This blog post is really aimed at the people out there trying to start their own business one way or another but even if you're not you may find some parts of it mildly interesting. 

Today I want to talk about success. 

My friend Snarky in the Suburbs has been talking about some cultural things we do to ourselves that are pretty much pushing our blood pressure over the top.

I call it "more" culture. A popular, very popular, blogger wrote an entire book and got a series picked up around the word more. 

Watching it made my stomach hurt. 

Today Snarky wrote about Boss Babes. The word Bossy. And how it applies to girls. 

Her daughter was called bossy. Her son with the same attributes was called "commanding."


I've never wanted to be a boss babe because to me that's wearing a shirt two sizes too small with some glittery, scripty font involved. All the things I'm not: glitter, babe, two sizes too small, scripty.

Who am I?

I know some people who are boss babes -- and believe me, not my people. People who have looks and money and could win on HGTV... it's all too shiny to someone like me who started out on my own $300. Especially the fake "faithful". I've heard some behind the scenes stuff that I don't talk about because, honestly, I want to forget how people were made to feel all while operating under a hashtag blessed sign. 

So I've been thinking about being bossy … the boss... and success.

Success was surviving this year. For me, that's going to have to be enough.

I've been weepy the past week or so as I deal with some emotions and PTSD around the anniversary of my mom's accident and my responsibilities as her daughter. I wake up in panic attacks reliving the phone calls telling us she was dying. Thank God my partner is here with me. I'm sure a lot of you deal with similar grief. My mom lived but each time she gets sick, the fear grips me. 

I went straight from a record-setting, crushing year in 2018 to … trying to save my mom from dying. Watching other daughters and sons trying to save their moms, husbands, daughters in the ICU. Some of them went home without their person. We saved my mom through her own sheer will and ours. I leaned so heavily on my tribe that I thought they might leave me. You know when you are asking so much of people and have nothing to give in return. 

Four months of hospitals and rehab... Then my son graduated from HS, I went from his graduation to moving my daughter to LA for the summer, to a band trip to Paris we had already paid for, to a show in Omaha (JUNKSTOCK... lifesaver) and a great project with Motor Trend. In the middle of that my brother in law moved part of our backend operation to Washington from Lawrence Kansas. It seemed like it would work. But it's been really challenging. And then Bella Patina had a water leak and I lost around $1,700 worth of coasters.

There's nothing to do when you're down except get back up.

I don't recall anything about July and August except that we went to summer swing (fly fishing in Colorado) and I began to design the KC vibe pints and whiskey sets. I ordered all the snarky pints. I did meet the maker at Hallmark in Crown Center where they welcomed all the players for the Gay World Series. I worked on wedding coasters and made the Rapinoe shirt for myself. I remember that in August we began our house project. Went to LA to retrieve my daughter and move her home. Moved both kids to college. Cried for four days and then went to work deep cleaning their bathroom.

Then the pounding began. Random contractor guys showing up to pound and deconstruct and sort of work and ruin a lot of things. August to almost November was our exterior house project. Managing my business and this project... maybe too much of the "more" stuff. 

In October, we kicked off our season with two shows in two different locations. Sounded like a good idea when I was bored in July. It wasn't. They were both fails for different reasons. By then I'd already signed up for so many shows and events that, true story, I actually FORGOT TO SHOW UP FOR A SHOW. 

OMG, I was shocked when I got the day after email asking for a review of the show and I was thought "did that already happen?" and quickly wrote a note apologizing for my no show. I had put it in my calendar on the wrong date. 

This was a sign. I had done too much "more." But the A train was rolling and there was no stopping it. 

Going to Des Moines probably saved my soul more than anything this year. New people to introduce to the snark. New friends made. At least three ladies laughed so hard they were nearly rolling in the aisles. I meet the cherry lady there. The mother-daughter team doing clothing who were hilarious and helpful. A badass maker from the north … a soul sister. 

