A look back at 2016…

Lela Barker

Life often flies by in a blur, but I love the process of closing out a year and taking two steps back to look at what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown over the last twelve months. After feeling like I’ve been in the weeds, it’s helpful for me to zoom out and gather insights into the year that was. Each year, I compile a little retrospective here on the Lucky Break blog about the year that was…. here’s how 2016 shaped up for me!



look back 2016


LOTS OF NEW CLIENTS: Over the course of the last twelve months, I had the pleasure of working alongside 561 brands who tagged Lucky Break in to help in one capacity or another. This year saw notable growth in a few particular product categories: I’m working alongside more apparel + accessory designers and stationers than ever before. I’m excited not only by the size of my community these days, but by the diversity in the products we make, too.


HEAPS OF FREE BUSINESS COACHING: I streamed live on Periscope 72 times this year, offering more than 80 hours of free business coaching. In the process, I amassed a following that’s 20,130 people strong and those lovely people thanked me by offering 1,889,056 hearts for the effort (thank you!). In 2017, I’m parking Periscope for a bit to launch a new podcast created especially for makers + product designers. More on that soon…


A BRAND NEW CLASS: 28 savvy brand owners joined me for the maiden voyage of my new semester-long brand development program. And I popped the bubbly for 49 more brand owners as they graduated from Brick House Branding throughout the year. In 2017, I’ll be making space for 90 more brands in BHB. Heads up: my next enrollment period opens on January 10 for the spring semester!


RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME GROWTH: I grew the Lucky Break email list by 27%, the company’s overall revenue by 60%, and my team by 33% this year. I was thrilled to welcome Eileen to my motley crew of empire builders last May. That means that there are now four of us working full-time to help you hustle smarter and leaner. Woohoo!


MY BIGGEST BUSINESS PROJECT IN 14 YEARS: I launched my most ambitious project to date with Wholesale Matchmaker. The technical logistics were 837 times more complicated than I ever imagined and I had to temporarily freeze enrollment after 100+ brands joined within the first twelve hours, but… hot damn, that was a good time! Since that launch in June, my team has built a mind-boggling amount of technical scaffolding to support new members, which proved to be a necessity as an additional 100+ members poured into the Wholesale Matchmaker community.  To date, my team has built comprehensive profiles for 2,498 awesome shops that adore artisan goods, and rolled out more than 100 new software features in six waves of software upgrades. We’re a special kind of exhausted, but we’re also incredibly proud of what we’ve built.


TRAVELING + TEACHING + COCKTAILING: I talked my way across the country (again). I was invited to speak at business conference from coast to coast… Ventura CA; Nashville TN; Tampa FL; New Orleans, LA; Greenville, SC; and a few other spots. Meeting entrepreneurs face-to-face is incredibly energizing for me and I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2017. I logged 67,178 miles on Delta this year and I plan to log a few more in the coming year!







  • An LBU grad + Coaching Community member was selected as a national finalist in Etsy’s Open Call competition. She scored a purchase order at the event and her products can now be found at 100+ Paper Source stores nationwide!


  • Another LBU alum + LBU Alumni Coaching Community member who makes educational toys won a prestigious “Product of the Year” award from Creative Child magazine.


  • One of our clients was invited by Etsy to join them on Capitol Hill and lobby lawmakers to watch out for small businesses.


  • The Lucky Break team did cartwheels as five LBU alum were welcomed into West Elm’s “Local” program.


  • Another LBU alum + LBU Coaching Community Member made their debut at ModCloth as the much beloved company’s first-ever apothecary brand.


  • One of our clients shipped 202,000 (TWO HUNDRED AND TWO THOUSAND) products to Ipsy in a single sale.


  • One of our apothecary brands shipped 1600+ retail orders in a single week. Get it!


  • This year, we counted a finalist in the acclaimed “Good Food” awards as one of our favorite clients.


  • One of my most beloved stationery brands shipped multiple pallets to a national retailer. Pause for a moment and think about how many cards it takes to fill a pallet…


  • I have three teammates (each with ten fingers + toes) and we can’t even count on our collective digits how many of our clients launched rebrands, scored big wholesale accounts, or landed major national press. Your accomplishments are too voluminous to list individually, but the Lucky Break team celebrated each and every one of them alongside you!




My oldest daughter graduated from high school and I bawled my eyes out as I helped move her to Indianapolis to pursue her Entrepreneurship & Innovation degree at Butler University. My youngest daughter turned sixteen and I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering how in the world my kids are so damn grown.


I turned forty. I flew along the coastline of Monaco in a helicopter, snorkeled with sea turtles in the waters of St. Thomas, sailed with two of my best friends across the Caribbean, and ate brownies in a café in Amsterdam. And I’m not in the least bit ashamed of it.

I also gained 5 pounds this year. Don’t worry: it wasn’t because of the brownies. *wink*


My daughter Chloe and I atop the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco in France this summer, on a trip we took to celebrate her high school graduation.


After having two surgeries in the last two years to remove a particularly persistent cranial tumor, I’m thrilled to share that I did not endure a third surgery in 2016. Well, not for that stinking tumor anyway. I am, however, getting a new wrist for Christmas! Over the last few months, I’ve lost feeling in 3 out of 5 fingers thanks to Carpal Tunnel but the surgeon assures me that he can make me good as new. The day after Christmas, I’ll be wheeled into an operating room for a new right hand. Three surgeries in three years… let’s pray that 2017 is the year that I break that streak!


Most important of all: I stretched waaaay outside my comfort zone this year. I learned how to show my face on live video feeds several hours a week without feeling like I want to throw up at the thought of being on camera. I made a six-figure investment to bring a program to life that I truly believe in. Without a doubt, Wholesale Matchmaker is the single biggest business investment I’ve ever made at either of my companies and it took a lot of chutzpah to dream that big. I’m proud that I did it. I continue to challenge myself to be a better consultant, boss, wife, and friend. It’s messy, but I’m getting there.


Each year, my goal is to be confident that I left everything I have out on the field. That I gave everything I could to my family and my clients. That I left no stone unturned. That I didn’t take the easiest or most comfortable routes simply for the sake of comfort or expediency. If that’s the yardstick by which I measure my year, then I’ll definitely be raising my glass to a year well-lived as I ring in 2017!


Katie- who I had never had the pleasure of meeting- surprised me during one of my workshops at Craftcation in California this year. She sat in the front row and pulled off a sweater to reveal this t-shirt she had made… my cheeks hurt from laughing so hard!




I hope you’ll take a few moments to look back on your 2016 and reflect on how far you’ve come. Entrepreneurs have a dreadful habit of being both terribly impatient and far too close to our work. The confluence of those two factors often means that we don’t recognize incremental successes, but I’m a passionate believer in zooming out and looking at the big picture for a better view of the mountains we’re moving.


The work we’re all doing is so worth doing. In the midst of the daily grind, I hope you never lose sight of that. If you feel so moved, I’d love to hear about the victories, growth and lessons you learned  in 2016.  Leave a comment below and we can celebrate together!


Cheers to an amazing 2017… onward + upward. xo


About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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