Sunday, May 30, 2010

:: or not to outsource. that is the answer. (with apologies to shakespeare for bastardizing hamlet.) ::

( this is a quick snapshot taken in my unevenly lit attic stairwell and not edited in photoshop. look at that freaking amazing color. and the saturation! i can't. stop. looking. )

i’m only a small business. a small business run by a small girl living in a small city. but despite this (or actually, probably because of it), i’ve often been told that eventually, i’ll have to outsource all of my production.

when target comes knocking, begging me to stock their aisles with all my up up creative goodness, it’s not like i’m going to be able to make all the millions and millions of items they’re going to want to buy from me.

so the story goes.

of course there’s no reason that when target comes a’knockin’, i can’t just become my own production company. no reason i can’t buy more equipment and hire more people.

and the thing is, i actually really love that idea.

growing up there was a company with world headquarters down the road from where i lived – terry bicycles, which if you ride you’ve surely heard of – and i have always always just loved that their entire terry world existed right there in macedon, ny (even their catalogs used local models, mostly terry corporate employees, actually).

and then they went and got bought. by a company in vermont if i recall. and i was supremely sad, not really for political reasons or anything, but for emotional ones. i liked knowing that i lived near terry, and whenever i saw terry seats on people’s bikes or whenever i saw terry clothing in bike shops around the country, i felt something akin to pride.

so there’s that. i like to think of some girl living down the street growing up so proud to live near up up creative’s world headquarters, the place where it all happens.

plus there’s the fact that i started this whole business because i wanted to make things. with my hands.

so as i’ve been grappling with all kinds of questions about the direction my little company will take, the outsourcing question has been one of the biggest and toughest for me, a leggy question with so many elements to it:

  • issues of quality (would outsourced products be of higher or lower quality?)
  • issues of time (time saved not printing versus time spent going to the printer’s offices, etc.)
  • compatibility of outsourced printing with my current creative process (test prints are crucial to my process, and colors matter – how can i get the same kind of immediate feedback if my home printer isn’t also the end-product printer?)
  • issues of cost (outsourcing my printing, to be cost effective, requires large orders, which means more initial cash layout and more inventory sitting here at my house; upgrading my home equipment brings with it increased costs in machines, ink, and paper)
in the end it sort of came down to my gut instinct: i want. to make. my own stuff. for as long as i can. i want to have my hands on the paper. i want to learn the ins and outs of my printers. in the last two years i’ve learned so much about making my own stationery, printing my own goods. i love it that i’ve learned how to make such vivid prints from my $200 inkjet. and i don’t want to turn that over.

so i bought a fancy new printer. and it rocks. i kind of want to make out with it i love it so much. and it opens up so many new opportunities for me. the print quality is amazing and i can print on so many new formats (poster sized paper, canvas, cotton rag…).

i have this new little fantasy now in which i become a little home print shop for other indie designers who do want to outsource their printing to someone who is 100% committed to minimizing waste, maximizing quality, and using the best eco-friendly materials.

not at the expense of doing my own creative work, of course. but maybe right alongside?


Jackie D. June 1, 2010 at 2:48 PM  

Hi - I was wondering what kind of printer you bought? I am in the market for one and I just cannot decide what I want/should buy :)


deanna June 2, 2010 at 5:13 PM  

What a great post Julie. Thank you for your thoughts.

I just wanted to let you know that I knew a woman who set up an entire embroidery shop in her small backroom. She could do small to large quantity orders all the same. She had employees and everything. It was very impressive.

I too am curious what kind of printer you bought.

LLH Designs June 4, 2010 at 12:31 AM  

I'm right there with you...or right here in Houston doing the same thing. Have been for 6 1/2 years. All with my own two hands (except Christmas when I hire teenagers or friends to fold cards and count envelopes and package). I have four printers, and they have names (Grace is my oldest). :) We should talk shop someday. You our spare time! Have fun...Linsey

LLH Designs June 4, 2010 at 12:34 AM  

And BTW, I's so super anal about colors (especially when matching font colors to the photo) that I can't IMAGINE not knowing EXACTLY how my color tweaks are going to turn out!

Rachel D. June 25, 2010 at 3:24 PM  

Great post. I'm also curious about the printer you found, as I'm in the market for a new printer as well. I've pored over all sorts of reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, but there are so many options. Would love to know what works best for you!

Erin June 26, 2010 at 8:28 PM  

Good for you! So much better to make it yourself! I have to say, I'm with the others, and dying to know which fancy printer you bought. I, too, have been pouring over reviews, trying to figure out which one to invest in. Please do share!

julie green June 27, 2010 at 9:39 AM  

i get so many questions about the printer... it's a canon lab-quality professional photo printer. love love love it so far. pricey but worth it.

Anna Bartlett June 27, 2010 at 7:25 PM  

Hear hear! I am the QUEEN of getting too big (in my head) too quickly and I so often spend (waste) stacks of money buying materials to manage big numbers of things without testing or without realising I'm going to get bored with this item very quickly. I am now planning to DOWNSIZE, keep things small and let my business grow organically. I love it that you're keeping control and investing in your business like someone who really 'owns' their work should. Well done.

jennifer September 13, 2010 at 1:39 PM  

I just found your blog through a post that was on Ruffled and I just want to say Hooray! I love the stuff you make and I think that it is super commendable that you heart your stuff so much that YOU want to keep making your own stuff! ;) One day, when the boyfriend finally decides to pop the question, I totally have your site saved for invitations-for my fake wedding that I'm planning on my head... *swwooon* lol...