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THE GRACED PODCAST

This week Natalie starts off the New Year with a look back on 2017 and chats about what worked in her business and what could have gone better. She then looks ahead to 2018 and let's us in on what we can expect from graced in the year to come!!

Here's what went well....
1. As a team we worked really hard on growing our social media following and had great results
2. We started the Goodness Graced Podcast and the local radio show that is broadcast every Saturday morning on Manitowoc/Sheboygan radio station WOMT 1240.
3. We spent a good amount of time carefully curating our style and being very intentional about the products we chose to feature in graced. 
4. We spent time digging into some learning opportunities and being open to change.

What didn't go so well?
1. We didn't have a consistent plan for communication which left many people guessing as to when they would here from us next and losing engagement. 
2. We didn't complete the learning opportunities we signed up for and did not completely implement the strategies that were given to us for growth. 
3. We didn't have a clear marketing strategy and budget.

WHAT'S TO COME IN 2018?

We're setting goals quarterly and our first goal of 2018 is to open our second location in Sheboygan, Wisconsin!

Transcript

Hey there, friends. Welcome back to the Graced Podcast. I'm so excited to be back. Happy 2018. I did take some time off. The last- oh, gosh- probably maybe eight weeks? I hate saying that out loud, but you know, you have to when it's Christmas time and the holidays, and there's just so much going on. I think we're our own worst critics, and our own ... We're hard on ourselves, I should say. It was hard for me to take that time off. I didn't really plan to do it, and it just kind of happened, and have to do some self-forgiveness there, but it is a new year, fresh starts, and I'm back.
 Today, I wanted to kind of take some time to recap 2017, and talk about all the things that went well, all the things that didn't go so well, and then take some time to really dive into 2018 and tell everybody all of the really great things that we have in store for Graced.

WHAT WENT WELL IN 2017 

Diving right in, let's talk about what went well. There are so many things that went well, and just to go back a little bit in history, Graced opened in June of 2016, so 2017 was our first full calendar year, where we had a January to December. It was our first year to really get a lot of data as far as sales, and evaluate how things went, and it was our first big year of growth, where I felt like I could intentionally work on growth and not just be worrying about the day-to-day things, and just getting by. We had plans in place, schedules. We had just more of an intentional plan, I should say. That was something that really went well, and I'm excited about 2018, because I think that I'm even more organized and more intentional about the things that we need to do to make Graced a success, so yeah. That went well in 2017, having that full year.

1. SOCIAL MEDIA GROWTH
A couple of things that we really focused on were growing our social media following, and I have mixed feelings about the whole social media thing, because it is just a number, and certainly never want to attach value or importance to that number, but it is important in terms of how many people that you can reach, and having a strategy of how you're going to reach those people, because as a lot of us know who are entrepreneurs or have businesses, just because you have a business page on Facebook or Instagram doesn't mean that your followers are going to actually see what you post.

But we did a good job in growing our social media, and getting people more engaged, particularly on our Facebook page. One of the ways that I measure this, and of course it's totally anecdotal, but I've had a lot of people come into Graced and say, "Oh, I saw you on Facebook." Or, "I found you on Facebook." Or, "My friend tagged me in a post." Or something like that. I definitely felt like, "Wow. This is great. This is working." We definitely made some growth, some headway there in that area. I think we started ... I'd have to look back, but Instagram has been more of a slower growth, but for the year, we made just a ton of progress. I think we started the year with about 250 followers on Instagram, and are almost at 3,000, so nice, slow, steady growth, but definitely growth there. Same with Facebook. Had a lot of really good growth, and so that's been really positive, again, just in terms of reaching people.

2. THE PODCAST + RADIO SHOW
Another thing that went well in 2017 is obviously that we started the podcast, and along with the podcast, we actually started a radio show, and I'm not sure that a lot of people know about the radio show, but I do a local radio show. It's on WOMT, 1240 AM, and so it's like our local talk station. They do play some music, but they air the show every Saturday morning at about 9:40-ish. It's a five-minute show, and I actually prerecord the shows with a friend of ours, Terry, who works for WOMT, and we just talk about what would be going on that week in terms of what's going on with Graced, and then we also just have some topics that we discuss, and just short, five-minute topics, but it's been really, really fun, and it kind of goes hand-in-hand with the podcast, so a lot of the things that I talk about on the podcast, I also talk about on the radio show. That radio show reaches quite a few people, and it's broadcast in Manitowoc County, and as well as Sheboygan County. That is great for us, because as many of you know, we're also working on opening our second store in Sheboygan for 2018.

