When just starting out, a small business is just that—small! Often, it’s a one-man or one-woman show, and responsibilities run the gamut, from marketing and customer service to copy editing and photography. A to-do list isn’t just a list anymore—it’s a novel that gets rewritten with new chapters each and every day, as new tasks and opportunities compete for priority. All that said, though, there’s perhaps nothing quite so satisfying as being able to look back years later knowing that you made it happen and that your small business isn’t so “small” anymore!
In case you’re looking for some advice as you set out on your own journey to small business ownership, we’re sharing the latest article from Darling Magazine, which details the 9 things that you might not know about launching your brand. Check it out below!
“The world is full of people who can talk your ear off about all the reasons they can’t possibly begin what they’re longing to begin. Let’s not be those people. Let’s start where we are.” — Shauna Niequist
I bet you clicked on this article for a few reasons. Perhaps you need that extra push to make the move from dreamer to doer. Maybe you simply desire opportunities for professional growth. Or, it could be that you feel compelled to learn about entrepreneurial success to reassure yourself that there’s hope for you and your small business. This article is step one for you.
I’m Emily Howard, founder, creative director and CEO of Consider the Wldflwrs, a jewelry company based out of Nashville, Tennessee. This month, we launched Eden, our engagement ring line, and last month, we opened a brick-and-mortar store in the front of our studio space. But CTWF wasn’t always diamonds and white walls. I started my business in July 2013 by selling necklaces on a free website host with less than $100.
Although I don’t regret it now, I was a bit naïve when starting my business. After a successful three months of selling jewelry online, I became a legal LLC, opened a second bank account and signed a month-to-month lease to rent a desk in a co-working space. There was no heat in the winter and no air conditioning in the summer—just a ton of dust and sweaty men using the wood shop.
Needless to say, the first year of business was full of a lot of ups and downs. Naïvete can be good, but it’s not great. Learning to mix confidence with knowledge is ideal. Entrepreneurs are full-time students learning how to balance their ideas, creativity and skills. Successful entrepreneurs become experts at avoiding pitfalls while taking risks to grow their business. Below, you’ll find nine things I’ve learned in the first three years of owning my own business.
1. Begin with revenue.
It’s nice that you have a dream, but the reality is that you will need to make money. Whether you are planning on pitching to investors or building a customer-funded business, you will need cash flow. Cash flow is the heartbeat of your business. Author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin, writes, “It pays to have big dreams but low overhead.” Overhead are things such as rent, payroll and other monthly expenses. Make a plan and write specific goals for how you are going to make money.
2. Protect your IP.
IP stands for intellectual property. Trademark your work and spend time on your privacy policies from the beginning. Talk to a trademark lawyer and make sure you are covering all your bases in the legal sense. Have a designated spot for organizing all paperwork, legal documents and trademarks. Trust me, you will get a lot of paperwork mailed to you and you want to make sure you don’t throw away something important because you thought it was spam.
3. Market yourself.
Free marketing on social media is the key to growing your start-up with low overhead. Research social media marketing ideas, and do your homework. Study businesses that are doing what you do. Know your target audience and study CRM (customer relationship management) within your company. Where is your ideal customer currently spending their money if not on you? Connect with like-minded small business owners, and learn from each other. I am currently in a mastermind group with seven female small business leaders in Nashville. We get together every other week to discuss various aspects of running a small business. Be proactive and curious. Ask questions.
Naïvete can be good, but it’s not great. Learning to mix confidence with knowledge is ideal.
4. Know your “why.”
If cash flow is the heartbeat of your business, the “why” is the actual heart. If you can’t write down the internal, external or philosophical problem your company is working to solve, your business won’t have a backbone.
“He who has a why can endure any how.” – Frederich Nietzsche
5. Understand yourself so that you can make great hires.
You are the leader. You need passion, integrity, humility, courage and self-discipline. Know your strengths, weaknesses and leadership capabilities so that when the time comes to make a hire or seek support, you know where you are lacking. Become self-aware and discern in what areas you need to improve. Start by taking personality tests that give you insight into your tendencies.
“Organizations are never limited by their opportunity. They are limited by their leader.” – Dave Ramsey
My go-to test for myself and my team members is the DISC profile. Every interviewee that we are seriously considering hiring takes this test before we offer a position. Your interview process should be EXTENSIVE. Turnover can kill a start-up. I recommend reading these six steps to a good hire.
Be sure to click through to Darling Magazine for the final four pieces of business advice!