In a scene from a favorite childhood movie Through the Looking Glass, Alice sits between the Red Queen and White Queen and begins to say something like, “If I really am a queen…” The Red Queen interrupts to sneeringly, nasally, whiningly, repeat, “If I really am a queen…”
I’ve been hearing that voice a lot lately. When I started my business about two years ago, I didn’t know enough to realize what an amateur I really was. I didn’t know how to take good pictures. I didn’t know what SEO was. I thought I would just post things online and sell them. I knew there was a vast world of business knowledge out there, I just didn’t know that I’d need it. I simply had some things to sell. I had no goals. I had no plan.
It’s a long story, but I’ve had quite an education since then. I’ve registered my trade name, read books on business, met with business mentors, had an article published, and launched my own website. My business is still tiny, but I’ve been making modest goals and reaching them. I’ve been looking for that next step and taking it. The thing is that fairly often lately, that next step has led me into places where I don’t feel like I belong. Places where I brush shoulders with ‘real’ business women and men. [If I really am a businesswoman…] People who make a living with their business, not people who are excited to get one sale a week. People with real resources, not people who are worried about whether they should have spent $20 on business cards. I want to network, but I’m shy as to the questions I might be asked about my tiny brand. Unlike when I began, I know just enough now to know what a beginner I still am.
I want to stay in my safe little house sewing in my yoga pants, but part of what I’ve learned is that if I’m not brave enough to go where I don’t quite fit in yet, I never will belong at that level of success. Business doesn’t stand still—it moves forward or it dies. If I want to interest people in my product, my attitude needs to say that I have something of value to offer. If I want mentors and helpful contacts, I need to present myself as a person with a serious business. I need to believe it. When people ask what my business is I need to announce it, tell them what I make and why they need it, and hand them a business card. I can’t indulge my inclination to mumble apologetically in the general direction of the floor that it’s a really small business, hardly a business at all really, just some things I make myself, probably nothing they are in the market for.
In Looking-Glass Land, everything is backwards. In another scene, a cake has to be passed around before it is cut. Starting a business, in my experience, is just like that. It requires pointing as many people as possible in the direction of a business that, in some senses, isn’t quite there yet. I can’t wait until I know everything. I can’t wait for huge production or profits. I can’t wait until I’m sure I won’t fail. I really am a businesswoman…