This Is (7 years of) Slow Business

The block that I live on is full of old trees. The oaks and sweet gums tower far above the steeply-peaked roofs of the brick gingerbreads and canopy the narrow street. Moss grows on the thick roots and makes up part of the lawns as well. Now, in the summer heat, the trees shade our porch. This block must have looked quite different, though, 87 years ago when these houses were first built and the trees were newly planted. Growing trees like this is slow business. In many ways, this is what my business feels like and what I want it to be – not just slow fashion, but slow business.

Tomorrow, my business turns 7. Seven years is not long compared to the age of these trees, but in fashion, where the pace is quick and time is measured in seasons instead of years, it has been long enough now that I can see the effects of things I did years ago in my business. This year more than before I’ve seen the seeds of effort planted years ago budding up. It has been exciting to see years-old relationships come full-circle, clients find me through years of consistent blogging, and even how a bad situation turned out for the best. They say that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. I have found this to be true for what we do in slow business too. Things take time to grow before you see results.

Fashion is obsessed with what is trending now and, as my husband likes to joke, corporations like to do whatever they can to make five more dollars this quarter regardless of what that means for the next. I have tried my best not to fall into this fast-paced, short-term decision making in my business. In doing so, I’m sure some of my choices have looked silly from the outside. (Why don’t I post reels, hire employees, or get myself an office that is not in my house?)

I bet the person who planted these trees looked a bit silly too – planting a row of spindly samplings that needed tending for years before they ever provided any benefit. But that person had a vision for what this street could look like decades later that made it worth it. These trees are fruits of a long game. That’s the game I want to play with my business.

Start-up hustle culture has told us that we need to work hard for growth at all costs. Slowing down is not an option. (Does anyone remember the conversations in 2020 about how the fashion industry needs to realign and slow down its calendar? Those conversations didn’t last long, did they?) I’ve found in these 7 years in business that growth does not continue at an “exponential”, unending rate, but instead, both growth and rest come in seasons. 

The growth of my business certainly has not been exponential. It has looked like a stair step with growth one year and then barely maintaining that same level the next. I could look at those flat years as a failure, but I’m encouraged by the fact that these trees didn’t grow all at once either. They didn’t even grow steadily. Inside there are rings that show the spurts of quick summer growth and winter hibernation. Slow business makes time to rest. This is something I know, but am still learning how to practice well.

Early on in my business, it took a lot of effort to get it started. I had quit my full-time industry job and started from zero with the support of my husband. I gave myself two years to see if I could make it. With the help of a business coach, generous connections who referred me to the resources I needed and to my first clients, and the moral support of my family, I did make it. 

It took reinforcement on each side to set a stable foundation and get the business growing upright – much like these trees when they were young. Seven years in, now that the roots are anchored firmly in the soil, I see how my business now provides stability to me in return. I’ve been doing this longer than I was at any previous job. Genuinely, getting to do this work in slow fashion is a big part of what got me through the pandemic. Now, I feel like this business somewhat shields me from the storms of this clouding economic uncertainty. I’m incredibly grateful. 

This is what a slow business in slow fashion has looked like for me. Yes, there are knots on this bark, but that’s what keeps this pattern interesting, keeps it real, and shows that I and this business have grown. I’m only seven years in, and, like these old trees, I want to be in it for the long haul. 

What will the fashion industry look like in another 80 years? I don’t know, but I’m going to plant my business with slow fashion and grow with the other slow businesses that have a long-term vision for this industry. And, while we wait for that vision to leaf out and bring the shade of a new reality, I’m going to keep looking up to these old trees.



10:17 am June 1, 2024

This is so beautiful and I’m so glad to be working with you. Celebrating 7 years of holding your nerve. EXCITED to be seeing such amazing fruit for you.

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