Sink or swim?! It sounds soooo obvious….of course you want to swim!!
But, in our first few months of starting our business, we definitely felt like we were drowning. Yes, we were trying to swim, to catch our breath between the waves of learning, challenges and late nights. But often it felt like desperate doggy paddling-- certainly not graceful freestyle, lol!
Our journey into the business world started when a good friend of ours, Sarah, approached Cara & Kelly-Ann about whether we would like to purchase her small business. We had already been buying product from Sarah for our own little start-up teething company called “The Therapy Boutique”, where we designed and created teething toys & necklaces, as well as sensory, fidget and chew accessories. We were enjoying the world of DIY silicone teething and craft supply, and our little ETSY shop was starting to take off.
*Our first teething company, "The Therapy Boutique"; one of our most popular styles (back in the day!!)
Sarah mentioned she wanted to focus more on her family, and we thought that the opportunity of buying her business sounded exciting and adventurous! Our minds were bursting with ideas and dreams before we even finalized the purchase!
Little did we know what was coming our way!!!!
We want to share some of our story and some of the key lessons we think small business owners could learn from our experience. Chasing your business dreams sounds a bit “pie-in-the-sky”, but we think there are some super “down-to-earth” lessons that can help keep you focused and successful as an new entrepreneur.
LESSON 1: TAKE A RISK
Stepping into a new business venture was exciting and SCARY at the same time. It required us to TAKE A RISK, borrow money, and work, work, work!
At the time we purchased the business from Sarah, it was called “Canadian DIY Supply” and was run out of a small room in her home. When we carried the boxes of beads over into another small room in the basement of Cara’s home, we felt exhausted and ecstatic!
*Moving over and organizing product in our basement office space!
Mixed in the excitement were fear and questions: What if this flops?! What if we fail and end up in even more debt?! Apart from our small ETSY shop, both of us had little business experience: Cara was a high-school teacher and guidance counsellor, and Kelly-Ann worked with an organization focused on assisting young adults and children with special needs. Everything felt new and daunting those first couple of months, but we WANTED to learn and this drove us to work even harder.
*And we thought we were overwhelmed by beads then!! :)
We learned that risk is NECESSARY. In fact, risks won’t stop coming as you run a business. There will continue to be risk in the choices you make as you grow and change. We’ve never heard of a business that didn’t take a risk at some point.
*Thrilled to have an order!
It’s difficult to know whether a risk is a smart or dangerous one. The Small Business Administration states that approximately 22% of businesses will close within their first year.
The two main reasons are poor cash management and incompetence. Sound depressing?! Try reading the stats about failure in online businesses—almost 90% of them fail within the first four months!
As daunting as the statistics were, we felt confident based on our research that we were taking a risk that was high in opportunity and potential, with factual data to support this. Be encouraged that these statistics can actually be empowering! If you have a great idea, a clear plan and business strategy, you are already reducing all of those risks for yourself. We thought those negative statistics actually gave us a positive perspective: we knew that if we ensured we tackled those “failure points”, we actually could quickly become part of the “success percentage”!
Thought the challenges stopped with the first major risk?! Think again!
LESSON 2: OBSTACLES WILL COME: Don’t be surprised!
We were faced with a massive obstacle early on (actually, it was about three days into owning our new business!). When we switched over the Etsy account from the previous owner and tried to connect it with our own account, we hit some complications that caused us to lose all of our customer data, product information and pictures. We were DEVASTATED. All of our excitement was crushed and we were so deflated. (Enter stress.)
But looking back, it was one of the best experiences that happened on our journey. It forced us to think outside of the box and be visionary. Problem solving brought motivation and helped us make the company “our own”. Sarah, the previous owner, had struggled with others copying her hard work on Etsy. Losing so much information helped us think of alternative business options, and we decided to develop our very own website.
That might not seem monumental now that our website is more established, but at the time we were the first in North America to bring our particular product to this type of platform. Having our own website gave us more control over our content and structure. Although we have also been faced with the disappointment of other companies copying our unique ideas, we know that our customers trust us to be original and true to our brand. We continue to carve out our place as a company that is innovative and stays true to our own visionary goals and dreams!
Which leads us to…
LESSON 3: COMPANY SIZE IS IRRELEVANT: Do what you do well!
And so, in a small basement bedroom, our company began to take form and shape. Hundreds of trips to IKEA kept us (and our hubbies) up into the wee hours of the morning, setting up shelving and drawers to house our precious beads.
*We were (and still are!) so proud of our first office space!
*Our first business cards! / *Starting to spill out of the basement office into the rec room. Kids all tucked into bed and hubbies helping us out! :)
Those were some of the best times of our business story—putting our kids (and our teething toddlers) to bed, and then working as a team to re-arrange and set up our little company.
*All hands on deck...even moms and grandmas! It's a fun family affair!
Those times taught us not to become focused on “size”, but instead to do what we do WELL. To make sure we focused on quality and amazing customer service, and then trust that the growth would sprout from that. It didn’t matter to us that we were in a small bedroom, tucked away in the corner of a basement. What mattered was that we made sure our customers were satisfied and that we were being the best we could be for them. It was counting the blessings (and beads) each day, trusting that we were giving it our all, and that ultimately we could not control the future anyway!
Stay tuned for Part 2: When the Beads Come Crashing Down: Learning not to Lose Hope on your Business Journey!