How I accidentally became a full-time cross stitcher

How I accidentally became a full-time cross stitcher

I want to share with you a little story about how I accidentally became a full time cross stitcher.

Some of you may know that Spruce started as an Etsy store, way back while I was studying at USYD to be a Speech Pathologist.

I actually got my very first sale ($34! Woo!) as I was walking out my front door to go to my graduation.

For the first five years, Spruce was purely a side gig while I began a speech career, moved back to Melbourne and had a baby.
We moved house five times in five years (I still ask myself why we did that!), and each time I would pack up my ever-expanding cupboard of cross stitch supplies and set them all up again in their new spot - usually crammed into a spare corner of the lounge room.
We started doing the market scene, and slowly refined our market stall over time. We would pack up the Mitsubishi Mirage with the stall, kits and now, baby, and drive for hours interstate to set up our stall in the freezing, inhospitable hours of the morning.
Some markets were amazing, some markets were great but we'd spend all our profit on food from our fellow stallholders (worth it) and there were some markets where we didn't even make the cost of the stall back. Market life.

In Oct 2019, my work contract was up and I had absolutely zero desire to renew it. I wanted to go all in on this little business and just SEE where I could take it if I were able to dedicate more time to its growth.

I’m fortunate that my husband, Sean, has a secure government job so we were able to stick our necks out a little financially (plus, of course, this was 13 mortgage rate rises ago - absolute heaven!)

The first Christmas sales season of working in Spruce full-time was really successful, since I was now able to really put some muscle into creating, making, promoting and packing orders.
I started educating myself on the world of e-commerce, learning about SEO, ads, conversion rates, marketing, product photography (still haven't nailed that one). Can someone tell me why each of those things feels like a full time job in itself!?
This little-business-that-could was slowwwwly starting to look like, just maybe, I could cross stitch for a living. Surely unthinkable!
And then, suddenly, it was March 2020. And as we all know, all hell broke loose.
I live in Melbourne, home to some of the strictest lockdowns in the world and it seemed to me that people were in one of only two categories; they were incredibly busy, or they had absolutely nothing to do. 
I was suddenly thrust into category A, from the HUGE influx of orders from all the people in category B. Suddenly everyone was looking for activities that they could do at home. And cross stitch fit the bill perfectly.
I had so, soooo many orders. SO MANY.
I don't know HOW people found my tiny unknown website, but I was sold out INSTANTLY (Ok, time to cool it with the yelling, Elise). Every time I managed to surface for air and add more stock, it sold out in the same night.
We were working out of our spare room, and had supplies, stock and orders piled up in the hallway, entryway and any nook and cranny I could find.
Often I would work late into the night, sitting on the floor, because the desk was so cluttered that it was unusable.
I put Sean on customer service duty, because I had anxiety looking at our email inbox, as the world learned to navigate the long postage times. Fun fact: we once had a parcel go missing in March 2020, and it showed up again in March 2021! The things that envelope must have seen...
We struggled to get supplies because overseas manufacturing had shut down (at one point I bought $10,000 worth of bamboo hoops just to ensure my order was big enough to be included in one of the very few flights leaving China). DMC, who make the cotton we use in our kits, couldn't produce the million skeins of cotton they make everyday, so there were major backlog issues. 
That sudden and unexpected extreme growth was both a blessing and a curse. At the time it was incredibly stressful, but it was also a masterclass in how to run an actual, real-life business.
We rented office space, rented bigger office space, and finally moved the office back (to a new) home.
I hired people for the first time ever, and swiftly realised that, hey, there are people who can pack orders WAY better than me! (Shout out to Nina and Bec who kept the whole show running).
Add in a three-year old who was climbing the boxes of stock, a couple more pregnancies (3 boys now!) and the additional of a second business, when I bought our fabric supplier Sew It All Australia when I was eight months pregnant (great opportunity but not-so-great timing).
From all this chaos, I had one huge realisation.
And that is, I don't want a huge business. I have no desire to take over Spotlight or become a cross stitching Jeff Bezos (although that man could do with a decent hobby).
I just want to make cross stitch, share it with you fine people and introduce some newbies to our craft along the way.
That's my mission.