I’ve always had a vague interest in starting my own business, but until this year, I would have a few ideas each year, but none that ever struck enough of a cord to motivate me to move forward. This year I finally made the jump and started a business, and the learning curve has been drastic. Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far, in hopes that they will provide guidance and inspiration to other women.
Eventually, You Just Have to Jump
I have a lot of varied interests and skills, so I’m always coming up with business ideas. The thing is, I’m paying off a large amount of student loans. My day job is in marketing, and a lot of my business ideas revolved around marketing. I didn’t feel I was financially stable enough to quit my job, but every weekend I set aside to flesh out my business ideas ended up being filled up by social obligations. I’m all about work-life balance, and I just couldn’t force myself to spend all my free time doing the same thing I do all week at work.
Eventually, I decided to start selling lamps that I make out of old wine and liquor bottles. I signed up for a Christmas craft fair and was hooked. I sell other handmade items as well, and now have a regular booth at my local farmer’s market. Because this is so different from my day job, I don’t have to force myself to spend time on it. I actually want to.
Also remember that everyone thinks they are a business expert, whether they’ve run a business or not. It’s important to think about when you’re ready, not when your cousin’s best friend who saw an advertisement once says you should make the entrepreneur leap. There are definitely times to listen to entrepreneurship advice and times to tune it out.
So if you’re constantly having business ideas but never following through, I suggest thinking about why. Are you afraid of failure? Can you just not handle that type of work in your current situation? This will help you decide whether it’s worth it to quit your day job and strike out on your own, or if you need to analyze other angles and find something you can manage along with your other obligations. If you’re waiting for the perfect moment, you will never end up becoming a business owner. Finding people who will help make your business successful will also really benefit you! Using a website like job estimating software can really give your business a boost! You should also make sure that your business website is up to date. Your website is the first thing that many people will look at when they are considering whether or not to use you. You want to make sure that it is perfect and grabs the attention of your potential clients. You should check out someone like this web designer in Toronto if you would like professional help.
Not Everyone’s a Customer, but Everyone’s a Connection
Right now, I don’t have a storefront. I make my sales online and at local markets. In such public places, not everyone that passes you buy is interested in being a customer. Sometimes people come to markets for one particular item and aren’t interested in browsing. Some people are dragged along by friends and family members. These people are not overly-likely to become customers.
My lamps vary in style, but most of them appeal to women more than men. More often than not, when men are interested in my products, it’s not because they want to buy them. Every week, I am approached by men who are interested in how I produce my lamps, in the hopes that they can make some of their own. This could be discouraging, but I happily share my process (it’s not secret; I learned it online). After all, I often see items at craft fairs that I think, “I could make that”. I never do. By being friendly, I establish a connection. This means that these guys may come back to buy a gift in the future. Or they may recommend me to other potential customers. In today’s world of social media reviews, it’s important to be friendly and form connections with everyone possible, even people who aren’t likely to buy your product.
It may sound ridiculous, but another connection you can make through people interested in your business is those that can offer you their services. With running a small business by myself, it’s quite hard to keep on top of all of the responsibilities and sometimes you can miss things. For example, a gentleman who liked my lamps recently emailed me offering the service of legal help with debt and I didn’t think anything of it. However, after thinking about it, it made sense to keep in touch and maintain the connection. If I ever was to have any issues, I would already have developed that relationship with a customer who can help me out if I need them to!
Competition Isn’t Negative
When friends and family see me talking with people about how I create my lamps, they sometimes ask if I’m afraid they’ll start making and selling their own lamps locally, becoming competition. I tell them there are a couple reasons this prospect doesn’t scare me. The first is that just because other people are technically capable of creating similar products to mine, doesn’t mean that they have the same skills I do. Each lamp I create has a certain style. Maybe someone local will start creating lamps just as pretty and artful as mine, but most I see online are plain and lack personality.
The other reason that the idea of competition doesn’t scare me is that competition is actually great for business. This year, there is a market only a couple a blocks away from the market I’m selling at. Some vendors were cranky about this, saying it would take away customers. In actuality, it brings more people downtown. If more people start selling lamps like mine, it just makes my product more well-known and appealing. It’s up to me to make sure that my work continues to stand out above the rest.
You Still Need “Me Time”
Schedule-wise, I’m pretty spoiled by my day job. I work four 10-hour days, meaning I get 3-day weekends. This means that now that I’m working markets every Saturday, I get Friday to prep, Saturday selling for my business, and Sunday to recover. There have been some weekends though that I definitely overbook myself. It’s important to take some time off any and find something relaxing to do. You can only perform your best if you’re energized and rejuvenated. Being a business owner requires creativity and creativity flows best when you’re at your peak.