The picture above marked the beginning of an incredible journey. But before that, we did something we should have done a long time ago — hone in our focus on one single thing: Beanies.
This article is a look back on 2021, but to get this story right, I have to rewind to something I merely brushed past in our 2020 recap article, but turned out to be pivotal.
“This fall, I chose to put many side projects on ice, to let Red Hat Factory get the love it deserves.”Meself
That right there is the greatest choice I have done in many, many years. Focus, it turns out was the one missing ingredient to bring Red Hat Factory from a side gig, to something that has started snowballing.
A terrible summer with great results
I was honestly doing terrible the summer of 2020. The last month before vacation, I woke up with panic attacks more nights than I didn’t, feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
So when vacation time arrived, I took a firm grip. I uninstalled social media and embraced the feel of grass beneath my feet and spent hours just looking at my nine month old son trying to traverse the lawn outside my parents’ house.
Honestly, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I needed a severe stress detox.
I decided to take exercise more seriously. I began running, though my asthma threatened to choke me every time. And I added some healthy food habits to complement it.
It was immensely hard to change those few core habits, but eventually it began paying off, and many of those changes have stuck with me, so now I’m stronger than before this panic ridden season began.
It was also an amazing summer, as described in that 2020 recap — but reading that article now, I feel like I painted a very one-sided shallow picture.
It’s better to have one bird in the hand
Me and my wife usually do a yearly review of all the activities we’re doing. We just sit down and rattle off everything we do, while the other takes notes. Are we doing too little of something, too much of something?
This year, I was tired. Tired of trying too many things. Tired of seeing a low return on work hours. I arrived at an epiphany. If it doesn’t hurt, I’m not killing my darlings properly. So I gathered up all my little pet projects, said a teary eyed goodbye, and promised myself I would not touch them ever again.
And I haven’t.
There were a lot of small projects that hurt to let go, but most painfully, I decided that I would stop pursuing new clients for my freelancing, and only focus on the ones I have, plus Red Hat Factory.
This freed up about 50% of my work time for Red Hat Factory. In the beginning it was yet another detox. I had to let idea after exciting idea die. Then a few days later that energy would resurrect inside of the confines of Red Hat Factory.
“I had to let idea after exciting idea die.”
There is a Norwegian proverb that translates to it’s better to have one bird in the hand than ten on the roof. Turning my back on those ten birds to nourish the one in my hand, is the best choice I’ve ever done.
Since then, the continual challenge has been not to heed their desperate bird calls. But the more I fall in love with that little bird in my hand, the less the call beckons.
Kevin — the best beanie photographer known to mankind
Ok, let’s get back to 2021.
I’ve learned since we began in 2016 that it all stands and falls on the presentation of the product. Our beanies have always been the same (with very minor adjustments), but our presentation has gotten better over time — and with it the reach of audience has grown.
That brings me back to that photo in the header.
I first heard of Kevin through a friend of a friend. It came to my ear that some guy in America (who happened to have a Norwegian heritage), loved what we were doing, and wanted to exchange product for photos.
So I sent him a beanie or two.
What I got back would actually change the course of Red Hat Factory. This was at the very tail end of 2020.
It is the picture we’ve been talking about all the time, and this picture marked the first time we got a Facebook ad to actually sell to you guys. We (both me, and you reading this) probably agree we have great beanies. But as I said, it comes down to the presentation. And on Facebook you have a split second to make that impression.
So long story short, we are working with Kevin all the time now. He now works with us, and crafts about 80% of all our content. He is just a swell guy, and the Norwegian heritage of this American fellow makes him an even more fitting member of the crew.
Do yourself a favor, get to know this man if you ever have a chance.
The focus compounds — if it’s not beanies, I don’t care
“So we decided to just become the best hand knit wool beanie provider the internet has ever met.”
If the first stage of focus was Red Hat Factory. The second stage was honing in on beanies only. 2021’s mantra soon became, “if it’s not beanies, I don’t care.”
In 2020 we introduced wool socks and sweaters. Guess how many pairs of wool socks we sold… One pair (let me know if it’s you that have them). And wool sweaters? Zero.
With my newfound time to pour into Red Hat Factory, I had time to think things through, and look at analytics to find out where you guys actually connect with us. And I realized a couple of things.
You that find us on Google mostly care about beanies (and many of you love Steve Zissou and/or Jacques Cousteau, which is why our paths collide).
So we decided to just become the best hand knit wool beanie provider the internet has ever met, then we can consider other endeavors after that.
What is life without a mate?
In the summer time of 2021, the snowball had been rolling for a while, picking up speed, and we began talking to an old friend of mine about an investment into the company. He runs a business that further ahead in the tracks than ours, and I have often gone to him for brand building advice.
The conversations stretched out, and it took quite an unexpected turn. By the end of 2021 my old friend became a partner in Red Hat Factory — and he brings a lot of goods to the table: Experience, feedback, and most of all the sense of strength that is only found in companionship.
We’re growing, and it’s a lot of fun to have y’all along for the ride.
It was together with him that I made the final decision — to hide away the socks and sweaters for later, and have one single focus — beanies, beanies, beanies.
To clean up our trail
So what have we actually done in 2021? It’s simple.
- Enjoyed the restfulness that comes with a clearer focus.
- Polished up our website, instead of coming up with new ideas. (Finally get to do all those small things I’ve wanted to do forever!)
- Written new articles. (Writing is the number one thing I enjoy doing and want to get better at.)
- Polished up old articles that already get traffic from Google. (Oh, man it feels so good to improve on stuff that felt a bit off.)
- And most of all, we’ve prepped our Kickstarter — but that story belongs mainly in the 2022 recap.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Main thing being that focus is a key to combat stress.
If I can manage to let a good idea go, I am set for success. We all have our cruxes to get to the next level —this one turned out to be mine. If I can’t do it properly, I’m not doing it. And if anything steals focus from presenting those beanies in the best possible way, I’m scrapping it.
“If I can manage to let a good idea go, I am set for success.”
Hopefully you notice that this article is more worked out than earlier ones. And this is due to one thing: Focus.
Man lærer så lenge man lever. That’s a Norwegian proverb, and it simply means you learn as long as you live. There is no “reaching the top,” so why stress to get there. I’d rather do a few things well, than spread all my energy like butter scraped over too much bread.
And if Bilbo (the hobbit behind that butter-allegory) would pick a beanie, I pray he’d pick a Red Hat Factory one.
Yeah. That’s a good focus going forward.