<aside> 🌱 Hi there, this is Ian. I run a small technology studio in Brooklyn, called Gardener NYC. This is the 3rd Perennial Report, a yearly review of how the business is doing, and what we learned in the process. Once a year, we crack open our books as best we can to make starting your own creative business less intimidating.
If you’ve not come across these Perennials before, you might be interested in reading previous years. I’ve covered the founding of the business, and our first year of growth:
→ 2020 Review → 2019 Review
Table of Contents
Gardener is a technology studio that builds websites. The companies we work with are wide ranging: some are just getting started and haven’t made a dime, some are worth hundreds of millions.
We try to work with founders as early in their journey as possible, to provide guidance and share experiences that could be helpful even before they’ve finished designing the product or brand. 9 out of 10 projects we take are ecommerce related, but our principals and guidance apply to anyone who wants to be online.
This year’s review is clearly late. Let me roll back time to the beginning of 2021. Business is rolling with Patrick and Lucas having joined the previous year, and we are gearing up to launch Genexa, Commonry, and Cards Against Humanity’s new .com. On paper, it looks like Gardener is swinging and not missing.
This was the most challenging season of running this business to date. Coming out of the holidays, I continued working 60 hour weeks from November 2020 to February 2021. With all the added stress of the election and living through year two of the pandemic, running the business at this clip was unsustainable.
This created a rather extreme moment of clarity when the spring came. In the first 10 years of my career, I had created an environment for myself where the work is a constant, and all the other parts of my life (home life, creative practice, rest, travel, friendships, collective grieving over COVID) fit into the space I have left. I had formed my life around my work. It sounds trite to say it out loud, but to feel that realization is much more intense. It was a feeling a few steps beyond experiencing burn out (something I’ve experienced many times and will again), where you realize your compass is not pointed in the right direction. That compass is going to lead you back to darkness again and again.
The summer started a process of trying to figure out where my compass wanted to point. Patrick and Lucas wound down on Gardener projects and started pursuing their own studios with the tools we jointly created. I started seeing a therapist, and for the first few months all conversations were about overwork, identity, and regaining the trust of my loved ones.
From August until the holiday season, I worked on and launched projects (will list them all below!), but was finding myself only clocking 20-30 hours a week. I was able to invest that time on recovering and on building up parts of my life that had gone unfed.
Fast forward in time to today, a year later: on average I work 30 hours a week or less. I had one 50 hour week in June that really sucked, but didn’t leave me doubting my entire path. I’m referring more work away than I ever have. I’m watching colleagues and friends pay their rent and make creative businesses for themselves.
It feels really special to watch Gardener grow fruitful not just for me, but for anyone around it. Maybe it’ll even belong to someone else one day.