We started the radio show, we started the podcast, and that's been a ton of fun, and I think that it's reached a lot of people. We also started doing some local radio commercials, which I was really kind of hesitant at first to use radio. It took a little bit of selling to me, but actually, I started some radio commercials back in November or December, and again, I've had people come into the store who said, "Oh, I heard your radio commercial, and it made me think, 'Hey, I really should shop local this Christmas.'" And they came on in, and people who had never been in the store before. That's been really, really positive, so I'm really glad that we did that.

3. FINDING OUR STYLE
Another thing that went well in 2017 is, I really feel like I started to redefine what the aesthetic was for Graced, and redefine my style, and really decide on what makes Graced different, and what style I'd like to project for our brand, and what's the look moving forward. I feel like when we first opened, that wasn't really something I thought too much about. I didn't have a very defined look. I knew what products that I liked, and that's kind of how I purchased products and decided on things, but I didn't have a really cohesive idea for what I wanted in the store. As time went on, through 2017, I really felt like I discovered more of myself, and what I really wanted, and took the time to more carefully curate the items that would appear in the store.

As many of you know, we order a lot of our items from other small, local businesses or businesses across the US that are small businesses, and sometimes those businesses are really hard to find unless they reach out to me, which as we've grown our Instagram and Facebook following, I've had more businesses reach out to me, but they're hard to find, and it's hard to find the ones that really fit in great with our aesthetic and our brand. I really try to be true to that brand, and I think that's what makes Graced different, is that I don't just order anything. Everything is really carefully thought about, and, "Is this something that my target customer, our Graced customers, existing customers, is this something that they're going to like? Is this something that they're going to use? Is this something that's functional? Is this something that will make a great gift?" I kind of go through all those things in my head while I'm deciding. Then also, just the aesthetic part of it. "Is it a brand that looks like it fits well in Graced? Does it have a particular colors in the packaging?" And, "Does it just fit?" I guess is the overall thing that I'm looking for.

In doing this, I also, though, had to work on my gentle "no." This is something that I would say, it's not a positive thing, but is a positive thing in that if I do have a brand that reaches out to me, and they're just not quite right, I have to gently say, "No, thanks. Not right now." And that's been really hard for me, because I'm a total people pleaser, and I want to say yes, and I want to support small businesses, and I want to support other people's dreams. That's been kind of difficult for me, but it's been getting easier, and that's not to say that ... Please, if you're interested in bringing your product into Graced, please reach out to me, but I do have to say no sometimes, and so it's been a positive for me to work on that, and to know that for every no that I say, that's a yes that I'm saying to my business, and an opportunity that I'm opening myself up to.
 You can't do everything, and I think as an entrepreneur, it takes a while to learn that, and it takes a while to learn what your priorities are, and then be able to say, "No. That's not really fitting with our schedule right now." Or, "That's not really fitting with our goals right now." And be able to give that response in a way that's really kind, because I certainly strive to be really kind in my communications, and again, I hate dashing people's hopes. That's been something I've worked on, and I think it's been a positive thing for our business.

4. NEW LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
The other thing that went really well in 2017 is, I invested in a few opportunities for learning for myself. Sorry, if you guys can hear my dog in the background. He paces around the room sometimes, and he's a big dog, but yeah. I invested in some opportunities for myself, some learning opportunities, and also learning opportunities for my team, which were really positive. Two of those opportunities actually focused around Instagram and then also around list building for our email list. I do have to say that I bought these things, and I have a tendency to not finish training once I buy them. It's horrible. But I really made an effort to dive into the training and to do due diligence, and do my best.
 I wasn't perfect, and I certainly ... The nice thing is, I always have access to this training, so I will go back to it, but I guess my message here is that you have to make time in your business to improve yourself, because doing the same things aren't going to necessarily make your business a success. You have to be willing to change, and you have to be willing to be intentional, and you have to spend your time intentionally. It's important to learn new tactics, and if something's not working, be open to just pivot and change your direction. I did make that investment, and for 2018, I am going to definitely keep working on those learning opportunities, and trying to find other learning opportunities that will help support me and support the growth of Graced.

