MusingsDecember 21, 2022

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Offseason by Lauren Marttila, available on Gates & Co.

2022.

I’m not even really sure how to talk about it since so much happened in the world, in my business and in life in general.  This year was fraught with tragedy and anger, but also the delight of being able to see each other again after being separated for so long.  New friends came into my life that I know will become old ones. Business was busy, but stressful -thanks to those pesky supply chain delays, my kids grew bigger and funnier and I feel like I have hit my stride a bit more as a mother. Overall, it was a pretty good year.

But as I exit 2022 I feel– well, depleted. Anxious. Both excited and apprehensive of what’s to come. Tired but inspired. That’s to say- I feel ALL THE THINGS and all at once. There is so much I want to do, but also a deep desire to pull back a little and treat myself with a little more grace. I was talking to someone the other night and she commented “you’ve built quite the life for yourself, so what is it you want to improve?” That answer came so easily and quickly: I want to enjoy it more. I am not enjoying this life I have nearly as much as I should be. And that is a shame.

I have written time and time again about how I struggle with anxiety, perfectionism and often succumbing to a “grass is greener” mindset.  And while it has fueled the hustle that has gotten me to where I am, now that I’m “here”, I desperately want to actually reap the rewards and enjoy where I am.  The amazing work I get to do. The kids I fought to have. The house I never would have thought would be mine. The freedom that I’m afforded. But I also do not want to rest on my laurels- and finding that balance is my number one goal for 2023.

Assessing everything I have on my plate- professionally, socially and personally is a good place to start in order to figure out what needs attention, what can be maintained and what can take a back seat, or better yet,  be delegated (my very worst skill).  Bear with me as I do this exercise in front of an audience.  I have to stretch my writing muscles to do this, as they haven’t gotten as much use this year (another thing I want to change, I miss it!)

BUSINESS

I grew my company this year and now have nine people at Erin Gates Design. That still blows my mind. Looking at my overhead also blows my mind. I made the smart decision to finally hire someone to take over the business side of things- financials, HR, accounting and projections.  But utilizing that role is full of growing pains for me, I hate talking about money, but I have to get better about it. And I have to really roll up my sleeves and make sure I am making smart financial decisions, as well as taking SOME risks by investing more back into the business in the right areas.

Our book of business also grew this year- with some really incredible large projects under our belts now. We increased our minimums- which means we are looking only at projects that encompass whole homes or at least several rooms at once.  After researching what my peers in the industry were doing, I had to up the ante a bit. I love many of our smaller jobs, but having over 30 active clients at once creates a lot of inefficiencies in our time. It’s SO HARD for me to say no to people, as I tend to operate under the fear that work will dry up tomorrow, but it’s time to realize, after 15 years of having a waitlist, this is simply not the likely outcome. So as we look to 2023, we are looking for larger projects, but fewer of them. (Side note: we are actively booking for Spring/Summer 2023 start dates nation-wide so send your inquiries our way info@eringatesdesign.com).

I also grew my licensing partnerships (some I have not announced yet – coming spring 2023!!!) I really enjoy this side of my work, it’s been very successful, and I hope to continue to grow it organically in ways that make an impact and fill a void in the marketplace. Fabric. Furniture. Fashion. And yes, finding a way to get my pillow line up and running again.  It’s still the biggest trip to see products with my name on them out in the world. It will never NOT be a thrill.

And speaking of thrills, the fact that my first book (published in 2014) was still #1 on a slew of Amazon charts this year and is now over 300,000 copies sold is insanity. I am so damn glad I did that striped spine, I tell you! :) Book 2 is gaining some more traction (it’s such a better book, in my opinion) and I had to make a tough call on my third book this year, but one that ultimately makes sense. It was supposed to be due this spring to my publisher- but with COVID, massive delays on client goods, not being able to photograph and frankly, not enough time to focus on it- I had to make the call to push it to a yet undetermined date. I’m hoping for a 2025 release to be honest. I have to nail this one and I was starting to shoot not complete projects that I didn’t feel great about and it makes NO sense to put all the effort and work into a book that you don’t feel 100% confident and happy with. So instead, I hit the breaks and said I need more time. I need this to be amazing and I cannot make an amazing book right now. So we are slowly but surely working towards EOS book 3- the final installment (for now)- and I will keep you posted on when that will be. But I have to remind myself, it’s not a race.

