Maybe you’re a stay-at-home parent who wants to take your crafting hobby to the next level, or maybe you’re just getting out of business school and looking for investors. No matter how much training or education you have before starting your small business, you’re going to learn A LOT. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way.
1. Know WHY You’re Starting a Small Business
What are you doing? Why are you doing it? If you can’t answer those two questions, maybe it’s not time to quit the day job. Lots of people like the idea of working for themselves, but how does your idea differ from theirs? Do you solve a problem? Answer a question? Have a passion? Make sure you know the why of your small business, not just for others to hear, but for you to tell yourself when things get tough.
2. Start Before You’re Ready
Being prepared is important, but if you wait until you know everything there is to know about running a business, you’ll never get started. Chances are you'll never feel totally ready. At some point, you’re going to have to jump in feet first.
3. But Have a Plan B (And C)
Starting before you’re ready doesn’t mean you can’t be thinking ahead. Have some backup plans on hand for when things go wrong. Because we can promise you that things will go wrong. There will always be things that are out of your control. Think about what you would do if the supplies don’t come in, or the equipment breaks, or everyone gets the flu. Be resourceful and don’t panic.
Sometimes the things that go wrong are in your control, like the big idea that doesn’t pan out or the product that no one is buying. Having the flexibility to change your plans and the willingness to let go of ideas that aren’t working will serve you well. Don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go as expected. It’s bound to happen, so always be looking to learn and move on. Don’t hold on to something that isn’t successful just because you think it should be a hit.
5. Be Authentic to Yourself
Chances are, opportunities are going to come up that fall just a little bit outside of what you hoped to be doing. It’s hard to turn down work, but it’s also important to remember that you can’t be all things to all people. Will that custom side project help you get more business, or will it just take your attention and efforts away from what you really want to be doing? Go back to that question of WHY and ask yourself if it fits.
6. Tell Your Story
Any marketing agency or MBA grad will tell you that your story is vital these days. As the world becomes more and more digital, we have found that people react strongly to our specific points of view. So connect with your product more genuinely. Tell people your why, let them see (some of the) dirt and express the importance of your journey. They want to listen and engage.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask (or Pay) for Help
Running a business takes a lot of work and many different kinds of skills. Make sure to get help where you need it. There are lots of people out there who offer services geared towards helping small businesses. Accountants, social media marketers, lawyers and consultants are just a few examples. It may seem daunting at first (or intimidating) to pay for these services but remember: The energy you put into the stuff you don’t know how to do is taking away time and energy from the stuff you do well. Not sure where to begin? Find a group of supportive small business owners in your area or online. They’ve been where you are and can offer guidance on where you need to go.
8) Roll Up Those Sleeves
Whoever said, “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” didn’t run a small business. Get ready to knuckle down, hustle, put in the hours, burn the candle at both ends, bring your blood, sweat and tears, power through, put your nose to the grindstone, and do whatever it takes. Being your own boss can be rewarding, but it also means that at the end of the day, if something needs to be done, you’re the one who has to make it happen.
Anna Warren and Sarah Kirkham are the owners of Tactile Craftworks, a leather crafting company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Founded in 2014, Tactile Craftworks started on a dining room table and can now be found in 150 stores. nationwide and online at www.tactilecraftworks.com.