A Year in Review
I am such a nerd when it comes to the New Year. I absolutely love it. I love reflecting on the past year, reviewing goals, wins and losses, growth and lessons, and I love planning for the New Year and imagining where I’ll go next in life.
2019 marked the official start of Finn & Co. so I am taking some time to reflect on where the business has gone this year, and I thought I would share it with all of you who have supported me along the way. Overall, even though there has been discouragement, frustration, and even tears at times, this has been an incredible first year in business for me, and I have MUCH to be thankful for.
January 3rd I took to social media to introduce my world to Finn the Panda. I started to tell our Finn’s story; how he entered this world, and the struggles and victories we have had since then. I had not shared our story with many people, let alone publicly, and I began engaging with parents from all over the world who had similar experiences to ours. I wondered why I hadn’t tried harder to find them before.
In February, before the bears even arrived, my friend Cheree Sauer from Heartfelt Mamas gave me the opportunity to speak at one of her Self Care events and to do a guest post on her blog. Speaking in a public setting like this was outside of my comfort zone so I was already getting pushed to grow. I also met a mom there who came up to me afterwards and shared her story and sponsored a bear for a family in the NICU. I immediately saw that what I was doing was going to mean something and that these connections I would make would be much bigger than a business.
On March 1st the bears arrived. This felt absolutely surreal to me to see 1,000 pandas that I had dreamed up arrive in real life. I cried on the way home from our friend’s warehouse feeling overwhelmed and excited by this reality we now pulled in a trailer behind us. The real work was about to start.
After the bears arrived I sent out a press release and quickly got some local attention. March 4th we were featured on KXLY News, then shortly after we were in the Journal of Business, The Spokesman Review and then KREM 2 News. This was very exciting, but I will be honest, it also brought my greatest feelings of doubt and fear. None of this coverage resulted in a sale, or an inquiry, or that call that of course I was waiting for where someone said they loved it so much they wanted all 1,000. I had to look at this differently—not believing that everyone who heard about us didn’t like it, but simply that they had heard about it. It was a step, and it was a win.
The next few months were full of baby steps: a new follower here, a sale there, and lots and lots of calls and emails trying to reach the right people in hospitals. Finally in June I would get to meet with the Pediatric Manager at our local large hospital and sell 20 bears; literally a dream come true. This was the goal all along, to get into hospitals where the pandas could be handed to parents in one of their darkest times and tell them, “You are needed here. You are helpful. And you can help heal your baby.”
In July I went to Oklahoma to be with a friend and her family for her baby’s scheduled surgery. While I was there I sold a few bears to the Children’s Hospital Gift Shop, but more than anything I was truly so honored to get to help this family during this difficult time. It reminded me just how dang hard having a child in the hospital is. The physical, mental, and emotional toll, not to mention the guilt, and fear, and worry—these families need help. They need love and support. The parents are strong on their child’s behalf, but who is strong for them? Who cares for them so that they can have what is needed to give to their child? I came home renewed in my desire to help not only babies and children, but the family around them.
Although I came home ready for action, life needed me in different areas of life. My son Finn got pneumonia in July, and my husband was in his busiest season of work. Orders trickled in here or there, I continued to write my blog, post on Instagram, and talk to people about Finn the Panda. Then in October I got to be involved with a non-profit event called Pumpkin Ball which was again an honor. The recipients of all the funds raised at the ball were our local Children’s Hospital and Crises Nursery. I loved seeing our community come together to support these two organizations and I loved seeing the heart of people who care so deeply about the tiniest and most vulnerable humans among us.
And just like that, that brings us to the end of the year. I decided to donate bears to our local Ronald McDonald House to close out the year. I had in my mind somewhere around 10 bears, but when I spoke to them and learned they had 22 rooms for families with premature babies in the NICU, or children being treated in oncology, and I imagined the families spending their holidays there away from their homes, I wanted a bear for every room. So I reached out to my online community and did my first real “ask.” I asked people to sponsor bears and for every bear sponsored I would donate a bear. It’s hard to ask sometimes, but I have been reminded that if I don’t actually sell the bears, only give them away, then when the bears run out, it’s done. So I asked, and people delivered. 18 bears were sponsored which means 36 bears are going to families going through such trying times this holiday season.
It also means I’m here for 2020. There are bears that need a home, families to reach, and a lot of work still to be done. I have had one year of business and although by the world’s business standards I may be far from a success, when I consider everything I have gained and everything I have given, I most certainly believe this has been a very successful first year.
THANK YOU to everyone who has bought a bear, cheered me on, or given me an encouraging word—it means more than you know.
God bless you, and happy holidays.