would love to take part in! Here are some examples to research further:

  • Crafty Fox market
  • Native Makers
  • Renegade Craft fair
  • Made London and Made Brighton
  • Etsy made local markets
  • Made in Bristol gift fair

Of course there are also local markets celebrating handmade every weekend, and below are a few which I will be considering:

  • The Harbourside Market (central Bristol)
  • Tobacco Factory Market (South Bristol)
  • The Nails Market (central Bristol)
  • The Frome Independent (near Bristol)

In order to be eligible for most markets I will first need to get public liability insurance; another goal to tick off my list!

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Planning

This week I have been trying to plan each day more effectively, both on a personal level and for more detailed business targets. ‘Use a social media strategy’ and ‘Write blog posts at least one week in advance’, are two of my 2017 business goals, and ‘Plan each day’ is one of my personal goals, and I feel like I have been making a lot of progress with all of these.

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I am using a simple A4 page a day diary. Inside I have post-it notes for my weekly goals, social media schedule and meal plan. These can then be stuck to each day, since they last for a whole week.

I use the actual pages to record any events at the top of the page, then I track what food I am eating. Underneath that I write my to-do list for each day. The tasks are set using any daily goals I have (such as Veganuary, walking and social media posts), followed by tasks from my weekly goals post-it. These daily tasks are also split into ‘Business’ and ‘Personal’. I still feel like this needs a bit more refining, maybe giving each task a specific time in the day.

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My key business weekly goals this week are market applications, daily social media posts, sewing new products and planning my blog. In the past hour I have created drafts for my next 10 or so blog posts! And it feels great! Mainly because I actually have a clear path, and I know where I am taking Sunray Sister next. All I can say is, I’ve got lots of exciting things coming up soon, and lots of hard work too!

(As an example, today is actually Friday the 13th, and I’ve already got Sunday’s post done, and drafted the next few weeks worth of posts, including a BIG surprise coming in February! What!?)

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Phew, I think that’s enough for one post! What big goals have you been working on this week? What positive changes have you made? Let me know in the comments!

In case you missed my latest posts, here’s a quick summary:

Coming up on the blog will be a fun Random Round-Up post on Tuesday, and more on that big surprise that I mentioned, in a special update post this Friday. Hope you have a positive and productive week!

 

Peace and love

Rachel x

Business Goals for 2017 // Sunday Sunray News

Sunray Sister only began in September this year, and I already have so many plans and ideas for where to take it next. So in today’s edition of Sunday Sunray News I want to share a few of my goals for 2017. I have split them up into four main categories: brand, product, business and online goals.

Also, my Etsy shop is now on holiday! When it re-opens in January there will be lots of new things, so stay tuned.

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Brand Goals – my image and message

Right now I am taking some time to step back and ask, “What message do I want to send out with Sunray Sister?”, “What is the point of Sunray Sister?” and “What value can Sunray Sister bring to other people; to my potential customers?”

From the beginning I wanted to create something positive, and I wanted to make myself feel more positive by being creative. I feel like my image is almost focused, but the message is still a little blurry. I love using pinks and purples, with neutral backgrounds, and hearts or faces. I love sewing cute little things for people to buy, with positive messages.

In recent weeks I have been revisiting my interest in minimalism, mindfulness and zero-waste. Now I am asking, “How can I be a minimalist if I am creating more stuff to clutter up other people’s lives?” This makes me sure that I really need to focus on bringing positive messages to people, via useful items which will add value to their life and serve a purpose. What’s more, buying handmade and from small businesses promotes a more ethical lifestyle, away from consumerism. Using reduced and sustainable packaging with my products is also really important to me. So these will all be additional elements that add up to create my brand.

Love yourself, love other creatures, love our planet. 

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Product Goals – what I’m selling

I love drawing and painting, but I feel like my sewn, tie-dyed and embroidered ideas are more focused, more unique and can deliver my message more effectively than any 2D artwork could. There are enough illustrated, pretty, positive messages available to put in a frame on the wall. I want to create pretty, positive things to wear and use.

In 2017 I am going to be making brooches, pouches, patches, dolls, bookmarks and book-covers with tie-dye fabric and embroidered messages. I also realised I could scan some of the embroidered messages and use these as unique greetings card designs.

At the same time, I still have ideas for illustration based work, such as zines and the images I already share on this blog. Perhaps these ideas can just stay online, in digital format where they don’t take up any physical space, but just spread certain messages. What’s more I could run workshops, write more in-depth blog posts and create YouTube videos all about positivity and creativity.

