Do I need a business plan?

I get asked often how I had the confidence to start my own biz…

Do I need a business plan title topic in red text on peach backgroud with photo of the author

Walking away

When I left my old job as a senior university lecturer I actually was head-hunted and had offers of employment in similar roles. I can’t deny it was tempting, I was even offered a job from what I would have said back then, my dream place to work. It took a lot of balls to say no, no thank you! The key for me at the time was in my gut I knew that I couldn’t go back to working in a corporate environment, I needed a massive change for my mental health and I was excited to try something new. That’s not to say I wasn’t terrified about walking away from the career I’d built up over 3 degrees and 20 years of graft. It was hard to say I’m stepping away from that. Family and friends asked what an earth I was thinking. Turning my back on the ‘good job’ and the career I’d worked so hard for, but I just needed to do it. It wasn’t the right path for me anymore.

 

Business plans, pah!

At the time I didn’t even know what I was going to do instead, just that there was something else I needed to explore. So I didn’t wake up one day with Dogwood Lifestyle as a fully formed biz idea at all. In fact I found when I researched setting up a business online that it was all a bit, well boring! Every business plan template I looked at seemed to only fit the very patriarchal view which is still prominently pushed in biz, to me it seemed very male, very white, very middle class. Did I write a biz plan then? Nope. Do I have a biz plan now? Still nope! I just do things on my gut, using my background and education to guide me. That method might not be for everyone but it’s what worked for me. Each time I sat down to look at those biz plan docs I just didn’t know where to start because the questions seemed really irrelevant to me. So I never filled one in and decided to actually just try things out. And I think that’s really the only way I could have done it.

 

Manifesting the Magic

As you guys know I love vintage and antiques. On day I was visiting my favourite antique centre and I got chatting to a lady with a pitch there who told me how she started this as a hobby and just grew it into a biz. Then the guy who ran the place mentioned to me that they had some spaces if I wanted to give it a go – and so I did! It was just one of those magical moments where things fell into place at the right time. I think this is what happens once you become open to suggestion. Had I still been in my other job, I’d have ran in for a quick look, I wouldn’t have stopped to chat as I’d be too busy with other things on my mind. I tried that for a while, I also tried a couple of other antique centres, I tried selling online and using Instagram.

 

How to get started?

It was all experimental at first. I tried selling antique jewellery, antique home wear – anything that I was just personally interested in. I honestly think that just jumping in and having a go was the best thing for me to do. I got to learn how to sell and what to sell. Starting with a small stock was relatively risk free. Listing something on Ebay for example is one of the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to try selling, I’d recommend anyone interested in sales give it a go. There is also Etsy, Facebook Marketplace and so on. You can literally be selling within minutes! If you want to try selling just go ahead and do it. Don’t over agonise and think you need a 10 page business plan. Get a piece of paper scratch some ideas down and go for it now. That’s how I run my biz and it’s just grown naturally from there.

Do what you love 

I started selling a whole range of vintage furniture, soft furnishings and then I narrowed it down into my current niche of ceramics and art. It’s just finding what works for you, what you enjoying doing and what your customers are loving. It applies to any area of work you want to get into, follow what your heart says, ask what is making you happy? At the moment I love nothing more than designing new leopards. And who knew because I never thought I’d do product design, never. Plus making IGTV videos and adding in coaching it just evolved naturally, following my gut and listening to my social media followers and customers. I love selling the leopards because they make people happy, seeing them in customer’s homes when they send me photos is my fav thing – it makes me happy. I chose to add in coaching because so many people I spoke with felt trapped in jobs and were unhappy. Knowing I can help people get out of the rut that I was in feels like an incredible gift.

 

Perhaps on paper the concept of Dogwood Lifestyle might not work- selling vintage interiors coupled with life style design coaching – but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that it works out here in the real world, not on some bank managers desk.

 

So I will end saying, be confident and just give it a go! Focus on what you want to do, what will make you happy and what your instincts are telling you. That to me is the best business plan.

Natalie x 

(You can watch & listen to the IGTV video of this post on Instagram @DogwoodLifestyle)