For those of you who email Spoonflower help a lot, you may have noticed that I haven't been answering lately. That is, someone has answered you–most likely Stephen B. or Beth, our wonderfully helpful help staffers–but not me. After three years of answering Spoonflower help emails, I've stepped down from this role and will be going back to a bit of Spoonflower blogging instead. It's been quite awhile since I blogged regularly. I feel rusty.
My Stephen asked me to start with a post on what I've learned doing customer service which seems a tad self-indulgent to me given how much Spoonflower has grown. It's definitely not just ours and Gart's families doing the printing, cutting, and shipping of your fabric orders anymore. Spoonflower includes some 20 employees now, all of whom are awesome, work their tails off, and contribute so much to the running of the business. But I've gotta start this blogging somewhere so in the spirit of the "What I Did This Summer" back-to-school essay, here are a few things I've learned over the last three years, in no particular order.
1. Spoonflower customers are nice people. I don't say this just to butter y'all up. It's truly amazing to me how nicely you all point out when we've made mistakes–which has been often!–forgive us for them, and come back again. You offer useful feedback which we always read and consider, even if takes us longer than you might want to implement. And you're nice to each other, too, writing thank-you notes to people who have bought your fabrics, and saying appreciative things about each other's designs and photos. Which brings me to….
2. Online communities really are communities. A couple of years ago, I scoffed at the use of "community" to describe groups interacting online. A "community" is a real place, I thought. You could walk, bike, or drive there and have real interactions with real people, and anything online couldn't possibly be a community. But I get it now. You certainly could walk, bike, drive to Spoonflower if you wanted to, and would probably enjoy pleasant interactions with good people while you were here. But we here in the office are part of a larger and very real Spoonflower community that includes all of you. There are some real interactions and real relationships going on out there, and you all support each other in a very real way. Spoonflower is a community. And I think it's a pretty nice place to be.
3. Starting your own business is hard and scary. Stephen tells me that I am brave and have a high risk tolerance which is his way of saying, "I can't believe you were ok with us putting everything we had (and some that we didn't) into Spoonflower when we had no idea whether it would work!" It probably helped that Spoonflower happens to be all about things I myself love–fabric and sewing–but we've had many sleepless nights and knotted up stomachs over the last three years. Those have gone away, thank goodness. Mostly.
4. Anything is fodder for fabric design. I used to worry that people's creativity or their interest in creating custom fabric designs would somehow dry up, but nope. We see so many designs uploaded to the site and rendered by the printers every day at this point that a workday here is never, ever dull. Name it, and I'll bet we've printed it!
5. People use fabric for WAY more things than I thought they used fabric for. I knew about quilts, clothing, and home-dec sorts of projects, of course, since that's what I usually use fabric for. But I didn't anticipate wedding invitation handkerchiefs, custom drum covers, or sports car upholstery, among other projects. I can't tell you how much it thrills me to see how the fabrics we print get used. Upload to our Flickr pool, please!
6. When you run a fabric- and sewing-related business, you don't have time to do anything fabric- or sewing-related for yourself. Which is a huge bummer. Since I've stopped doing customer service over the last couple of weeks, though, I've been on a curtain-making spree at home. With Spoonflower fabric, of course. Three rooms down and one bathroom to go!