Indie Business Network: 2014 Year In Review

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In a few hours, 2014 will come to a close. As we move toward 2015, I am pausing to reflect on the magnificent blessing I have to serve hundreds of Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs across this amazing land of ours.

Year-In-Review-2014

2014 has been a year of growth for IBN and for me personally. This makes me so excited, as my life has become a real live witness to the truth that entrepreneurship is an unbeatable personal development tool. I have been stretched and challenged. I have been prodded and humbled. I have dug down deep into places inside myself that I did not know existed. I have succeeded and I have failed. I celebrate it all, and feel incredibly blessed. I am so excited for what will come in 2015. But first, here's a look back, with great joy and gratitude, at some of the ways IBN served Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs in 2014.

Hosted #IndieCruise MasterMind 2014

From January 26 to February 1, 2014, I hosted the fourth annual #IndieCruise Mastermind. Our theme was No More Beauty Business as Usual, and we made a big splash sailing to three ports of call: Grand Cayman Island, Falmouth, Jamaica, and Labidee, Haiti. We Masterminded in the Caribbean Ocean, swam with dolphins, relaxed on golden sands, and surrounded ourselves with the love of other Indies for a week of refreshment and hard hitting goal setting and planning.

On February 8, 2015, we'll set sail aboard Royal's Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas on #IndieCruise MasterMind 2015. Our theme is Unleash Your Awesome: Branding Breakthroughs for Handmade Entrepreneurs, and there is still time to register. We'll leave Port Canaveral (near Orlando) and sail to Cocoa Cay, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. Get the details and see how you can grab up one of the last remaining cabins at this link.

Hosted 12 Access Q+A Coaching Calls

One of the monthly Indie Business Network member benefits is a live Q&A Access Coaching Call with me, IBN's Lead Coach, and a member guest coach leader with experience and expertise that can help all of our members grow. This year, our guest coaches included a stunning lineup of talent: Christine Laureano (Ba6 Botanicals), Lela Barker (Lucky Break Consulting), Anne-Marie Faiola (Bramble Berry), Roberta Perry (Scrubz Body), Katherine Corkill (Sterling Minerals), Kenna Cote (Modern Soapmaking), Dawn Fitch (Pooka Pure and Simple). This amounted to 14 hours of coaching and mentoring that was included as a part of the membership.

Our Access Q+A Coaching Calls will continue in 2015 with me as the Lead Coach, and with Christine Laureano, our new Head Coach. Read more about Christine and our Q+A Access Coaching Calls at this link.

Hosted 14 Success Calls

We hosted 14 Success Calls throughout 2014. The recordings are available for all of our members to enjoy in the private area of our site. Topics covered included things like how to use Google+ to grow your audience, how to adopt an “owner's mindset,” how to create wholesale line sheets and order forms, how to introduce your children to entrepreneurship, how to establish a solid niche for your business, how to host a successful crowd funding campaign, how to make money teaching classes, how to make big, strategic changes in your life and your business, how to create a vision board, how to create your own DIY photo studio so you can take great product photos on a budget, how to develop meaningful relationships with beauty bloggers, how to create a website that really works for you and so much more!

Our Success Calls connected our members with the expertise they need to be successful in all areas of life and business. Everyone was invited to attend live, and for those who could not make it, a recording was made. Our members were encouraged to download the recordings and add them to their digital Success Libraries so they can use them for years to come.

Hosted Connection Day

In February, we hosted our first Connection Day in Atlanta, Georgia, where several members in the area got together for a full day of roll-up-your-sleeves Masterminding, goal setting, and strategic business planning.

Check out our Facebook photo album from Connection Day here.

While we have retired Connection Day, we will soon announce an exciting new option so our members can connect, learn, grow, and share together in their local communities.

Launched the new Indie Business Network Event Calendar

Yesterday, we launched an awesome new Event Calendar to feature events (physical and virtual) hosted by our members. Visit the calendar often to find everything from in-store events to webinars, conferences, retreats, and DIY classes. Our members love to connect and share, and our Event Calendar helps them spread the word about the great work they are doing in their communities and online.

Grew Our Exclusive, Members Only Secret Facebook Group

Launched late last year, our exclusive, Secret Facebook discussion group has been on fire with discussions and 24/7 Masterminding all year long. There are literally thousands and thousands of threads, and each one is a priceless nugget of laser training on what to do (and what not to do) to build a sustainable and profitable business.

Here is a short list of things we have helped each other sort through in our Secret Group: trademark infringements, difficult employees, customer service challenges, payment processing disputes, logo and branding options, landing new wholesale accounts, sorting through Facebook's ever changing landscape, encouraging spouses and significant others to support our businesses, shipping and packaging challenges, new product launches, product discontinuations, store openings, store closings, website openings, website closings, personal tragedies, personal triumphs, and every single thing in between.

No Indie is alone at the Indie Business Network, and our Secret group is one of the many reasons why.

