There are lots of success stories out there about companies that grow fast and are making millions within a couple of years of conception. There are even more stories about the meteoric rise of twentysomethings who build start-ups in college and are on magazine covers before they graduate. I listen to podcasts about these people and find them endlessly inspiring. My story is nothing like theirs.
Here is a very different story about the slow burn growth of a tiny business that is still tiny. Run by a middle aged woman who has been moving the needle incrementally, working irregular hours while taking care of a growing family. Not as exciting, but more common than you might think. I’m representing those of us who are not overnight successes: people who start businesses in strange, tight circumstances. People who are perennially on a steep learning curve, but still get up every morning and squeeze in as much work as possible in between other responsibilities. We still make money, show growth and have our hurrahs, just at a slower rate and on a smaller scale. Want to know more? Here is a peek into the major moments in the history of my business:
2005 – 9 Adjusting To Life Across The Pond
I moved to the USA from England, with a new husband, a degree in textile design, and zero contacts in my field. It was terrifying, so I did another terrifying thing and became a middle school art teacher (which I loved). Then I became a parent (also terrifying at first). No plans to start a company yet. But teaching and parenting laid the foundation for my choice to focus on kid centered design and activities.
2011 – My First Proto-Summer Camp
Pre Noctiluna, I ran a summer camp at my house with a former colleague and it was ah-mazing. I loved writing my own curriculum and being my own boss. This got me thinking about starting my own art-education business.
2012 – Noctiluna Was Founded
It was a strange time to go solo, I had two small children, one still in diapers. I desperately wanted to get back into textile printmaking but I didn’t have the set up, time, or space required, so I painted designs directly onto screens, printed in short bursts of time on my dining table, washed screens in my kitchen sink, and dried products on the living room sofa. Messy times – I think I spent more time cleaning up than actually making things. My first market was at a local Memorial Day carnival, where my booth was next to a window company and my products were mostly bought by sympathetic friends.
2013 – The First Noctiluna Summer Camp
Monumental. That is the main way to describe this raucous event that took place in my house. My house has never recovered, but the same kids came back the next year bringing their friends along.
2015 – Noctiluna Goes Full Time-ish
With both kids finally in full time school, this is the first year that I could work for more than four hours continuously. This is also the year that the Noctiluna Camp moved out of my home and into a legit venue. I felt like I was finally a professional adult. Also, not having the camp at home freed up some space for larger passion projects, I went back to painting on canvases, a practice that I have continued to date.
2018 – The First Time Noctiluna Products Get Into A Shop
A huge relief for me. I prefer making to selling and am so happy to let someone else do that for me. The first shops to stock Noctiluna products were Gift and Gather and Analog, followed shortly by Steadfast Supply and then Shop Made in VA. Of course, this coincided with a growth in production. The house was overtaken by my activity until…
2019 -The Studio Is Built
This was a game changer. Having my own dedicated workspace made 2019 super productive. I started collaborating with fellow makers Scout & Indiana and Bennebokids, worked on a series of paintings, and did an Arts Fairfax residency at Glasgow Middle School. Little did I know what was just around the corner…
2020 – The Creation Of CHEMlab and PrintUP!
Production stopped in 2020 and I felt lost for most of the first half of the year. However, this was the year that I came up with the idea for PrintUP! a textile print upcycling clinic. Also, Emily from Scout & Indiana and I were collaborating so much that we started our own joint label – CHEMlab. This was also the year that I really got into learning about branding and had a rebrand resulting in the logo and website design that you see today.
2021-22 – Upcycling Clinics And Classes start
The past couple of years I have been thinking increasingly about sustainability and how to contribute to my community positively through Noctiluna. I have been running textile upcycling clinics and classes, and taking part in local community events. I see myself doing more of this in the future.
Still taking part in local markets, still stocking local gift shops. I hope to partner with some new businesses next year, and continue taking part in community events (my local library is at the top of my list). With my eldest kid heading off to college soon, I should have time to get to know my sewing machine better. I have a secret project brewing, but it is still secret, so hang around for some exciting news soon.
I leave you with a picture of myself with my favorite market helper/camp counselor/ design critic, who I will miss terribly when she is at college. 2024 will be bittersweet.