New Year’s Eve is just around the corner and Jeff and I have been talking a lot about business goals for the next few years. I love this time of year and the chance to stop and take stock of where I’ve been and plan out what’s next. 

I’m not always so great at executing those plans, but I do love making them! In fact, the execution problem will likely pop up in my 2017 plan!

Last year at this time, I did something that I normally never do. I made a vision board. Here it is…

(For my non-vision board friends, a vision board can be a whole bunch of things. But I understand it as a way to send a signal to whatever – yourself, the universe, etc. of what see your life as. For me, Ms. Visual to the end, it was a fun way to dream about what’s next!)


For those of you who have followed along on our big adventure this year, it might not surprise you that when I went to find the file, I sort of expected it to be completely out of date. After all, when I put together the board, I had no idea Jeff and I would be moving across the country a mere six months later to take over a bed and breakfast! At the end of the year, I can see that we managed to make some of the things on the board happen (farm, shop, studio, garden), while some got left by the wayside. I have been working on a novel, but not with the determination I need to get it finished, while Jeff and I haven’t spent as much time playing and cooking as we’d like. Some of the ideas from last year are completely off my radar for now — speaking, building a team and vacationing at Okracoke… I’m talking to you!

Revenue Breakdown for a Creative Entrepreneur, Innkeeper and Maker

So… how DO we cobble together our lifestyle? For newer readers, my husband and I live and work on a historic farm in northern Minnesota. We manage a variety of revenue-generating activities to support our household and truth be told, sometimes it can be a bit rough gathering up the cash we need! In 2016, here’s how our income broke down.

In 2016 we made 71% of our income through my marketing business. A lion’s share of that is from one client who I work with on a full time basis. I also have another smaller monthly retainer with an awesome indie local retailer and have done a few websites this year. 

The rest of our income came from the bed and breakfast (17% of the yearly income), some forestry/conservation work that Jeff did on a contract basis (5% of income) and the rest (7% of income) from our Mercantile business. 

Since we are the masters of our income as small business owners, we’ve set rather aggressive goals for 2017! Overall, we plan to increase our revenue by 33%. Whew! My last raise in a corporate setting was something like 4%, so this is quite the jump! Our plan is to do that by increasing the B&B revenue by 67% over 2016, a rather misleading number, since we took the inn over in July! We still are planning an increase of about 29% over the historical revenue over the past two years, so there’s work to be done there. Right now we have a bit of the increase coming from my marketing business, with an increase of 8% over 2016, but let’s put a pin in that for the moment. We’re also planning on really ramping up the botanical side of the Mercantile business as well as the handmade items, increasing the Mercantile revenue by 67%.

2016 revenue breakdown

So about that pin in the marketing business… when I started working on budgets in October, I added in a few launches of online-style programs… I didn’t have anything specific in mind, but I love teaching and have wanted to launch my own course for a few years! But I’ve been getting nudges over the last few days that I may be overcommitting myself in too many directions (understatement of the year, as Jeff might say…) With all the focus on building the B&B traffic as well as the botanical line, I’m not sure I will have the time to focus on the work needed to build an email list and write the content for an online course! I want to be sure to really focus on my existing clients and at the end of the day, it makes more sense to add that extra revenue to the B&B and/or the Mercantile business for better focus!

Speaking of the Mercantile, there’s three main product lines we’re looking at in 2017. We’d like to increase our sales of the botanicals (soaps, candles, etc.) by 67% — that means that we’ve forecasted our 2017 revenue to be 300% higher than our 2016 revenue! While that’s a very BIG goal, there’s a few reasons we think it’s do-able. First, we didn’t launch the botanical line until October, and a bulk of our sales were at a few holiday shows with not-great traffic. We’re planning on working the farmers markets in the area next year, plus we’ll be able to offer the line to guests during our busy season. In a similar vein, we’ve slated significant growth for the 3 Snugbugs Textiles line, but again, we didn’t do much with this during 2016 as we were focused on the move and settling in to being innkeepers. I’ve still got piles of fabric and designs just waiting to release! Conversely, we’ve scheduled relatively little growth for the vintage product line, choosing to focus on areas where we really enjoy product development and being able to actually make something!