Conducted Indie Business Blueprint Trainings

In 2014, I led two sessions of Indie Business Blueprint trainings. Each module was a carefully crafted, easy-to-implement lesson on a single particular topic that all entrepreneurs need to be successful. 47 lucky participants benefited from this intimate training that included the most relevant, proven strategies, tools, and tactics needed to be successful in their business. We moved through each module together in a private Facebook group, with a coaching call each week. It was intense and everyone loved it.

The Indie Business Blueprint will be replaced in 2015 with a more robust training program that all of our members can take advantage of. Stay tuned — it will launch soon!

Re-launched Indie Business Podcast

As many of you may know, I have hosted and produced Indie Business Podcast since 2005 when hardly anyone else was podcasting. Before I went on hiatus in 2012, I had hosted and produced over 300 shows. This year, I re-launched the podcast, and my team and I are in the process of releasing our podcast archives. Soon you'll enjoy my interviews with some of the most amazing small business experts around, including people like Mari Smith, Brian Solis, and Ali Brown, Jack Canfield and more.

Season 001 of the Indie Business Podcast resulted in the production of 12 episodes featuring 12 Indie Business Network. We also produced a 13th bonus episode, because … why not? These insanely popular shows are entertaining and educational, and because they are portable downloads, you can listen to them while you workout, run errands, commute back and forth to work on the subway, make your products, or drive in your car.

Check out Season 001 of the Indie Business Podcast here. Get the bonus 13th episode here.

Subscribe to Indie Business Podcast on iTunes at this link so you don't miss an episode.

Hosted Indie Business Network's 2014 Secret Santa Gift Exchange!

Seventy two members representing 20 states participated in our Secret Santa Gift Exchange this year.

You can see all of the 2014 Secret Santa gifts, with links to buy some for yourself, at this link.

Closed Out Indie Protégé Network

After two years, we hosted our last Indie Protégé Network event earlier this month. In case you missed it, Indie Protégé was a sort of “mini” version of the Indie Business Network. We designed it to serve people who were thinking about starting a business, but not yet ready to invest the resources in full IBN membership.

Indie Protégé Network was a great way to introduce people to what is required to build a profitable, sustainable business. We had a great run, and closed it out so we could focus wholeheartedly on the serious Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs who are our awesome members.

Shuttered Indie Business Studio

Not only do we celebrate success around here; we also celebrate failure.

Taking a deep breath. Here goes.

In October 2013, we celebrated the grand opening of the Indie Business Studio. By the middle of 2014, we had closed it down. Of course there is a long story behind the decision to lock the studio doors forever, and I'll make some time in 2015 to share it because everyone can learn a lot from the mistakes we made. In a nutshell, here is why we closed Indie Business Studio:

* IBN functions best as a mostly (though not totally) virtual business. Once I became almost as physical as I was virtual, I stopped having fun. If I am not having fun serving my members, well, my members will not be served well. So, bye-bye studio.

* While the idea of serving a small town sounded great, and I was sincere in my heart about helping people in my own back yard to discover the joys of entrepreneurship, it was too much heavy lifting to do it while the small number of restaurants and retail stores continued to shut their doors as fast as they opened them. My heart wanted buck the tide, tough it out, and be that local “success story,” but my brain told my heart to get a grip. So, bye-bye studio.

* My children need me at home. OK, so I know I'm not indispensable and I am certainly not a helicopter mom, but the truth is that even the short 15-minute commute put a cramp in my family style. If I need to show up physically at a conference or a special event, you can count on me. But most every day? Not gonna happen. So, bye-bye studio.

So, if you ever see me blogging about how I'm renovating a new office space, or I'm ready for another ribbon cutting, or I need a change of space, just pour me a strong drink and put me in time out.

Launched (and then Un-Launched) My Maker Box

… Aaaand … why stop at just one?

After several months of planning and hemming and hawing, in August, we launched My Maker Box. By November, we realized what a mistake that was. It's related in some ways to the studio story — at the end of the day, we are not in the business of mailing stuff.

Now, don't get me wrong, IBN members make some great products and I was thrilled to be able to introduce them to new people. We made some great videos, and took some super product photos. It was an awesome whirlwind, but at the end of the day, we are not in the business of mailing things. It's just not what we do well.

As they say, if you're going to fail, you need to fail fast, and that's what we did.

Our members have some super subscription boxes, so remind me to tell all you about them in 2015.

Meanwhile, check out the product photos and videos from the first and last Indie Business Network My Maker Boxes.

But wait! There's more!

Here are some of the other things we did in 2014 to serve our members:

* We began accepting PayPal (again)

* We upgraded to a new hosting company that could better handle the continuously increasing traffic this site enjoys

* We streamlined the member renewal process so it's more automated and members have more control over an easier renewal process

* We expanded our team … you can meet everyone here

* We beefed up our Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram to focus more on spreading the word about the products our members make

* Last but not least, by midnight tonight, we will close our social networking site forever. This will free our resources to serve our members better in 2015 and beyond.

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Well, there you have it. It's not a complete list, but it covers most of our major events and achievements.

Indie Business Network members, I love you, and I love serving you!

Here's to a great 2015 and the achievement of all of your highest goals. I am so proud of every one of you.

Bring on 2015! Just bring it!

Question: Are you ready for 2015?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.