And, that's where I also met Kamala Harris. Say what you will. Scroll. Whatever. I was in need of a message that she delivered about justice and I haven't forgotten it. She brought on a stage full of amazing women who are fighting things even when they are getting beat up...As things get started in DC this week I can tell you there are at least a few people on capitol hill who have their "hanukkah shit" and "Christmas shit" mugs... she is one of them.

Then we randomly launched booze trees. That's a blog in itself. 

At the same time, we loaded into Holiday Boutique with it's record-setting crowds. Trying to balance local shows at the same time. With a season that went from there to Holiday Swing, to freakishly amazing Black Friday website sales, to Flea in Texas to OMG Abby Wambach just posted my tee. 

Straight weeks of nothing but working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Loving every minute of the challenge except for maybe porch pickup. Laughing at your notes and ideas about who you were sending things too. Getting orders from basically all 50 states in the US for a pink-haired shirt. Not throwing my broken printer out in the backyard and kicking it to the neighbor's.

Then just like that... it all ends. The show is over. Closing time.

You're like "rest, enjoy, recover". My doctor is like "slow the hell down or stroke out." 

So here I am in January. Doing paperwork to pay taxes. Nothing more sucky. Going to the dr for long delayed meds. Trying to define success.

Was this year a success? By most measures the answer is of course yes. As I get the rest I so hate to take and my body recovers, I am able to see all the ways this job saved me from the depressing parts of my year. I'm not sure those house contractors would have lived had I not been busy fighting my own fires. 

I got another year with my mom. Moments that are precious. I am able to tell her in person how much I appreciate and love her. 

I got to contribute a tiny bit toward putting my daughter through college -- her graduation, finals and move out all happening after our show in Texas and during our processing the Wambach/shirt viral sales.

I am also able, now, to see that certain parts of the business that brought it to this point are going away. And have to be patient to see how new parts of business will grow in its place. That might be the hardest part of this job. 

So let me tell you how I am measuring success.

I met Laura the minister in Wichita.

I met the gals at KLanes in Wichita.

I got to see my friends who make furniture in Omaha twice.

I got a hug from Kamala Harris. 

I kept my mother alive.

I graduated both of my kids. 

I found new joy in spending time with my spouse as people, not parents.

I met these people in Texas who are down there telling stores to get my stuff in now.

I had a shirt I made go viral. I had reece witherspoon and Rachel from Friends like a post. And Glennon Doyle who I have followed from afar actually have my coasters in her house as well as having her girlfriend wear my shirt. 39,000 ppl.

I had a casual FB friend end up pushing my business hard and getting thousands of people to my website on a day I couldn't. Who does that?

I had random run ins with fantastic people. I had days of doubt. I made lots of funny shit that sold. I made some shit that didn't.

What is success? It is surviving this year. 

What will success be next year? I have no idea. But I want more Lauras and more badasses. I want more time with people being authentic. I want to travel with my wife and laugh with my kids. I have some things I planned out for this year when all the sparks were flying in my brain but whether I will do them or not remains to be seen. 

Owning your own business is not for some people. Owning a business that sells products that you make in the USA … holy shitballs. That is nearly impossible and still make money. It's math.

But we made it. I'm alive. My kids are well. My wife is well. My house is safe. My friends are still with me. And, I've made a few new friends along the way. So I'm giving myself the success checkmark for 2019. I made my "fails" list and own those. But there are far more wins this year and some special moments. 

My phrase for next year is "dial it back." Opposite of the Shark Tank philosophy but right now I'm thinking less more, less boss and zero babe as usual. 

January 15, 2020 by Annie Stowe


Sandi Ludwig

Sandi Ludwig said:

I introduced myself to you at Holiday Boutique. I am a long time customer and someone that worked for a small family owned business that had to close last year. I will always support you and if you ever need a volunteer, I’m your gal! Cheers to a wonderful 2020 for you and your family!

Sandi Ludwig

Sandi Ludwig said:

I introduced myself to you at Holiday Boutique. I am a long time customer and someone that worked for a small family owned business that had to close last year. I will always support you and if you ever need a volunteer, I’m your gal! Cheers to a wonderful 2020 for you and your family!


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