WHAT DIDN'T GO SO WELL IN 2017 

1. LACK OF CONSISTENCY IN COMMUNICATION

Those are just a couple of things that I identified that went really well in 2017. But of course, there's always things that you can improve upon, and some of those things for 2017 that I felt like ... Not that I failed at, but that I could have done better with, is consistency with communication. For 2018, I'm really trying to nail down a schedule that I can stay on to be consistent with things like blog posts, the podcast, for example, sending out emails, sending or doing Instagram posts and Facebook posts. When you do things really sporadically, people don't know what to expect from you, and I feel like you lose engagement from those people that are really interested. If you really like the podcast, which I hope you do, you know, those people that had been listening for the first I think 10 episodes I did, and then I took this break, I feel like not necessarily that I let them down, but that they're like, "Oh." Expecting a podcast, and then it's not there. It's really nice to have a schedule for things like the podcast, and again, with emails and things like that.
 
I did start a blog in 2017, in the beginning of 2017, and unfortunately, again, wasn't consistent with my posting, so again, one of the things I've learned is that you don't have to put out content every day. In fact, that's just crazymaking, if you think that you're going to be able to write a great article every single day on your blog. It just doesn't work, and you'll burn yourself out. But if you create a schedule, and you can stick to that schedule, so if you can just say, "Okay, I'm going to create content twice a week." Or even, "I'm going to just post a blog post once a week, and it's going to be posted every Wednesday." And then if you can do those blog posts in advance, and then schedule them out and get them posted, at least then you have the consistency, and your audience knows what to expect. People aren't going to keep coming back to your blog if they have the same thing to look at every time they come to the blog, and I'm so guilty of this, so even though I know what I should be doing, I'm not, and so for 2018, again, I really want to work on a consistent schedule for blogging, for podcasts, for emails, for social media. Yeah. That's one of my number one priorities.

2. FINISHING EDUCATION
Oh, number two was to dig deeper into the education that I invested in, because obviously it's a lot of money that you put towards this, and I want it to be an investment in my business, truly an investment. Truly an improvement. I truly want to say I completed these trainings and I implemented everything I learned, and I got results. That's the second thing that I want that didn't go well in 2017, that I want to do better.

3. NO CLEAR MARKETING STRATEGY
The other thing that I don't want to say didn't go well, but it was really a trial and error for 2017, is just overall marketing. When you're a new business, definitely within the first couple of months, you have everyone walking through your front door, introducing themselves to you, and telling you why their mode of communication or their business strategy or advertising is the best. That included newspaper ads, billboards, radio. If you can think of it, I've been approached. Actually, I was approached earlier ... Actually, was it in December? About doing an ad on the local parish newsletter. I mean, if you can think of it, dream it up, people will approach you about it, and so it's hard to decide, being a new business, what is going to be effective, and where to invest your money.

For 2017, I tried a ton of different things. Did several newspaper ads, did the radio ads, did billboards several times, and again, it's just kind of like trial and error, figuring out what works best for you, and what's the best investment of your dollar. For 2018, I wanted to be much more intentional about where our marketing dollars went. The other thing that I paid a lot of money towards in 2017 was Facebook posts and boosts, and Facebook ads. Again, trying to figure out, "Okay, what's a good set budget that I want to spend monthly on, say, Facebook advertising, or Instagram advertising?" And, "What's a good monthly budget that I want to just in general say, 'This is my marketing budget,' and stick to it?"

I think I just kind of was like, "Oh. I'll just try everything." And put a lot of money towards marketing, but didn't necessarily have a good way of measuring what the return on investment is, which for anything, like the radio station gives me data as to, "For this particular station, this is the type of person who was listening." That's helpful, so you can kind of nail down, "Oh, one station is better than another, because my target audience is listening to, say, the Top Pop type of radio station, rather than say the country or classic rock." I know that, so I can make good decisions that way, but you never really know who's listening and the impact it's making. A lot of times all I have to go by is, again, that anecdotal feedback that I get from customers. If you are a customer, and you're listening, and you have heard a commercial, or you have seen Facebook ads, or whatever it is, I love to get that feedback as to how you found us and what works for you. Like, where are you seeing us? Where are you hearing us? Because that really helps to make really good decisions, as far as our marketing budget.

WHAT'S IN STORE FOR 2018?

I just mentioned a couple of things that I'm going to be working on, but in thinking about goals for 2018, I really decided that I was going to break it down not into an annual goal, or annual goals, but more into quarterly goals, because I realized that your business changes so fast, and what's a priority today in January may not necessarily be a priority for me in June, because things might change. To be successful, I think that you really need to be willing to change and to change quickly, so I've kind of tried to break it down and just say, "Okay, for the first three months of 2018, what am I going to be working on, and what are my big goals?" And I announced to everybody a couple of weeks ago that our really big, exciting news for 2018 is we're going to open a store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which is about 30 minutes south of our Manitowoc location.

