Welcome to “Small Biz Betties,” a bi-monthly column focusing on setting up and running a small business. If you are of the mind to work for yourself doing what you love, then Small Biz Betties is for you, whether you’re a costume seamstress, vintage seller, jewelry maker, you name it.
In these columns I will talk about getting started in business, and what to do once you’ve got the ball rolling. I will be writing from my own personal experiences of several business I have set up – some of which failed or just died away, but others that have been successful – and sharing with you trials, tribulations, and triumphs, along with any and all advice I can give.
So how about we start from the beginning.
So, You Want To Run Your Own Business…
And why not? You have a skill or a craft that is useful and valuable to others. You may be spending your days doing this skill or craft already, as an employee or contract worker for another company. You may also be spending all your free time honing your craft or skill, and your working hours are spent in a job you hate, working for “the man,” (or woman), and resenting every minute of it.
If this is you, you may be of the type that simply cannot work for someone else. You are resourceful, clever, and skilled, and you probably feel like you are being undervalued, and certainly underpaid. Feelings of being trapped also come from situations like these. This is when you know it’s time to leave.
Getting Ready To Make the Leap
This is a subject that I will talk about more in future articles, but it should be mentioned now, as you’re just getting started. Everyone has a different time scale for leaving their full-time job and striking out on their own. Most recommend that you test the market, develop your products or services, do a little contract work on the side, to see if your ideas can generate enough income for you to work in your own business full-time.
It’s good advice, but it’s not always practical. In today’s economy, you may not have so many options. You may not even have a job. If this is the case, then you *must* make something work, and though some may tell you to “quit messin’ around and get a real job,” you must persevere, if you know in your heart of hearts that this is the right direction for you.
Business is About Tenacity
Perseverance is the most important aspect to starting out in business. Call it ambition, tenacity, or just plain stubbornness, you have to have it if you want to be in business for yourself.
Why? Because things will go wrong. Small Biz Betties is all about telling it how it is, and I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you: business is hard. Really hard.
It can also be extremely rewarding and exciting. When you are involved in every aspect of your business, and wear the many different hats it takes to operate a sole proprietorship, you will find yourself engaged on every level, using parts of your brain that went dormant in your lackluster full-time job.
So Are You Ready For Entrepreneurship? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you absolutely, without a doubt, love and adore what you do (or want to do), and can you do it every day, even weekends?
- Do you have an awesome idea for a product or service, and a knowledge of how to produce or provide it better than the competition?
- When the going gets tough, will you stick with it?
- Do you hate working for your boss/company/anybody else?
- Can you make enough money doing what you want to do?
AngelaJune 1, 2012 at 5:13 PM
Lauren, this is perfect timing. I am a full time educator but plan to retire in about 4 years. I have been using Creative Entrepeneur by Lisa S. Beam to get my head together on what I want to do. Like you I have so many things that I like to do. It is so difficult to focus on one talent and ignore the rest. But, I have to do something as my retirement package ain't much. So, I look forward to reading your bi-weekly discussions about how to get our game on. Thank you for all your inspiration. Cheers.
Lauren RJune 2, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I'm not familiar with Creative Entrepreneur, but I will look it up. You don't have to ignore your other talents and focus on one, though focus is good – you just have to decide which of your talents has the best potential to work as a business. If there are a couple – say, jewelry-making as well as seamstressing – do them both!
AngelaJune 1, 2012 at 5:58 PM
Oh, Lauren, in the future discussions or posts, could you include tutorials on how to utilize one's blog to support and get one's business public? There are probably little trouble-shooting bits that you can give all of us who not tech savvy or do not have html skills. Much of what I learned so far is trial and error but many folk do not have that kind of patience and also those, like yourself who have made it an art using your blog to promote your business is amazing. Thanks.
Lauren RJune 2, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Absolutely! That can be an entire post in itself.
Erin T./Emelote of CalaisJune 1, 2012 at 6:02 PM
I am so excited you are doing something like this. I will be going on Mat leave in the next few months and thought that it might be a good time to really get into the business idea I have floating in my head for the last year or so. I am looking forward to these posts!
Lauren RJune 2, 2012 at 12:29 AM
That's a great time to do it. It will keep your mind occupied and allow you plenty of time to test your market. 🙂 I'm curious what your idea is!
Robin's Egg BleuJune 1, 2012 at 6:25 PM
Perfect timing! I just quit my job out of frustration after many years and realized that nothing is going to change 'there', so I will have to do the changing if I'm unhappy. It's taken me decades to realize that I hate working for someone else and would much rather rely on myself. Looking forward to your next Small Biz Betty post!
Lauren RJune 2, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Robin, you and I are both this personality type, and it's a hard (and weird) realization to make, but now that you know you can't work for someone else, it will motivate you to get out there and make it on your own. And you will be awesome at it. 🙂
LaurieJune 1, 2012 at 11:17 PM
This sounds like a great idea! Be sure to include the part about how to deal with feeling comfortable with, and how to charge customers.
Lauren RJune 2, 2012 at 12:31 AM
I definitely will – that is a hard thing for lady-preneurers to do, certainly. I know I struggle still with pricing goods and wondering if they're too expensive, if anyone will buy them at all. I will make a note to write a post about this.
AnonymousJune 2, 2012 at 8:33 AM
I'm definitely going to start up "something" eventually, so it's great seeing any kind of advice and tips on the subject of starting a small business, especially from those, who actually are in small business, and not in the profession of writing guide books.