So for now, drawing is something for me, and this blog, and not something to sell as Sunray Sister. Saying that, I would love to take illustration commissions for portraits or similar projects, but only on the side as myself.

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Business Goals – serious stuff

Even though I keep saying I have a small business, I haven’t really done any of the proper business stuff yet. I have a name and a logo, a business card and a shop, and this blog and social media accounts. But that’s it. So a big thing I need to do in 2017 is write an official business plan. Goals cannot be achieved without a plan! The Prince’s Trust could help me with this on their Business Enterprise course, which I will hopefully do in January.

Another big goal for 2017 will be to take part in more markets and fairs. I was so proud of going to my first ever market last week, and I know that they will get easier. One serious thing I need to do is get public liability insurance, so that I can have a stall at regular weekend outdoor markets. I also went to my local Etsy team meet-up in November, which was really hard for me, but is something I need to do more in 2017.

In addition to markets, another way to get out into the ‘real world’ is via local creative co-ops. These are small shops run by a group of artists, that sell work created by artists. Examples in Bristol include Blaze, The Little Shop, Paper Plane and Co-LAB. There are also opportunities halfway between a market and a shop called pop-up shops, which would be great to get involved with, especially ones in association with Etsy. So in 2017 I aim to have my work in at least one local ‘bricks-and-mortar’ shop.

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Online Goals – spreading the word

Without the internet I think creating this little business would be quite tricky. In 2017 I want my Etsy shop to be fuller than ever, with a range of different items at different price points. I also aim to have 50 sales by the end of the year. Of course Etsy isn’t the only online marketplace, so I would love to join Not On The High Street and possibly create a Folksy shop too.

I really enjoy planning, creating and publishing posts on this blog, and I want to keep it up in 2017. So far these behind-the-scenes style posts have been most popular, so I want to create more content in this style. One problem at the moment is that I usually write the post on the same day that it is published, or if I am doing well, a few days in advance. So in 2017 I aim to create the following week’s posts in one day and schedule their publishing times.

I also want to add a YouTube channel to my repertoire. As with blog content, I have endless ideas for videos. I want to create craft videos, drawing videos, artist date videos, lifestyle videos, and look-book videos, and lots more in between. As long as they extend my positivity via creativity message! Plus a little feature I already have a name for: ‘Sunray Sister Sings a Song’, since I haven’t given up on music, it just has a slightly different place in my life now.

Social media is a huge part of my business, but my use of it could be more effective. In 2017 I aim to set social media schedules using spreadsheets. Right now Instagram is my most popular platform, with around 100 followers (the number seems to fluctuate each day between 100 and 120). By the end of 2017 I aim to have 300 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

All of these different channels may seem like extra distraction for me, but I think, if I use them properly, each website will compliment the next. My blog posts will lead to my Etsy shop, and my Etsy will link to social media, my social media accounts will take people to my YouTube channel, and from there people will find my blog.

As long as my message and image is consistent across all platforms, and I am regularly sharing good quality content, which is strategically planned, I will be successful.

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Conclusion – what have I achieved and what are my goals?

In 2016 I have:

In 2017 I will:

  • Focus brand on spreading positivity through creativity
  • Write business plan
  • Stick to products which are sewn/made of fabric
  • Use reduced and sustainable packaging
  • Create YouTube videos
  • Have 60+ items in Etsy shop at one time
  • Have 50+ Etsy sales
  • Get public liability insurance
  • Have a stall at 20+ craft fairs
  • Get products in at least one local shop
  • Attend 5+ Etsy seller monthly meet-ups
  • Increase social media following to 300+ on each platform
  • Use a social media strategy
  • Write blog posts at least one week in advance
  • Gain 20+ WordPress followers

Of course, I have some personal resolutions, alongside these goals for Sunray Sister. They include minimising my possessions/de-cluttering our home, eating differently and getting outside more, all of which I might discuss in future blog posts.

What have you achieved this year? What are your resolutions for 2017? What big dreams do you need to transform into attainable goals? Let me know in the comments or on social media, and we can cheer each other on!

In case you missed any of my recent posts, catch up now!

This evening I will be finishing off some handmade gifts! I also plan to upload two final blog posts in 2016, this Tuesday and Friday. If they don’t show up, just assume I got sidetracked with wrapping and Christmas films, and I’ll see you in 2017 with a December happy highlights post on the 6th of January!

Peace and love

Rachel x