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2018 In Review: On Failure, Focus & Moving Forward

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When Creative Tribe began in the summer of 2015, I wanted to meet a few likeminded people and make things with my hands more often. It turns out, there were (and are) a lot of other people looking for that same outlet! And so, here we are, entering a new year with a lot of new things happening within this business and the creative community at-large.

You (our guests, our friends, our fellow creatives) are a huge influence. Your feedback and engagement have shaped this community into what it is. So, I want to bring you in on what happened for us behind-the-scenes in 2018, and what’s to come in 2019. I was inspired by some other businesses (like ban.do and Tremaine Ranch) to get vulnerable and talk about things that often aren’t easy to share, like failure and refocusing.

I think it’s safe to say that 2018 was quite a year for all of us. And the same was definitely true for Creative Tribe! It seemed like every other month we were pivoting and trying new things to make this a sustainable, long-term venture. It felt tumultuous, discouraging, and just plain hard. But, like most hard things, it was also filled with incredible moments, and I want to share all of the above.

So, here goes!

 

FEBRUARY

 

Early in the year, our team grew! Many of the lessons that 2018 brought related to hiring and building a team. This year brought Creative Tribe genuine, hardworking, talented people. As a small business owner, possibly the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is that sometimes the right person is in the wrong role. And the hardest thing I’ve had to do is make long-term decisions for that person’s happiness and success, as well as the business’s.

Over the year, our team got smaller. And then grew a little again. Annnd, got smaller. 2019 is already poised to bring some more stability, and I. Can’t. Wait.

 

APRIL

After coming up with the concept in February, we put on our biggest event ever, titled Indigo Days. We had big goals and hopes for it, and with help from our community, were able to put together a three-day “market-meets-workshops” event. The team that put it together – Naima, Hilari, Gabby and our crew of UA interns – really dove in headfirst with me and poured into this event.

Financially, it was not successful for us.

It was painful and jarring to feel that failure.

 

When weighed down by exhaustion and defeat, it was hard to look at other “metrics”, like the reactions from people that attended. But when we did, we heard an outpouring of enthusiasm for the local artists, knowledge shared generously shared by the panelists, and inspiration from the installs and workshops. Reframing our focus helped us shift our mindset and look at what felt like a total failure in a new light.

Not gonna lie – it still hurts a little to think about. And while we aren’t planning to put it on again, in the end I’m proud that we challenged ourselves and made it happen.

 

JUNE

 

In June we launched our Facebook group, after months of brainstorming how to bring some of the connection we see in person to an online space. Admittedly, managing it fell the wayside as the size of our team fluctuated and other priorities came up. We’re hoping to spend more time making it an engaging space for you in 2019!

 

JULY

In the summer and into Fall, were able to dedicate some time and resources to our blog. which was definitely a highlight! We loved working with contributors like Alyssa, Emily and Mo to create content for you all and hope to do more of that this year.

If you’re into business/startup details, this is also the month we started using the operating system EOS (a la the book Traction) to manage our meetings and goals. So far, it’s been a productive change for us! Definitely worth checking out if you’re also running a company or organization.

 

AUGUST

 

Because preparing to move out of a 2,000 square foot space wasn’t enough, in August we started working on hosting private workshops for groups. Why not, right? The truth is, it’s something I’d been thinking about for a long time, but I just didn’t have the bandwidth. And, I felt immense pressure to design them with the same value as our community workshops. I wasn’t sure that an event with zero strangers would have the same spark, or if the same bonding magic would apply between people that have an existing relationship.

Still, it felt like the right time to just start. It turns out, I hadn’t been giving creativity enough credit (and had  been giving myself too much). After hosting a few group events, we realized that the simple act of making something together is enough.

Creativity connects us to ourselves, and in turn, brings us closer to others.

 

It’s what Susana and I saw at the first few workshops, and what I had forgotten in the throes of running a business. It was…so, so refreshing to take a dose of humility and remember to let creativity do its thing.

 

SEPTEMBER

 

As our lease ended, we left out of our space downtown after two years. In that time, we learned that operating a venue doesn’t serve our purpose – it simply isn’t the right fit for what we want to do, and how we want to do it. Keeping it running to cover costs used up time and energy that could have been better spent on event quality and community building.

Are you sensing a theme? 2018’s word of the year was, without a doubt, learning.

 

It was quite the adventure and provided a beautiful setting, and we are lucky to have hosted some of our favorite events there!

 

OCTOBER

photo by Nieves Montano

In mid-October, we opened a shop at La Encantada with about six weeks notice. There were many, many caffeine runs to AJ’s. And two-a-days to The Home Depot. I asked a lot of Hilari and Codi, and they more than rose to the occasion. Our interns Victoria and Anita were also super flexible and were invaluable. */shoutout*

The last three months of the year were expensive (so expensive), risky, and tiring for us. And our loved ones. Jumping into retail for the first time meant disrupting a lot of routines, plans and pre-established goals. But we were also able to – you guessed it! – learn a lot very, very quickly.

In October, we also got to put on another pop-up event in Washington, DC! Expanding to new cities is on hold while we get things hammered out here in Tucson, but we love doing the pop-ups and can’t wait to get back to it.

 

DECEMBER

In December we hosted the Holiday Hubbub with Lexy of PROPER, and it was such a highlight to end the year on. We had a great time putting together the festive activities, and seeing everyone come into the shop to get crafty and spread some joy!

Towards the end of the year, we started the process of rebranding, specifically changing our name. Those details will come soon and deserve their own time and explanation. For now, know that it’s a positive step forward! We’re very excited to introduce you all to what’s coming.

At the very end of the month, we found out we’d able to extend our stay at La Encantada through March! The whirlwind continues!

 

2019

 

The biggest takeaway of 2018 was a game-changer:

having a shop is how we want to move forward!

 

What stood out to us the most about having this retail-meets-crafting space is that it enables us to open our doors – quite literally! – and be more accessible.

Making it to one of the workshops each month just isn’t an option for everyone, which is 100% understandable. Now, there are more ways to get involved, like more frequent free events, and soon, drop-in crafting!

Hands-on programming will still be at the core of the space (versus traditional retail) but we are able to give a small platform to local creatives and introduce small businesses from other parts of the country. Win, win, win!

This year we’ll continue to use our “pop-up” La Encantada space to refine our shop model and build a sustainable, successful business.

Finances are, of course, part of that – being able to staff an incredible team, continue to hire local artists and carry goods from small businesses all depend on making money. But success also means making decisions that reflect our values and purpose: to cultivate connection through creativity. To build relationships. To foster inspiration, art, and fun.

Our goal is to find a permanent location here in town that we can move into and develop a flagship shop for everything we do.

A quick note on social media:

 

It’s something that I think we’ve all been giving more intentional consideration to lately. Balancing showing up online and being present in person has always been a challenge — especially because social platforms are our biggest traffic driver. We also just love what social can do, in terms of engaging and getting feedback and connecting us with new people.

That being said, this year I’m aiming to spend less energy worrying about how we appear online, and put that extra time and thought into how we’re showing up in real life.

I would never attempt to say for certain exactly what the new year will bring. That’s part of the fun, right? I will say that you can expect:

higher quality events and new topics,

more ways to get involved and connect with friends (new and old!),

and some really great product from really great people.

Thanks for reading, and *always*, thanks for being part of this journey. We’re so grateful for you.

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