You can see this reflected in the breakdowns of percentage of revenue for 2016 versus 2017. While vintage and antiques represented 78% of the Mercantile revenue in 2016, we plan for the botanical line to account for 50% of the revenue in 2017, with vintage items contributing 31%, which represents a growth of only 17% in revenue over 2016 for vintage and antiques. I’m sure that will be an attainable goal, since we’d cleared out a bulk of our inventory to prepare for the move and didn’t get inventory out until October here at the farm — basically, the vintage part of the Mercantile business was shut down from June through October in 2016!
2016 mercantile revenue

What it all means

I’m sharing this because I think it’s really interesting to see how people structure their businesses, and it’s not something that gets talked about a lot, although there are a lot more entrepreneuers and small business owners sharing this information on their blogs and websites. Running a small business is hard work, and while Jeff and I are blessed to be doing it while living on a lovely farm, doing things we enjoy, it’s still an up and down life, learning to manage cash flow (something we’re still working on) and letting go of reliable paychecks. 

Of course, since I have retainer clients, we DO have a fair bit of our income that is reliable, but there are still months where we have to make tough decisions about what to spend where and adventurous, string eating kitties that need emergency surgery right before Christmas!! Or accidentally not-budgeted big ticket items like business licenses that need to be purchased in the middle of the slow season!

In closing, I’m sharing this ‘bucket’ list of goal planning that I swiped from a Facebook friend (Duane Spires – which, if any of you are working with, running or thinking of running an afterschool martial arts program, you should connect up with him – he’s amazing!) 

2017 Goals. {At least, a start…}


Focus on healthy, whole eating. Jeff and I keep promising each other to lay off the wine and cigarettes (SO not good for us, he likes the smoke, I like the grape) and we have a basset hound who misses hound hikes with her humans.


When we left Virginia, we left behind family, including a favorite grand-daughter and new grandbaby that we haven’t even met. More connecting with them and I have a personal goal to be a much better letter writer with Jeff’s mom!


2017 is the year to start a meditation practice for me. There’s a lot going on and I need to find ways to stay grounded. Hound hikes will help, meditation will too!


We’ve got a boatload of debt to pay off, so we’ll keep plugging away at that, a little bit at a time!


Increase the occupancy rate at the B&B, work on marketing the Mercantile product lines, especially the botanicals and textiles. Provide the best, focused work for my marketing clients. 

I also have a goal to write and publish three novels this year. A consistent writing habit and investment in good design and editing are included in our budget. This is something I’ve always felt is a calling and the industry has changed so much that self publishing is a viable option. 

Continue to foster our online community via the Northern Comfort and Patty Brower websites and social media. I LOVE sending out newsletters and blogging and know a lot of you love the newsletter too! 


We’re still new in our community and feel a little isolated. We’ll both be focusing on building relationships alone and as a couple with folks close by, as well as keeping up with our far away friends. 


More hiking, more fishing. This spring we’re planning to start our flock of chickens and there’s an awesome garden ready to go in the back pasture. We live on a beautiful farm in a beautiful part of the state, so we’re ready to explore what’s around us and cultivate what we have at home. That’s the most fun ever. Also CHICKENS!!!


This is a hard one, and I’ve mentioned a few things already that we need to leave behind. Unhealthy habits being a big focus for both of us right now! I’m also personally focusing on leaving behind relationships where I always feel like I’m forcing it, including family relationships that leave me feeling sad and left out. 

On the business side, we’ll continue to refine our budget to focus only on existing clients and growing our B&B and Mercantile. As many ideas as I’d love to try, it’s time to focus on what we have here LITERALLY in our back yard! 

What the Future Holds

We’ve also been talking about longer term goals. Right now we’re focused on building the business we have — the clients, the B&B and Mercantile. Our plan is to swing in the next 3-5 years to a business model that allows us to pull back from retainer-style clients and focus on the farm, B&B, Mercantile and other fun passive revenue streams like publishing and online courses along with teaching/workshops. 

And also the chickens. And goats.

And bees.

Want to keep up with us in 2017 and see how we’re doing reaching those goals? Then please subscribe to our newsletter! We send it out monthly and folks always tell us it’s one of the few they enjoy!! To make it even more enjoyable, you can go ahead and let me know while subscribing what kinds of cool tips and information you’re interested in! Just select one or all of our favorite topics (making, the B&B, running a business, etc.) and I’ll make sure you only get emails with interesting stuff! Happy new year!!

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