As for the blog/ social media and that whole arm of things- it is still very much a large part of my business- not only financially, but marketing wise. Almost all of our business comes via word of mouth or social media. I struggled a bit this year with finding my footing in the muddy waters of discussing both design, fashion AND human rights and politics. And I know many people believe that business and personal beliefs should be kept separate. But the more I watched larger companies take stances and speak out, and find more loyalty because of that, the more assured I became that I do not have to split myself in two here. Maybe it keeps me from growing my following by the follower tally, but those that DO follow are dedicated. I know my engagement rate is much higher than someone with 10x the following in some cases. And I think the world is catching on that it’s not just about a number, it’s about the quality and activity of those who do follow you. You can buy followers, but you can’t buy engagement and loyalty. So I am going to keep doing what I’m doing. Blogging 2-3 times a week, keeping my social channels authentic and off the cuff, but perhaps a little more curated on the interiors content, and see where it takes me. And I know, I have to make Reels. UGH. But we do have a whole new look, function and feel coming to our websites (business/blog/shop) early in 2023 and I can’t wait for you to see the reveal!

As for the things I want to add in this year and in the coming decade:

  • Commercial projects- an inn, hotel, boutique, offices– you name it. I’d love to expand into the commercial side and explore that kind of work.
  • Increase partnerships with developers, builders, realtors and architects to create beneficial relationships on all sides. We’ve worked very successfully with development companies selecting finishes for spec homes in the past and plan to ramp that up again. I’d eventually also like to flip properties as well (watch out Joanna and Chip).
  • Open a storefront in Wellesley. This town NEEDS it, and I have retail in my blood. I really want to do this, even though everyone advises against it, but even in a small capacity it would be such a dream. Until then, I want to grow our online shop into a great spot for unique finds and collaborations with artists and small businesses. Maybe we do a couple more pop up shop events to start?
  • Real Estate- given our renovation kicking off in March, I don’t have the capital to get started on this now, but my dream is to buy and renovate investment properties- one in the mountains, one at the beach, one in the city, one down south- creating blog content along the way, featuring my own products in these homes and offering people beautiful places to stay (and my own family to enjoy as well). I dream about this idea CONSTANTLY.

PERSONAL

I have a lot of work to do personally. To give myself some credit, I have done a lot of work this past year already (thanks to my amazing therapist). Most importantly, I need to lower my stress levels and stop beating myself up so much. Working out has been a huge help with that, but unfortunately my neck injury has been making it very hard to keep that going as I was earlier this year.  And that has been frustrating. But it’s also a lesson in not pushing myself SO hard all the time and taking a good thing and running it into the ground, as I tend to do.  Finding balance in rest and work, physically and mentally, is the goal here. Making sure I’m as physically healthy as I can be first, then making sure I take time to rest and recharge, and third HAVE MORE FUN.  I tend to want to always be productive and in control and I’m frankly, that is clearly not working. I want to have a LOT more fun in 2023- with friends, with family and especially my kids.

I am the kind of person who is always in my own head: assessing, overthinking, planning, ruminating…. I want to let go more. Let things be. Not worry so much about everything. This will be HARD, but it will be life changing if I can do it. I want to live in the moment, enjoy the beauty of everything around me and really be PRESENT. I am so often distracted by my phone, as we all are, and it’s a serious addiction I need to reel in. It’s easy to justify when social media is also your job, but there is a line I can draw. And some aspects I can delegate (see, there’s that word again! SO KEY!)

On everyone’s New Years goals/ resolutions list is organizing and purging of clutter. I firmly need to do this more. Our renovation will help give us an excuse (and dumpster) to kick this off and I hope to enlist a professional organizer once we’re done to set up a system for us that we will actually use to keep things in order. I am a big believer in your space and home affecting your mental state and happiness so I am quite serious about this one. I mean, you’ve seen my closet on IG- it’s basically a reflection of what my brain looks like- A MESS!

I think that’s enough for now- I find that if we make too many goals, it becomes overwhelming and then we attain none of them because we’re intimidated or it feels too daunting. But I want to close out this year with a huge thank you- to my family, my friends, my employees and partners, those who have lifted me up, taken me down a peg or two and most of all, have listened, cheered and made me feel loved. We may be best friends or perhaps have never met, but you all help me want to be the best version of myself I can.

Happy New Year, and have a wonderful and healthy holiday,

Erin

 

 

 

 

 

 

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