The opening of the Sheboygan store came as a complete surprise to me, even, but a very, very exciting surprise, and it was just one of those things that you can't really plan. I had been thinking about opening a second store. It's funny, because I remember when we first opened the idea of having a second store. It just seemed like such a far away dream, and I didn't even know if that could ever happen. Then I kind of ... It's one of those things where you speak it out into the world, and then something happens. I let a friend of mine know that I was interested in looking for properties in Sheboygan, particularly on Eighth Street, which is their downtown area, and that I was probably going to be looking at maybe some properties in the spring, summertime, and just kind of see what comes up. Because location was so important to me, I was not really optimistic about finding the perfect spot, that it may take some time. I just kind of told a friend about that, who spends some of his time down in Sheboygan.

Then I got a tip that there was going to be a space opening up. There was a business leaving, and that it was a beautiful space. It was a great space, and that it would be a perfect space for Graced. I got the information, immediately checked it out, contacted the landlord, and everything just kind of fell into place. Very, very exciting, and I can't wait. Needless to say, for the first three months of 2018, I have a very big goal set, and that goal is to get Graced Sheboygan off the ground and running, so I've been busy hiring staff already, and I've been ordering and just kind of thinking about what it's going to look like on the inside, the aesthetic, and one of the things that people have been asking me is, "Is it going to be the same in terms of the products that you carry in Manitowoc?" And, yes. It's for the most part going to be the same product, and it could vary from time to time, that we may have some product in Sheboygan that we don't have in Manitowoc and vice-versa, but overall it's going to be the same aesthetic feel and products, but I want each store to have its own personality, and it'll be different. I'm hoping that our Manitowoc friends will want to drive down and check it out, as well our Sheboygan friends as they come up to Manitowoc, to that store.

Really excited about that. That is kind of my big goal right now for 2018, and beyond that, I'm kind of keeping an open mind as to what will happen next. I don't have really any goals set for second, third, or fourth quarter. Just kind of going to see what happens, and take the ride, and just do my best, and hope that people come out and support Graced, and yeah, and that we just continue to grow. As an entrepreneur, I feel like it's just great to keep an open mind, and be ready to, again, change, and just be willing to do different things, try different things, and to see what works and what doesn't work, and kind of go from there.

With that said, I will definitely be keeping everybody updated on the progress of the Sheboygan store. Right now I do have a tentative opening date of Friday, March 2, so first week of March, but I think we can do it. I think we've got a lot of the groundwork laid. I think it's possible to get it done, and I can't wait to share it with everybody, so I hope that, again, if you are a Manitowoc person and you are just in this area, and you've supported Graced up north, that you will be coming down to check out Graced Sheboygan, and yeah. For the rest of the year, we'll just see what happened, and I will keep you guys updated as to everything new that's going on with Graced. 

Just a reminder that I should say. I can't believe I forgot this. In 2017, we launched the Graced Box. The Graced Box has been a great project, and we've enjoyed it, and I think a lot of people have really enjoyed it, so we're definitely continuing the Graced Box into 2018, and right now, we're taking orders through about January 20th for the Graced Box, for the March box, so if you want a box, jump online to ShopGracedHome.com. That's ShopGracedHome.com, and order your box. Pre-order your box, and those will be shipping out that first week of March as well. I know. It's kind of crazy. The first week of March I'm going to open a store and ship the Graced Boxes, but I think we can do it if me and the staff pull together. Yeah. Order your box, and then you can also order a one-year subscription, which means you get the next four boxes, and that's a great way to go, because if you do that, your shipping is free, and it's a lower price. It's $129.95 if you order all four boxes for 2018. Kind of exciting, and I'm putting together that box and getting in contact with all the vendors for March this week, and getting everything set up so that when it's time to pack the boxes, we've got everything ready.

Again, thank you to everybody who listens to the podcast, and who supports Graced. I can't tell you enough how much it means to me, and our customers are what makes Graced happen, and we couldn't do it without you, so thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderful 2017, and I am just so excited for 2018 and everything that is possible, and just all the amazing things that I know are going to happen. 
 
One more thing. I did a Facebook post this morning, but I want to do a question and answer podcast, so if there's any questions that you are interested in or you'd love for me to answer, you can go on over to our Facebook page and leave me a comment on that post, and I will look through all of those questions, and next week's podcast, I'm going to go through and I'm going to answer those questions. If you leave a question, there's a chance to win a $20 gift card to Graced, too, so a little incentive there to leave me a question.

Thank you so much, again, for listening to the podcast this week. I will be back next week with our Q&A, and I hope you guys have an awesome 2018 and just a great week. 

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