Sep 08, 2020

Five things you learn when…

Your side hustle blows up

Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe, of US-based creative agency Major Studio, launched Piecework Puzzles in 2019. Then Covid-19 hit, and suddenly the whole world wanted a puzzle. Rachel shares their key lessons from a chaotic period.
01.
Order priorities

Previously, the two of us had always worked together as a pair, right across the business. We took our calls together, made the decisions together – everything and beyond. But pretty quickly we learned we had to shift into focused lanes and create designated roles: for example, I managed sales, marketing and the day-to-day running, while Jena focused on big-picture goals and financial planning. We also created a list of all of our projects and activities across the company in a Google doc, and then prioritised everything so that certain, less-pressing initiatives could be pushed back to later in the year.

02.
Alter the workflow

One of our biggest challenges was finding enough hours in the day to get everything done. We decided we needed to find a way to work more efficiently. We listened to interviews and read work from Daniel Pink, author of When and Drive, and from this we learned that your brain’s best hours for productivity are in the morning. Historically, we would sit down and try to check off as many things from the to-do list as possible. But we changed it up, shifting all administrative and housekeeping tasks to later in the day, when you need less brain power, and used the earlier hours for creative and strategic thinking.

03.
Reduce short-term

As happy as we were that there was such great demand for our products, we couldn’t keep up with it. Though it felt counter-intuitive, in March we decided to slow down the demand as much as possible to give ourselves a chance to catch up, and build systems and processes to help manage the influx. We turned off all social and paid advertisements, decreasing our sales but enabling us to build a better runway. We’ve now integrated into a new wholesale marketplace, created operations, wholesale and customer service guidelines, and onboarded into a customer service management tool as well.

04.
Defer the paycheque

Even though we had yet to pay ourselves from the company, we determined that it was more important to make sure we didn’t drop any balls. With this in mind, we funnelled all the profits from Piecework into hiring part-time support staff, including a customer experience lead, a sales representative supporting wholesale orders, and a few consultants in other areas of the business. Doing this instead of paying ourselves proved a worthwhile investment in the long run, and meant we now had more time to focus on the areas of the business that we needed to give our full attention to.

05.
Say yes first

As Pieceworks started to get some attention, we noticed corporations and other businesses were interested in doing custom puzzles and working with us on collaborations. While this wasn’t originally the intention of the business, we quickly realised this was, potentially, a lucrative secondary revenue stream. While staying true to our roots and only working with like-minded brands, we saw how saying yes could lead to really interesting and accretive opportunities for our brand. We’ve created one custom puzzle so far and now have others in the works as well.

Find more about Piecework Puzzles at pieceworkpuzzles.com.

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