4 Things I Learned After Starting my Business
This post was written shortly after taking the leap of starting my first business, daph. It covers some skills that I picked up quickly and sometimes reluctantly but all very helpful to grow my business and myself as a business owner.
Those who choose to take on the entrepreneurial route do just that, they CHOOSE. They hang up the corporate suits and dive into what was once a passion project. Through my short journey thus far I’d say that it is that first step that is the hardest. I’ll be the first to admit it practically took me 2 years to actually take the leap and it was all after a “come to Jesus” moment with my sister harping about how I always strive to help others with their projects instead of focusing on my own. So here we are… after a 3-year experience at a risk management firm… yes, that is a fancy and real term for insurance broker, (and no, I’ll save you the time; I cannot help you get a cheaper auto or house insurance quote) and throughout my second year of my MBA with a stint at a local startup, I decided I was going to go for it. November 2016, I began to put 150% of my time, besides studying and working, I dove into my business and began the process of turning it from an idea into an actual product.
Although I don’t have an actual product yet, the amount of things I’ve learned and taught myself throughout the journey thus far has been AMAZING. Hopefully they help you out too!
You know the saying “that needed to be finished, like, yesterday”? Well yeah, I used to live my life by deadlines; most of the time beating them, but boy has that changed. First of all, I have to admit, I’m a HUGE planner. If you saw my iCal you’d see different colored appointments with a location set, travel time planned in there and ending time as well. My friends think it’s kind of ridiculous and it really can be sometimes but what can I say? That’s just how I work. So, of course when I started my business plan I gave myself a deadline. Having made business plans before for other ventures and class projects I knew it would take time but I didn’t realize it’d STILL be going on…oh yeah, I tweak my business plan about twice a week… even now!
I gave myself deadlines for about anything and everything, how long it would take me to design the exact products I wanted, by when I would have my core color choices decided, measurements and material makeup, website photos, I even gave myself a deadline for when the email had to be sent requesting quotes for vendors and just like anything else I gave the vendors a deadline for a response. FIRST LESSON, not everyone has “the American” work ethic. Seeing that I have a Peruvian family I should have known better to expect vendors to meet the deadline, and yeah that messes up your timeline.* So as of now I have scraped the whole 6 month plan and stuck to working on it week by week. Trust me, they are probably sick of my “just checking in” emails.
Research, research, research
This one is ironic. In college, I highly considered becoming a researcher, specifically in Biology, but realized that was extremely boring and lonely, to me, so I took on a business concentration. Funny thing is research follows me everywhere! The past couple of weeks have consisted of me scouring google and contacting vendors in Hong Kong and China asking them to send me samples of the accessories I want, measuring and making sure colors match and finding the “right” shade of bronze. For anyone who is curious, the amount of lobster clasps out there is seriously unnerving! Sometimes it’s frustrating and there are only so many Spotify stations I can go through that keep me entertained while looking at different sized rivets and grommets but it definitely paid off. After days of stalking my mailman for the sample deliveries and picking through the best of each I finally found those perfect pieces. (Take a peak here!) Researching what products to use and making sure the quality is the one you are looking for is essential. After all, the product you make is the definition of your brand. If your product is shipped and breaks or tears after first use, not only do you have an unhappy customer, but worst of all is “big bad social media” can wreck your brand in seconds, and don’t even get me started on consumer reviews. One negative hashtag on your Instagram and it could take hundreds of perfect orders to change consumer perception. #byebyefollowers
Any who, morale of the story, take the time to focus on the details, because as small as the piece might be, it can make the biggest impact on your overall product presentation.
Brush up on those math skills
I wouldn’t say I’m a math genius, but I do know how to hold my own when it comes to crunching numbers. And get ready to do some major crunching when parts, pieces and quotes start coming in. Specifically, since I am working with international vendors the biggest ordeal I had was deciding what currency they were going to charge me in. The first couple of quotes came in local currency and using the conversion rate came out to a fair cost but then the third came back to me in USD and gave me an OMG moment. There was NO WAY I could charge my consumers some of these amounts. So, as I do with everything, I asked for the reason the quotes were in USD… didn’t really go into the outrage and disappointment I felt which included thinking all my hopes and dreams of starting this business were out of the window. And just like that they responded that they could provide me the quote in local currency if I wished. Of course for me it would be easier to calculate all my total costs in USD but with the exchange rate in favor of the USD at the moment, I realized quickly that it was much more favorable to have the quote in local currency and then convert as I see fit. Another thing to remember is to include all those little charges you might forget such as:
Insurance cost for transporting goods
Local taxes needed to be paid on goods
Shipping material for final product delivery to customer (this includes, packaging, invoice paper, nice thank you note perchance? Everything adds up!)
And let’s not forget all the other costs related to even starting your business…
Stay motivated and reflect on all your successes
This one is a must in my book. It is actually the reason that inspired me to blog in the first place. One always needs friends, whether to ask their opinion, see a reaction to an idea or just to vent about “how hard life can be” when you have a day when everything goes wrong. I’m all for idea bouncing and just taking time to talk things through, but sometimes you just want to spit out all your ideas in your head without receiving an immediate response or reaction, sometimes you just want an outlet. This is probably one of my favorite parts of creating my own business, I get to actually designate time in my busy work day to have time to write and reflect about what’s going on. It can be a way of venting but also creates a sense of accomplishment when I write down and see all the things I’ve accomplished, all the decisions I’ve made and reflecting on all the goals I’ve met is very rewarding and keeps me going day after day.
As with anything, with struggle and hard work comes reward…. And I can’t wait to share mine with you and learn more about yours! Feel free to comment and ask questions.
*This of course is not to say that ALL Peruvian vendors are not punctual, but some are definitely not. No one’s fault, just part of the culture and something to adapt to.