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Article: Parker River Proper - the full story

Parker River Proper - the full story

Happy New Year! 

When reflecting on the past year my husband and I both agreed that if we were to wake up on January 1 and learn 2023 was a wacky dream, it would make total sense. We might even laugh and breathe a collective sigh of relief. It was a year full of rapid expansion and transformation!

First, the good:

Highlights of 2023

starting a new business

adopting two puppies

many fun trips (Stowe, Mexico, Woodstock, Lake George, Nantucket, Cape Cod, Montauk, Thailand!)

many new friends

(unexpectedly) expecting a fourth kiddo

decorating & opening our home for the Newburyport Holiday House Tour

Next, the bad: 

With any change come the expected growing pains. My little business journey since May has been on full display on the gram, but I think there's more to the story that may help answer the burning question of how did we get here (cue Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime background music).

Let's back up.

In our 14 years as a couple my husband and I have uprooted and replanted our lives in various locations to support his career. Boston to Chicago back to Boston to LA to Charlestown (and most recently Newbury). We've made many rentals feel like home, completed a gut renovation in our first purchased home, welcomed three children, and most recently designed and built a new house on the North Shore. With our axis consistently shifting around his career, our home and family have always been my domain. I had no career in the traditional sense, but I worked steadily as the logistical coordinator, event planner, chef, family stylist, interior designer, nurse, maid, zoo keeper, etc.

I am reminded of the Coco Chanel quote "she designed a life she loved" - truly I have, but this year I felt a creative urge to start something of my own, outside my role as a mother and homemaker.

Cue: the birth of Parker River Proper. 

My goal was to create a space to share my love for history, art, travel and beauty with an approach that values authenticity, fun, and kindness. But I wanted it to be a business, not a diary. Could it be an interior styling service? I'd certainly decorated my share of spaces throughout our moves. Family photography? I had some classes under my belt, the equipment, and have lots of experience wrangling my own kids into the frame to take family pictures (herding cats, I think they call it).  I finally settled on using my skill for basket weaving to offer pieces for sale, initially with a focus on marketing them as meaningful gifts. They've proven to be a great jumping off point for conversations around history, art, travel and authenticity.  

In May I started an instagram page to market bracelets for sale for mothers day. And we were off to the races. Next came koozies, headbands, earrings, etc. Within two months of starting my business I sold two koozies to a hotel and made a bespoke piece for another business on Nantucket. I was directing people where they could learn to weave, and (to put it nicely) seemed to have gotten the attention of some more established weavers. I found myself pulling all nighters in an attempt to stay on top of orders, and began to feel the housework piling up around me and the effects of my kids lack of the mama time that had grown accustomed to. But with deadlines looming overhead, I couldn't slow down enough to make any meaningful changes.

maybe this just how it feels to be a working mom! I told myself. And school was just around the corner, which I thought would solve all my problems.

At the end of the summer, I enlisted the help of a fitness/life coach I met while taking classes at Equinox in Boston in 2015. She happens to live in Newburyport now and runs a business coaching program called Abundant Business. I was relieved to have support and a pair of eyes to see the big picture and ideally come up with a plan for taking my basket sales to the next level. During our intake call, I was fed the harsh truth that I had been dodging. Actually, to give her more credit in true Meg fashion she asked the appropriate questions until I reached this conclusion on my own - I was burnt out. My relationships, family, and home were suffering. I could not keep doing what I was doing. Something had to change.

This point was driven home a few weeks later, when I found out I was pregnant. I needed an overhaul of my nervous system and our household operational systems. I felt defeated, like I had failed, but I had to move my energy away from generating new business back into focusing on the quality of attention given to my craft and the wellness of myself, my family and my home.  

SO Here we are. January 2024. New year & back to myself.

Four months later, I am recovered from that initial burnout and circling back to the initial question - how can I build a successful business? I think the answer lies in a redefinition of what success is, rather than any kind of brand or product overhaul.

I don't need a date on the calendar as an excuse to party hard, or as motivation to improve. But the start of 2024 is coinciding directly with new understanding that my personal and business success cannot be mutually exclusive. I don't have any metrics by which to measure this - but success to me will be felt in the way that I can balance crafting beautiful baskets and crafting a beautiful life.  

Cue: a new ordering system & the revamp of my diary, I mean blog

Whereas before my sales were made to order, moving forward I will be making and selling my more popular items in batches. This way, baskets are ready to ship the Wednesday following purchase (no lead time, woo hoo!) and enable me to pause as needed for things like having a baby, traveling & unexpected lice infestations (#MOTHERHOOD #BLESSED)

I say this without expectation but for first dibs, subscribe to my newsletter. Things may sit for 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, but this way you'll be in the know before the products hit the instawaves.

And here we are, in my first diary entry, I mean revamped blog post

I love writing and have a tendency to get heady at times, but with JOY, FUN AND BEAUTY as my guiding principles I want this newly revamped blog to be a space where I can share my craft and life lightly, authentically and with less separation between the two. I'll share content around:

-baskets

-home

-family

-art

-history

-travel

-fashun

If there's anything you want to see, drop me a line!

On that note, I'm off to watch the rest of the Pats game, enjoy a cold NA brewski, play with my kids in the snow and bake some banana bread <3

Happy Sunday!

Katie

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