1Q 2018 Progress Report

Two weeks ago I sat down and wrote out a To-Do list for Neat and Keen. The following week I had off from my regular job and planned to accomplish it all. However, I always underestimate how long a task will take and how many other distractions will arise.

Custom Printer Catch

Fancy pants cardbaord paper catch taped to the wide format printer

The biggest accomplishment is that I finally used up all 1000 sheets of 13 x 19 inch 80# Lynx paper. I really like this paper. It’s become the standard for all my notebook prototypes. The remaining paper yielded enough for 10 more Vari-Dot notebooks and one lined notebook. The lines in this one notebook are dotted (not dashed) lines and similarly very light in pigment just like the Vari-Dot ruling.

The next step is to buy or build a punching cradle for the notebook signatures. Then I need a couple of custom made cardboard boxes to store folded leaves. I hope to have a marathon book making day and see how quickly I can fold and sew ten books. Gluing is a bottle neck right now because I only have so many clamps. The ultimate goal is to be able to hire someone either part-time or as an independent contractor to make book blocks for me, then I will complete the assembly with covers. It is going to be tricky to keep the cost of labor down enough to price these notebooks competitively against a Leuchtturm or Moleskine. The things my notebooks having going for them are thicker/better paper and handmade US production. I’d like to be able to retail them at $24.

Before I do all that a much simpler task is to ready the notebooks I have in stock for sale. It mostly requires spending a few hours in the studio getting the lighting right and taking a lot of pictures. I need to the do the same for quite a few one off silkscreen prints.

Handmade Notebooks

Ten of my prototype notebooks ready to go

Another development is that I may be adding some stationery and art supply items to an online store. It’s tempting to wait and unveil it at a time when I have the money to invest in a lot of inventory, but I feel the best course of action is to start small. I’ve already sourced multiple colors of paper and envelopes that I hope to bundle together in sets of different size. I very nearly made the purchase this past Thursday, but there was no need to rush it. As it turns out my supplier arranged to have some samples sent to me, so I’m glad I waited.

Other To-Do Items: Screen print some business cards for Neat & Keen, draw up some greeting card concepts, and finish cleaning up the studio

All The Rest

The end of March saw me finally joining a gym again. Although time is always something I never want to give up, I’m hoping that a consistent effort at the gym will result in me having more energy when I get home from a long day of work. Also I’ve maybe made a deal with myself that I can buy a motorcycle if I get into proper shape.

Sometime after June 30 I will receive a good amount of money from my former employer. The bulk of it will be used to pay some debt and invest in my retirement. I would also like to use some amount to invest into myself and thus the business. I have time to decide, but it’s scary to think about. It could be as little as $2000 to buy a new printer or as much as $15,000 to invest in inventory, a sophisticated eCommerce solution, a website redesign, and shipping supplies. I may be in need of an accountant.

This time last year I was on a vacation in Denton, TX visiting family. My cousin there does all his drawing on the phone. I’m kind of old fashioned and like the feel of pencil in a sketchbook, but I’ve been trying it out. The images looks much better on a small phone screen and I can’t zoom in to make additional details. It’s something nice to try in a pinch when I don’t have pen and paper on me. I might have to ask what app my cousin is using.

Jack and Coke phone illustration

Jack and Coke on an oak counter drawn with an LG Stylo 3

Tomorrow I return to my regular job and this week off has been a nice reminder of why it is so important to me to grow my business and be self-employed. It would get great if there were an entrepreneurial support group for small business owners. It’s difficult to keep going at this when I’m doing this all on my own and no one else cares if I succeed or not.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *