While I am no expert when it comes to matters of business and entrepreneurship, I have learnt a great deal in the past few years. Some lessons learned very easily and others, well, took a little more effort. I’m told that is what owning your own business is all about. Hard work, mistakes (some costly), fatigue, and restless days/nights and much, much more. Being passionate about something is where it starts but is definitely not the only thing. Here are some of the valuable things we have learnt these past few years.
1. Money. You always need a lot of it. Even for some of these home based businesses you always hear about on the Internet. To start a business legitimately, there are all kinds of documents you need to submit, hence lots of fees you need to pay before you can even set up shop. Something that I think is often glossed over in the beginning (i.e. Domain name, website hosting, registering your business name, business license etc.). Even after you are established you will find yourself spending money. If you manufacture your own product, there’s all the cost surrounding that and if you don’t personally manufacture the items yourself then you will be worried about factory costs, shipping, supplies etc. The list really is never ending, no matter what point you are at in your business. It’s the ongoing battle we will as business owners always face. Money, money, money, money!
2. Competition. If you are one of the lucky few that creates or invents something and can trademark or patent it, that’s fantastic. However, many of us design items that you can’t really patent for various reasons. There will always be a little competition, or in some cases, a complete copy. We would often have people check out our products in one of our retailers stores, just so that they could copy our product but not buy it. I’m not going to lie, that sucks! But it happens in our business everyday and we just had to accept it and move on. At the end of the day there wasn’t anything we could do about it. I would rather take that frustration and direct it into our company than focus on things we couldn’t change. Imitation is the sincerest type of flattery, right??
3. Public Eye. After we did a few celebrity events in the US, suddenly we were getting a great deal of media coverage in our local community. It was great for sales (yay) but it was a lot of work too. Suddenly for awhile anyways, people knew who you were and I often I found myself telling the same stories over and over again. What was difficult about that was we often had our kiddos with us. Anyone that has kids will tell you, that kids don’t like standing in one place for too long before they start getting “fractious” as my mom likes to say. It wasn’t long before they were running all over the place, hooting and hollering and I was left wondering if people thought I had strange children. Keep in mind that this could happen and suddenly your grocery trips/gas station stops/library visits may go on a little longer than expected. Not a bad thing, but if you have an appointment scheduled…
4. Friendships and/or relationships can suffer. When my sister and I first started our company everyone seemed to rally behind us. Countless pep talks and encouragement, endless business advice and kudos to our hearts content. And then somewhere along the way, some of those very friends stopped caring. Some even disappeared completely from our lives. It was a tough adjustment to make, and we chalked it up to just being busy and not maintaining those relationships. In some cases, we were probably thought of as being a little selfish, and a lot focused. But not on the stuff we used to be focused on. Instead of play dates, and trips to the Farmer’s Market, we were trying to figure out which retail location we wanted to pitch to and where we could get the best fabric. Realizing that you aren’t going to be BFF’s for life sometimes is hard, but meeting some other great peers/friends/customers makes the sting a little easier. Thinking that nothing was going to change when we started this company was an understatement. Change is inevitable and isn’t always bad. Often, it brings the best kinds of rewards. The Unexpected kind.
These are just a few of the things that we have learned in the past little while. I know it seems like I have only mentioned some of the harder lessons, but they are lessons still prevalent now. You know what, it’s still just as hard today as it was back then. I’m not sure it ever gets easier. You just learn how to deal with it all a little better. Despite some of the bad outcomes of choices/ decisions we have made, I wouldn’t change a thing. A little struggle is a good thing, as it makes the victories that much sweeter.