2008 Wrap-up and Review05 Jan 2009, by Uncategorized in
I think that years from now when we look back, 2008 will clearly be the big transition year for TEN. When we started the year we had had a good 2007 but did not have the capacity to grow much faster. Sarah and I had lost our house and were almost out of savings, and had yet to take a salary, so TEN was understaffed, and underfunded. We were spending a lot of time on day to day chores like shipping and thus did not have enough time to dedicated to growth and planning. At least in the near term, and hopefully for good, those lean times may be behind us.
On a personal note 2008 started with me breaking my leg and having to go through a few surgeries and rehab. This really slowed down my ability to travel for work and helped put us behind where we wanted to be in helping our partners develop. (we had no health insurance for the last few years, but thankfully we qualified for MA health only weeks before I broke my leg – had we not qualified that one slip on the ice would probably have sunk us)
Despite the really lean resources and risk of not having enough cash to last the year, we nonetheless plowed ahead with creating the Destiny program which went from opportunity to realization in only a few short months. Sarah and I are big believers in taking smart risks, and the Destiny program was a core part of our long term vision so we were willing to take the risk we could not support it long term.
By early summer we were getting scarred. We had a new program to grow, and had ordered a lot of products for the upcoming fall season (thus keeping up the work for the survivors) but were seeing the slowdown in the economy and were not sure the cash would be there to keep our growth pace up. To be honest, one of us was going to have to go get a paying job soon to pay the rent. But fortunately, we got a grant from Humanity United, and another private funder got behind the Destiny program, and all of a sudden we had a large part (not all) of the resources we needed to get growing again.
Even better, the folks at HU had really helped us focus our efforts and plan better where to allocate our resources. They are also supporting us with an exciting research project we are doing with a team from Harvard – more on that in later posts. We went from being kind of alone and bootstrapping, to having resources and advice and support. All of a sudden we went from being a bit scared, to relief. Sarah and I are now getting a wage, and while it is less than many starting jobs, we can pay the rent and that’s all we really care about.
We were also able to expand our staff and while we have a few more months of transition and training left, I think that soon Sarah and I will be able to focus almost exclusively on growth, research, marketing and program development while our staff takes care of the day to day stuff. So all in all I think we are in a great place with great opportunity and potential ahead for 2009.
We have not wrapped up our year end numbers but there is no doubt we have been hit by the recession and downturn in consumer spending. Overall I think we will be close to flat in sales y/y, and up quite a bit in donations. E-commerce was up significantly but awareness event sales were down. We have not studied it in detail, but I think the drop in event sales gets back to the issue of lack of the right staff we faced for most of the year, but have now been able to start to address. Because we did not have a full time person managing the event program, and because Sarah, who had done most of that work was being pulled elsewhere, we were not able to recruit and support lot of new party hosts. Addressing this will be a big part of what we will be doing in the next few months.
So all in all, I think 2008 will be our transition year, leaving behind us the crazy boot-strap days and moving us into what I hope will be a period of steady growth and expansion. More on how we will do that in later posts.