Jul 17, 2012

What I've learned about being a small business owner

Have you ever wanted to jump into making your dream happen?
Something you've always wanted to do, but weren't sure if you could?


Even though I've only been doing this a short time, there's a lot that I've been learning along the way.
I'm sure that a year from now I will have all kinds of new things I've learned, but here's just a few of the key things so far.

#1- a good support system can make or break your business.


I am SO thankful for my family.  SO thankful.  They really support what I do, help out a lot, and make sacrifices, just to allow me to pursue what I love.
My husband is constantly helping me move furniture to the shop, shows, and into the garage.  And he never complains.



My daughter, while not exactly enthusiastic about what I do, does show me glimpses of how she is proud of me, and it means the world to me.  Because I really want her to see that if you want something in life, you try.
 You don't hang back in fear of the "what ifs".
The only complaint I hear is how embarrassed my husband is of all the junk in the garage, and can we please shut the garage door so all the neighbors won't see?
:)

I can oblige that.

(by the way- they do see, but I'm glad that most of them have a sense of humor,
 or interest in what I'm doing despite the mess....)

My dad has also helped me with fixing problem pieces, and I am learning so much from him along the way.  Both my parents come to every single show I have, and the same goes for my inlaws!

My brother in law has helped us move lots of heavy pieces with the assistance of their trailer.
I am very fortunate.

It breaks my heart to hear of women whose husbands and families are negative, condescending and unwilling to help.  It's tough going when you have that to contend with.

#2-Know your market


I am starting to understand the market that I sell in, what I can charge, and what people want.
The same goes for shows that I participate in.


Things that sell for hundreds of dollars on the East coast and in an antiquing haven, will only garner a fraction of the same dollar amount here.

I try to stay on top of trends of what people are buying, and then put my own unique spin on it.


At the Farmhouse show this last May, I got word that furniture sold great.  So I brought as much furniture as I could pack into my little 10x10 space.
I'd never participated or shopped at Farmhouse. (mistake #1....)

I sold 2 pieces, and hauled 4 more back.
 Not terrible, and I definitely sold a lot, but you know what was flying out the door this year?


Architectual salvage.


Signs.

Good to know for next year.

#3- Restock, restock, restock!


Whether you have an Etsy shop, a booth, or a brick and mortar, regular restocking / fluffing makes a HUGE difference in your sales!

I'm talking daily, or several times a week!


When I started my booth at Aunt Bee's House, I was going in about once a week to move things around and add new items in.
My sales were good, but I started to see that I could be making more money, and I asked a few of the top sellers what they were doing.


Daily movement in their booth!
Since learning that bit of info, I have tried to make sure I'm in a minimum of 3x a week.  Sometimes I am in every other day. And it's helping!

Even if you aren't able to bring something new in, at least try and put a fresh light on a few items.  Sometimes in doing that, it will sell when it's otherwise been hidden from a customer's view.

The same goes for Etsy.
If you can list just one new item a day, your shop continues to be seen on a regular basis.
(still working on adding this in to my routine....)



#4- follow what the large retailers are doing for seasonal changes

A couple weeks ago, I went in to Michael's for some items, and saw that they already have their fall floral stems in !!!!!
The beginning of JULY!
(we just STARTED summer here!)

There is no way I am adding in fall items to my Etsy shop or room at Aunt Bee's House this early, but- when I start to see more regular window displays from all the major retailers nodding towards fall or other seasonal changes, I will definitely be adding that into my spaces.

#5- Brand yourself




If you've always dreamed of having your own business, then treat it with the respect and dignity worthy of good branding.


I am so thankful to Megan of Red Pearl Designs, who very early on in my business, taught me about this.
She redesigned my logo, made my business cards, my Etsy header, and all of my sales tags.  It's an expense, but it looks so much better than a cheap tag.


Use the same logo for all of your stuff!
(FYI- I have recently started using my logo - now that I figured out how to add it into my photos- on all of my current pics.  You can see from some of the older photos here that I still need to do that!)  Next on the agenda- blog redesign, and stickers for sales bags for shows & Etsy transactions.

#6- Keep track


Pink Postcard became an official business with the state of Oregon this last year.
Which means I have to keep track of my income and expenses!


I have started using Outright as a way to log and organize my stuff.
It's very simple, and gives me reports of how I'm doing.
It also imports all my Etsy fees, and transaction fees every time I list something.

I also would like to start up my own spreadsheet (instead of my spiral notebook) on inventory.

#7 Do as Conan does...


via Teamcoco.com


One of my favorite quotes is from our favorite late night host:

"If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

Be kind and grateful to your customers and supporters.

Be a good coworker and vendor to the people you are working with.

Do the best job you can do with the time you are given.

Be especially good to your family- they sometimes have to work with all the junk and projects laying around the house.  Time tweaks to work with deadlines or errands
(like borrowing trailers or helping you fix furniture...)

They make the time for us to do what we love.
So love them back and be grateful!

17 comments:

  1. Denise,
    This was a great post...thanks:) I so agree that family support is a must, if you want to make a small business work. Like you, I am blessed to have mine cheering me on.

    Blessings,
    Linda

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  2. Great post, Denise, and some very sage & sound advice. Continue success to you!
    CAS

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  3. Thanks Denise...I love your philosophy!! I just opened a booth at a Variety Mall and am struggling to see if it's worth it.. by the time I pay my booth fee and 10%...I barely bring home anything. I think I should do some shows too...Anyway it always feels good to pop into your blog and see how your doing!!
    Give yourself a pat on the back..You deserve it!! :)
    Denise

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  4. Excellent Post Denise!

    Love that you shared with all of us! Here is to a greater success as time goes by for you!

    xo
    Kate

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  5. Great info! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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  6. A wonderful post! Getting cards made was a good decision on our part, too! It sure beats scratching out your info on a fridge memo paper with a kid's crayon or pen that's dying out! Best of luck for continued success!

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  7. These are really great tips! I love your logo.

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  8. I really enjoyed this post - thank you for all the helpful tips :) As a vendor at an antiques shop and having an etsy shop, this is just what I need to read - thank you!

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  9. Great insight Denise! It's been fun to see your wonderful journey and how you are going after what you love! I still remember when you knew you wanted to do something new and different, but were searching for what that was! You're doing great things with your talent!!

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  10. I love seeing your work in the garage! You are so so talented Denise, be proud and show it off! Some day I will have the courage to stop by and ask questions. :)

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  11. Thank you, thank you! I scour all the wonderful blogs out there for actual business/career advice and your post was fantastic! I am just starting out and appreciate your words of wisdom!

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  12. My husband and I have talked about owning our own thing, and fear always stops us. Bravo for you! I think its wonderful the success you're having!

    http://findingfernweh.blogspot.com/

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  13. This was so helpful, well written, and from the heart. Makes me want to give every small business owner a giant hug (and my business). All the best to you!

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  14. Fantastic Post! Thanks for sharing! Congrats that things are going so well for you! Have fun on vacation!

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  15. Love this post Denise!! Just shared on my FB page! I had to laugh when you spoke about your hubby being embarrassed by the garage. Mine says the EXACT same thing. He says it look like we should be on an episode of hoarders!;) Its a good thing they love us so much!:) Thanx for a great post!

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  16. Dear Denise,
    I loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us. I am blogging for only 6 months now and decided to start a business doing similar things you do. I am now in a self-employment program and of course, learning to do all parts of business. You gave me great tips. I have been thinking of changing the name of my business, also. So many things to think about! I am grateful to have your number 1#, a great support system. Wishing you success! Claudine

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