Case Study: Next Weekend Design
How the founder of Next Weekend Design pulled the ideas out of her head and got her financial plan together.
Next Weekend Design is a pre-launch company based in Brooklyn, New York. Founder Anna Bjerknes laughs when she’s explaining how she came up with the idea: “I love trash.” Anna’s apartment is packed with found objects, 3D printers, and all of the equipment she needs to run a made-to-order company that specializes in zero waste design, or products that eliminate wasted materials in the production process. This is important because it means fewer materials end up in the trash. It’s a complex process that requires major attention to detail. Anna tells us, “you don’t realize how long it will take to create something zero waste.”
As Anna built her designs, she started to realize that they had the potential to become much more than just an idea, but she was having a hard time moving up to the next level. “Things were stalled. I had a lot of ideas but had trouble finding the motivation and the format to make it feel like I can take my ideas and translate them into a brand, as opposed to something that’s been in my head for a year.”
Anna faced a problem that many entrepreneurs have during the first few years of their journey. How could she organize her thoughts and turn them into a financial plan that could actually grow into a sustainable company?
When new businesses begin to form, it’s very common for the idea to drive the brand, but processing ideas and getting them out of our heads and into a format that can grow into a business can be tricky. “I’d been thinking about things for about a year, but nothing tangible. I had a website splash page and an Instagram, but nothing real and no action plan to make it happen,” Anna says.
When looking for a little inspiration, Anna heard of SewEthico’s Budget Boot Camp from a friend. “The Boot Camp seemed like a great first step because a budget is so important, especially when you’re starting out. The idea of having a full weekend in a boot camp about my brand felt like a great opportunity, and like something that would really push me.”
As someone with a lot of business knowledge herself, Anna knew she needed something that was going to go above and beyond a basic number-crunching workshop. “I went to NYU for economics and I did a minor in business at Stern. Even though I felt comfortable with the financials, the truth is that when it comes to your business, it’s very different. With the Boot Camp, you have an impartial eye to look at your budget, profit and loss statements, and financials. That helps a lot.”
Anna was up for a challenging few days in the budget boot camp, but with the support of SewEthico, she came out with a plan and trajectory for her brand that brought her beyond launching her first product.
The Budget Boot Camp wasted no time, “The first day was very intense, but I learned more and thought about my business more in five hours than I probably had in the last six months,” Anna explains, “we opened my bank account and went through my business expenses, big and small, categorized them, and talked about how they fit into the next year of my brand. From there, we broke down my product, and while I didn’t have all the numbers, we researched and mocked up what a COGS would look like. Then we took those two things and put it into an annual budget and came up with my break-even point.”
The experiences she had during those two days changed Anna’s perspective on her brand in many ways. She tells us, “it helped me think more holistically about my brand. Before, I was thinking, ‘labor is X, material is Y, then I mark it up for wholesale and then again for retail.’ It wasn’t a complete picture. The boot camp helped me see the big picture and how that fit with the small decisions I was making. It wasn’t the black and white formula that is taught a lot.”
Further than that, Anna felt that the boot camp experience helped her to concentrate on the challenges she wanted to solve the most. “We were sitting in a room for two days doing this, so all the other problems faded away because we were focusing on the budget.”
Anna knows working with Cat means she’ll have to push herself, and the work they accomplish isn’t easy. “I won’t lie, I don’t always love talking to Cat. But if I look back on the advice she gives, it’s always right, but it leads to some dark days,” she jokes. “She makes me confront the hard questions about my business that I’ve been avoiding for a reason. She brings it front and center. But she always helps you find a way out of them, and that’s really good. It’s like business therapy: she makes you talk about the things you don’t want to talk about.”
Anna’s perspective on her business changed after the Boot Camp, “I tracked my finances differently after. 150%. The boot camp made me think about things as business expenses that I wasn’t thinking about before. I thought about keeping a budget differently than I had before, because the experiments were also part of building the business. I took my business finances more seriously. A lot of things were business expenses even if they didn’t feel like it.” By learning how to track expenses, big and small, and developing the tools to easily understand how they fit into her company as a whole, Anna was able to see the bigger picture of her brand.
Anna also appreciated the jump-start the boot camp gave her budgeting systems. “The spreadsheets were amazing! And I didn’t have to make them myself. Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you want to take all the time.” With those budget systems out of the way, Anna could spend more time concentrating on the important things, like designing the perfect zero waste zipper. Not only that, Anna felt like the boot camp helped her to future-proof her business, and save her time and energy moving forward. “The deep dive is good and builds a system that in six months or a year, I’ll be really thankful I have it. Systems are so important in your business.”
Looking to the Future
Now, six months after Anna joined SewEthico’s Budget Boot Camp, she’s on a roll. She’s completed an initial prototype and is working on her next round of updates, and plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign by the end of the year. With the goal of her initial round of funding in mind, she’s also working to create a brand identity that will help connect her customer to Next Weekend’s mission.
When asked about her experience with SewEthico, Anna tells us, “I see a direct line from the boot camp to where I am today with my prototype, my plan for the next six months, and having my brand identity in progress. If I think of SewEthico and I tell people to go to the events and workshops, I say ‘This is going to be a deep dive into your brand, product, what you’re doing. You’re not just sitting around to make yourself feel better about your brand, and it’s not a passive experience. It’s going to be active and you’re going to face hard questions.’”
But, when it comes to facing those hard questions, Anna knew that Cat’s support and solution-driven process would help her to get through to the other side, even when the ride got bumpy. “It was about finding someone who really had a passion for this. But it’s not only that, Cat has a passion and is making it actionable. She is so clearly using that passion in a strategic and influential way. Feeling like I met someone who knew what they were doing and that I could trust, and who cares about what you’re doing…That was honestly the best part.”
Keep an eye out for Next Weekend Design’s Kickstarter, launching late 2019.
Hi there, I'm Cat Bradley
Founder of SewEthico, systems enthusiast, marketing expert, and nonprofit career alum. I help women founders build their first marketing departments and structure their company around their clients, so they can grow, prove traction, and gain funding for their mission-driven businesses. Get my support to grow your business.