2018 is over. All that remains to be done for this year is to ensure sales for December keep rolling in. It’s time to get ready for 2019. A good way of starting the process is by reviewing your 2018 successes.

The first question to ask yourself is:

What went well last year, and why?


Most artisans find it easy to answer this question. Success is a very rewarding experience and therefore becomes memorable. The second part of the question, the ‘why’ is more difficult, but equally important. Determining the reasons behind   your achievements is the real prize. It reveals actions and tactics that have been proven to be effective, are repeatable and can be applied for future success. Focus on the 3 -5 most relevant successes.

What did not go well last year and why?


As successful as many makers are, running a business is never without setbacks and challenges. Ask yourself what roadblocks had the greatest negative impact on your business. As with your successes it becomes important to determine why these roadblocks occurred. With that knowledge you can work towards eliminating them in 2019. Identifying the most important 2 or 3 will give you plenty to work on for the next year.

There are at least 4 other questions that can be instrumental in preparing for the upcoming year. 

What are my best opportunities for growth in 2019?

Here are 3 good choices for growing your business:

- better pricing strategies

- expanding or simplifying product lines

- creating greater profit margins by decreasing operation costs

Some artisans may decide to increase focus on a particularly profitable customer segment. Others might find that expanding brick and mortar shelf space or adding new sales channels (e.g. direct selling via online portals) are necessary for their business to grow. 

Who is my customer?

At the beginning of 2018 you defined your 2 or 3 most valuable target customer segments.  If you were selling handmade soap bars, you might have focussed on 3 target market segments of different size and relevance. For example: 

- 30-40 year old university educated Moms with a medium house hold income 

- Millenials from affluent neighbourhoods 

- Young and middle aged men buying gifts for their friends and families 

Now, almost 12 months later, you should try to determine: 

- How the importance of the segments has changed – if at all?

- How the buying behaviour in the segments has changed – maybe it has not? 

- If they should still be your main customer segments for 2019?

G.R.O.W., an organization that supports women in business, summarizes the value of staying on top of your target market segments:  

“Understanding and building upon your customer knowledge and relationship will put you ahead of the game.”

What are my goals for 2019?

Goals should be defined through the SMART approach (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). Using these criteria will help to focus your effort. It also increases the chances of achieving your goals. Don’t set too many goals, 3-5 will suffice. More than that will water down your efforts. 

Most craft-businesses set sales targets. Other goals can be customer related (e.g. increasing your customer base), or reflect changes in production (e.g. introducing a new product line), or improvements in promotion (e.g. a new PR campaign).

What do I need to learn?

Your maker venture is an extension of you. The better you become at running the business the more it will flourish. Ask yourself which skills and knowledge you need to improve or acquire. Perhaps it is worthwhile to learn a new production technique or the use of new tools or machinery. It might also be beneficial to expand your business knowledge, for example in areas such a finance, time management, customer interactions and selling. Some of your learning might be just out of interest, but a healthy part should be practical and correspond to this formula: 

By learning … A B C..., I will be become better at … X Y Z …, and that will improve my  ............  (insert business parameter like sales/productivity/effectiveness, etc.).

 As J. Kulla puts it in Forbes  business journal:

Lifelong learning is the fundamental key to successful entrepreneurship.”


Reviewing 2018 now - and without bias - is the first step to better results in 2019.  The insights you gain become the foundation for building an even stronger business. You will be able to have greater success - and more fun.