· By Tarleton Walmsley
On the precipice of a new year, it's a natural time to reflect back at the last year and look inward for signs of growth and change. Splintered within that need to take inventory comes a strong, anxiety-inducing desire to turn the darker parts of myself into a resolution to be solved in the year ahead. This process feels like even more of an undertaking when applied to Garden Party. My business is personal to me and as is often the case, the entity of self and business intermingle and merge in all of the ways to the point that I typically end up with a long list of improvements needing improvement immediately, and improved upon perfectly. This year I'm resisting those urges, though, and leaning into the idea of being okay with where I'm at, where Garden Party's at in its evolution. That isn't to say that Garden Party and I don't have some pretty big goals ahead, but the only real resolution I've got this year is to resist the urge to pick it all apart, dissect it, and try to come up with a hyper perfectionistic approach to "fix" what probably doesn't even need fixing in the first place. It's more about what I want to take with me into this new year than what I want to let go of. Still, I can't help but get a little nostalgic when I think about this year and how much we have indeed grown and changed. So please join me on this brief, though deeply personal journey of reflection.
When I think about 2021 in context of Garden Party, there are some major highs and major lows--that's just life, baby! First, a word about the lows. This year we all continued to be impacted by Covid-19 in varying ways. As a business owner, the pandemic has been like a constant hum, always vibrating at a volume just loud enough to hear and feel its impact all the time. I found myself plagued with what-if questions--What if we have to close the shop again? What if I catch covid? What if the shop has to close because one of us gets covid? What if we can't afford to close? And then those questions were compounded with what I'd consider the "regular" anxieties of owning a small business. I spent a lot of 2021 asking myself questions like How do we grow? How do we remain relevant three years in? How do we increase our daily sales average? How do I become a better boss? What the F is SEO and how do I get a better conversion rate?:) How are we going to pay our rent this month? How can I show up as a better business and life partner to Seth? I found myself lacking purpose, feeling a ton of self-doubt, and for the first time ever, I became filled with indecision about the direction we should go with Garden Party. There were some pretty dark and lonely existential moments, times when I felt like giving up, days when we thought the best solution would be to close the business entirely. Oh and the burnout...so.much.burnout.
Sounds heavy, right? It certainly was, and yet there's one thing I've learned as an adult that has proven true for me time and again. In order for real growth and change to happen, in order to get to the good stuff, you gotta go through some shit too. Going through the hard stuff and making it out to the other side has persistently reminded me that I am strong, resilient, and capable of owning and managing this business even when it doesn't feel that way. It's hard to see the growth happening when you're in it, stuck in the muck, and feel like life is a never-ending abyss of tough decisions and heavy circumstances. But I've learned that having the courage to confront the darker parts of myself ends up creating space for me to show up for myself, others, and my business in a way that is healthier, more authentic, and full of unwavering resolve.
And the highs I mentioned? There were plenty of them in 2021, both personally and professionally. Highlights include speaking on a panel with other experts in the retail industry for Bulletin, we hit 10k followers on Insta, got to be interviewed with Seth for Making It In Asheville, received our first small round of investment, got featured on The Broccoli Report & Metropolis Magazine, met Steve D'Angelo with our friend Jamie, Seth got his real estate license, we hosted our first CBD cooking class, started hosting events and pop ups again, and were able to collaborate with Citizen Bloom Botanics on the creation of Grow Together. We also got to meet and connect with so many new and returning customers this year. I literally laughed and cried with some of you, and anytime anyone asked how I was doing and I talked your ear off about how I didn't know how I was doing--just...thank you for hanging in:) I also spent time with family, went to a lot of therapy, got vaccinated, visited Philadelphia, Austin, and Miami, and yes, magically found myself at a Cardi B party.
Finally, if we were to measure 2021's success based solely on the numbers, I'm excited to say that we're up 25% in sales from the previous year to date. That feels like a feat in and of itself, and it didn't just magically happen (even though I did a lot of manifesting). It took a lot of deep, internal work to get here and it will take even more deep, internal work to get where we want to go. But what I'm learning to do, and what I'm taking with me into this new year ahead, is something that has often alluded me--the ability to believe in myself despite all odds. I will also be bringing a deep well of gratitude into this new year--gratitude for my friends, my family, for my health, even for my cats cause you know how much I love them. And also, a deep well of gratitude for everyone that showed up for this small business this year. We can't wait to Garden Party with you in 2022.❤️
Wooohooo!! So glad you and Garden Party exist! xoxo
Thank you for this beautiful post! Love and admire you & Garden Party forever! 💛 Happy New Year ✨
Thank you for garden party and honest conversations that made my year much more bearable! Grateful for you all! 🧡 also- cardi b party? I want to hear more about this!