On the eve of my second (third? fourth? It was the second one I started, back in 2015, and is coming off the shelf after doing a bunch of other things) business launching, I have the entrepreneurial buzz in a big, big way.
Some people jump out of planes to get high, others take pills and potions and listen to house music until their ears go numb (I mean, whatever works for you is great, as long as you’re happy and safe!). My drug of choice is getting really, really involved with things, whether it be curating our little lovenest, or planning a trip, or learning something new. There is nothing I get more involved with than my businesses.
There is no better rush than seeing something you’ve built up yourself succeed.
I’m not talking about multi-level marketing, or even franchising; both are brilliant in their own right and are absolutely spot on for some people, but this is taking something from idea to fruiting, seeing it bloom from seed, and the wonder that it is.
It’s so satisfying. It can also be heart-wrenching, expensive, exhausting and flat-out ridiculous , but the thrill of the good bits makes it 100% worth every dip and slide.
When I started Chloe Jane Candle Co, I taught myself a lot about making candles but nothing about running a business. Over the years since it launched I’ve been lucky enough to meet some incredible humans who’ve been really generous with their wisdom and have collected some pearler advice on the way, but for the most part it’s been trial and error, baby!
With that in mind, I thought it’d be a great time to sit down and type out what I know when it comes to how to start a business. Here we go!
// Research the heck out of it.
Imagine if you dreamed up an incredible idea, that was kind of the same but completely different to any other idea out there. You put in a bunch of hours (days, weeks, months), splash the cash, get ready to launch and spot the exact same idea on your facebook feed. Nope, nobody’s reading your mind, you probably just saw the idea ages ago, forgot about it, and remembered it as your own. Bummer. If this does happen, don’t think for a second about going ahead unchanged- there is nothing worse than a copycat, even an accidental one.
It’s not just that, though! Researching every aspect of your plan, from your target market (see other, similar ideas for who’ll dig your biz), to design concepts, to laws and insurance, to six different style prototypes. Ask your mates to tell you what works, ask your nan if what you’ve put together looks, smells, feels right- not your mum, because she’ll probably just be stoked to see you off your millennial bum doing something (haha) and cheer you on either way- annoy everyone you know for support and feedback and then look after them with some cheeky discount codes when you do finally launch.
// Build your socials.
Social media is the only marketing you need. Personally, I want more than that and have been lucky enough to team up with an incredible PR agency on occasion (read: when I can afford to), but for a cash-strapped student or young-gun the only thing you need is social media.
‘But that’s not real life!’ I hear someone up the back cry through the crowd. ‘Yes it bloody well is’, I reply from my living room, laptop balanced on my right knee. ‘Grow up.’. That’d be really rude, but the point I’m trying to make is that social media is an important and central part of life for our generation, and that you’d be an absolute goose to let a cheap, if not free opportunity for advertising and building an incredibly supportive tribe pass you by.
To be fair, when I started there was no such thing as the algorithm or paid ads on Instagram and far less rules for Facebook, but with time and love, you’ve got this.
// Checkya finances.
Way back when, I literally only had enough money in my account to buy supplies that’d make a small batch of candles. I reckon it was about $36, and the guarantee that I’d be eating noodles for the rest of the week. I bought the supplies, and somehow broke just above even when I sold them for a song.
I reinvested (that’s a fancy way of saying I spent the cash on more candle stuff), made more candles, rinse and repeat until this very day. The moral of the story is that you don’t have to have a trust fund or crazy saving game to get something rolling.
Unless it’s a winery or something, then you probably do. I’m yet to take out a loan for any business things, and while there are still some weeks that noodles are a staple that feels pretty good.
If there’s no way you can go it alone- hello adult financial responsibilities, consider a pre-sale. Get what you need together, make sure it’ll be available when you have the cash or you’ll look like a dickhead when you can’t fill prepaid orders, and launch. Use the pre-sale funds to get the stock in and go from there.
// Say seeya to fear.
Things That Are a Waste of Time, a list by me.
- Dusting the tops of areas that nobody can see. Seriously, if you look on top mf my fridge you are not welcome here.
- Putting your pin number in rather than using paywave.
- Six hours of YouTube when you have an assignment due tomorrow.
- Letting your dreams slip through your fingers and turn into dust because you’re worried they won’t turn out perfectly.
The easiest way to be sure they won’t become something incredible is to chuck them in the bin before they’ve even seen daylight. The very, very worst thing that could happen if you take it easy and chase your dream-of-the-day is that you might lose a bit of money (hence not investing your whole life’s saving straight off the bat), and gain some experience. You win a little, you learn a little, and that’s the way life works.
// Keep it in perspective.
For at least the first twelve months after you have your idea, your business will be your life. It should be your life. If you want to make it work it’ll occupy your every time and thought, consume you in sleep and wake. Without the drive of giving all of your shits, it’ll probably fizzle as your interest does.
You’ve gotta stay motivated even on the slow days, but as you focus focus focus you’ve also gotta be mindful of keeping it in perspective. Whether your business takes off in a crazy, crazy way and sees you hitting the city news before you can say ‘holy guacamole what a good day’, or hits speedbumps too big for you to manage, you’re going to want your people around you when whatever happens, happens.
You’ll probably be a bit of a lame friend, partner, child and human with your brain ticking over all of the time, and there’s no real way around that but it is important that you communicate. Warn people that this life-changing thing means you’re not available like you have been, but tell them that you love them, too. Be sure that they know as soon as you come up for air it’s them you’ll run to for a squeeze and a chat.
If anything pressing should happen though, remember that you can press pause on what you’re doing. Being a good person is the most important thing.
// Keep it in perspective (again).
On the other side of being cool-as-a-cucumber is breathing through the big things when it comes to your small business. Tackle the problem with your product, service, experience as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Even if you’re an absolute superstar (I don’t doubt it!), issues will arise. Maybe it’s a customer complaint, or a stock shortage by your supplier, or the aforementioned someone pinching your ideas. Step away, put yourself in the shoes of an employee. Yes, this is your baby but for now, make like it’s not.
Deal with the problem with pep, keep it friendly and light and you might just look back and realise the big thing was a little thing after all.
// Have fun!
I hope you like a good vintage cheddar, because I’m about to sound like a big hunk of cheese! But really. Be passionate about what you’re doing, and if you’re not change what you’re doing so that you are. It’ll make the lows shallower and the highs’ll reach the stars.
La Bohéme Collective is launching (again) tomorrow, the 18th of July 2017, at 6PM South Australian time. I’m so excited to start this new adventure (which you can find at www.labohemecollective.bigcartel.com, for now) and hope that this little blog post has inspired you a bit, too x