Sometimes working for someone else, even just for little "gigs" with one of your "insignificant" skills can boost your income, or be a side business. My calligraphy hobby was initially fuelled by my wish to keep my left-handed writing tidy, but it also makes me the go-to person, when you need wedding invitations or place cards. Many similar skills can be applied to starting your own business. Just look at a place like Etsy, they're full of crafty entrepreneurs, who have those little skills that used to be commonplace in a bygone era.
The most important thing is to have a product or a skill to sell, then having a business plan, since a business plan is what convinces others to give you money for starting up your venture. These days, with services such as Kickstarter, it's easier than ever to get grassroots donations – from your target audience – for starting your venture. You just need to sell your idea, and execute it.
My husband's my Venture Capital. He allows me to have my hobbies, and lets me conduct product research on him and our friends. I get feedback on my products, and experience in making them consistently, and friends have no shortage of my homemade preserves around the holidays. I'll wait until I have a larger kitchen with more storage space at my disposal, until then, I'm just making small batches of prototypes.
Lauren RJune 3, 2012 at 9:12 PM
Hi Penny – you're definitely right. Doing contract work ("freelancing") is a good way to get started, and if you're in a service industry, like graphic design, or seamstressing, then freelancing is the type of business you will be running, but within that there are ways to keep your autonomy and not become a slave to others.
evetteJune 2, 2012 at 2:59 PM
So glad you will be doing this Lauren. I'm a costumer and I am looking into along with my twin sister to open a business. I look forward to the biweekly newsletters!
AnonymousJune 2, 2012 at 3:15 PM
I'm not sure that narrowing your skill set down to one or two things is always the best policy in business. I think the more of your skills and interests you can use the more you will like what you are doing. But, I also think what they mean is offering to many services can lead to spreading yourself to thin and end up failing your product and your customer. The trick is finding that balance.
I love my current job because it uses so many of my skills and interests and "the man" stays mostly out of my hair. But, there is no pension. So when I do retire (in 20 years), I will need a back up plan to suppliment my government pension. The idea I have is to do what another blogger does. http://abigailsateliers.wordpress.com. She goes to nursing homes (I love this) in historical costumes (I love this) that she made (I love this) and she gives a little talk about the clothes and the history (I love this) then she sings songs that were popular around then (I love this). Then I will allow for photo ops with the residents if they so desire. (I love this) I have connections now for the nursing home entertainment circuit and a well loved entertainer can get $100 for an hour of work. I'm not prepared to do this at this point in my life because I work full time and have kids still at home but closer to retirement (say 10 years) I will start doing jobs on the side (first for free/cheap to get my name out there then go for the higher ends of the spectrum) In the mean time I am building a wardrobe (please God…don't let me gain weight between now and then.) I am gaining more information about what songs were popular in what decade and learning to sing them. I don't play an instrament so I will have to find someone who will either join me or will make a CD for me. And most entertainers have their own amp system. I'd also like to do a wardrobe change in the show allowing for a peek at the undies so getting a dressing screen might be a nice touch.
Lauren RJune 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM
Wanda, you are absolutely right – when you set up and start running your own biz, you have to do anything and everything to get the funds coming in. For many years I did freelance illustration and graphic design, along with selling items on Etsy, running a portrait-drawing booth at Renaissance Faires, and then expanded to do some costuming work (which didn't work for me), and now design and sell shoes online. It's an exercise in survival until you find something that really works for both you and your potential customers.
AngelaJune 2, 2012 at 5:04 PM
Ladies there is a book you may want to pick up to supplement what Lauren is going to discuss in her up and coming posts: The Handmade Market Place by Kari Chapin. I had a floral business once and some of what she talks about I knew but it was a great refresher. It is very easy to read and it helps you think about the things you will have to do deal with business licenses, taxes etc. There are interviews with other creative entrepeneurs providing insight into pitfalls, etc. I personally like to get all perspectives, so I am looking forward to these bi-weekly posts and discussions. Cheers.
Lauren RJune 3, 2012 at 9:16 PM
I'll have to get a copy of that book, Angela. I also find it really helpful to read stories of other small biz ladies (and dudes, too) who have been successful doing what they love. It's a great motivator!
MercinaJune 2, 2012 at 6:16 PM
Lauren, as a small business owner myself i stand in awe of your mastery of social networking skills. I very much enjoy your blogs. Beautifully timed series, I await further developments. I am really curious about your experiences in prototype development and small lot manufacturing for your shoe line.
All the best
Mercina AKA The Fairy Godmother
Lauren RJune 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM
Mercina, thank you! In further articles I will definitely be talking about how to get started, and survive, in manufacturing, with any factory, but especially with an overseas factory. It's…a wild ride, lol!
UnknownJune 2, 2012 at 8:25 PM
This is a fabulous post, and a great one to share! As a mum of two with a aprt time Etsy shop I would totally agree with your "are you ready" section, although I don't have the time, I have the next few years to get stuck in and start building… I'm really looking forwrad to this series! Janine x
Bonnie miss floraJune 4, 2012 at 2:20 AM
Thanks so much Lauren! Although I've been running my own historical sewing buisness for a little over 3 years now (and working part time one the side) it's been an uphill learning curve. I started it with little to no buisness skills and still struggle occasionally. Things are tough as you said but it's so worth it in the end!
I love your buisness savvy attitude and I know we've duscussed things before, but I can't wait to hear the rest of your bites!!
Green MarthaJune 4, 2012 at 6:03 AM
This is such a brilliant idea, thank you for sharing this ! As I'm setting up slowly establishing my own small business, assessing what I want and can do, it's really is something I want to read more about !
Call it ambition, tenacity, or just plain stubbornness […] I always claimed stubbornness was a desirable quality, hah ! 😉