This post will be brief, but I wanted to put something on our blog that's not an advertisement or promotion of some kind.
So much happened this year, it's almost hard to remember it all. Will, Kim, Jency, and I have been working so hard, it's been a whirlwind. Here are some of the more noteworthy achievements we've made this year:
- January/February -- Will and Kim went to Ecuador with their kids on the first ever World Next Door fair trade trip. They started new first-hand relationships with fair trade cooperatives there, and brought back lots of great stuff that was wildly popular over the summer. We've since placed another couple orders from Ecuador, and are excited to see how things develop with those relationships. Our hope is that momentum created by this excursion will build to the point where one day we're able to source all of our products directly from artisans overseas.
- May -- Nathan reached the pinnacle of achievement in all of human history when Jency married him on the 31st of this month. The entire future of all human achievements is downhill from here.
- June -- World Next Door participated in the first ever Riverbend Marketplace. We survived 9 days of 100 degree weather, a storm that destroyed our tent, and hundreds of gallons of spilled beer. Jency and Nathan were even offered a franchise guaranteeing a six-figure income by cutting custom-made vanity license plates! It was a true test of retail mettle and our devotion to our business, and we're proud to say World Next Door is stronger (and wiser) for it.
- Summer -- our average growth rate for the summer months this year was in the double-digits over last summer. Woohoo!
- August -- Will and Kim began operating in their new capacities at Calvin Donaldson Environmental Science Academy, an ailing magnet school in South Chattanooga. With Kim's background in curriculum and inner-city school development, and Will's ability to build relationships and mobilize the community, they're sure to make a big impact there over the coming months. Meanwhile Jency and Nathan continue to manage World Next Door full-time.
- September -- our new website launched, and since then our internet sales have increased several fold.
- September -- we opened up our second remote mini-store at Grace Episcopal Bookstore, which so far has enjoyed stunning success.
- October -- we opened up our third remote mini-store at Main & Mocha, which has also enjoyed slightly lower, but by no means less stunning, success.
- October -- we held our first ever fair-trade-awareness event at Main & Mocha in celebration of World Fair Trade Month.
- October/November -- We survived the worst months in retail in decades.
- December -- We defied the recession with a huge rally this month, trailing only slightly on the heels of December 2007. Our Christmas Open House set a store record for single day sales.
Overall, World Next Door grew by 5% during 2008. Not to shabby, considering official reports show the recession beginning in December of 2007. We did take a bit of a hit during the 4th quarter, which comes as no surprise -- October and November were the worst months in retail since the 1960s, according to the Wall Street Journal. We had a big rally in December however (we even set an all-time record for single day sales at our Christmas Open House), and finished 2008 on a high note.
The first thing we want to do is say a big THANK YOU, to you, our wonderful customers. With your support, we've generated six-figures' worth of support for the fair trade movement spread across dozens of developing countries. You've also kept us in business, which not only preserves our own livelihoods, but maintains something unique, interesting, and attractive in downtown Chattanooga. Our lives and our city are better off for the continued existence not only of our business, but all local small businesses here.
The second thing I'd like to do is qualify what all I've said about our sales growing for the year. Personally, I tend to have a negative reaction to companies touting their financial gains and profit margins, since what they usually mean is that their executive staff made away with millions more dollars in personal income than they did the previous year (that usually applies to corporate giants more than small businesses). But in our case, it means this: we were able to continue to pay down debt, pay our employees, pay our bills, and above all, generate lots of business for fair trade cooperatives overseas. When World Next Door grows, the foundations and organizations we support grow along with us. So when we say "Thanks for your business," we speak for thousands of farmers and artisans in the developing world.