What I Wish I Knew When Starting My Business
If I knew then, what I know now... what tips would I give to someone starting, or thinking about starting, their own business?
1. Start from where you are at now - There is never going to be one perfect day where all of a sudden you feel ready. If you wait for that you will wait forever and never do it. Start now, start today. Nobody just turns up one day will a fully thought out business, it takes time, trial and error, learning from our mistakes and celebrating our wins.
I started Dogwood Lifestyle by selling my own furniture on Facebook Marketplace. Of course it wasn't the brand you know it as now, it was just me selling some of our excess vintage furniture after we had moved house. People who came to our house to collect would comment on how they loved my style, asked for tips on their own rooms and some even wanted to take photos! Long story short I set up an Instagram account and started trading at a local antique centre - I'll give you the long version in another post. The moral is, until you give it a go you won't even know if you like it. So don't waste time faffing just do it, now!
2. Focus on the profit - First off wanting to make money is not greedy it's sensible. If you run a business that isn't in profit then its a hobby - which is fine if thats all you want. But if you are doing this to make money, which we all need, then you actually need to be 100% on top of your finances. Start a profit and loss spreadsheet, a free download will be fine, its mainly so you can keep track of what you are putting out and what you are bringing in. You also need to make sales forecasts - I know, I know it sounds scary, but it's just a way of making sure you have something to focus on. Look at the numbers, for example, if you need to pay yourself £1000 per month how many items of stock would you need to sell for that to be possible? Don't forget that there will be deductions from any income such as storage unit rent, Paypal fees, cost to buy or make stock etc. So you might need to bring in £2,500 to cover all costs and then pay yourself a wage. You need to work out these figures before you do anything to check that your business idea is viable.
3. Value your time - If your business is your passion it can be really easy to fall into the trap of giving up your own time for free. That is bad business. A good rule of thumb is to imagine asking a friend to do the task for you - would you expect them to do it for free? When I first started out I would buy vintage furniture that needed work to do up. Sounds great, until you realise you just spent three whole days sanding down a bloody Ercol chair and still have to pay for new webbing (the base straps) and cushions. Seeing something you think you can resell for a £50 profit is great - but not if it is going to take you 3 days work plus other extras. Always value your time, an easy way to do this is to charge yourself at least minimum wage for any tasks you have to do.
4. Don't feel obliged - This is one that I really struggled with at first, I always felt obliged to give friends and family discounts. Actually even if I'd spoken to someone for 5 seconds I felt I had made a connection with them and that I should give them a discount. Now, I'm not saying you can't give discounts at all but don't feel like you have to. If someone wants to buy something from you then its because they like what you do. If your friends and family want to buy something from you then let them support your business, take it as a sign they believe in you.
Also just because you bought something for less than you are retailing it doesn't mean you should feel guilty about charging more for it - that is how retail works! You have worked hard to source, curate, style, clean, make, refurbish, photograph.... every single thing no matter how small that YOU do to each item adds to its value. And that is in addition to any other fees you might incur - travel, website, rent, utilities, taxes and so on.
5. Fuck the Rules - I think people in mind to set up their own business have a bit of a wanting to do their own thing attitude anyway. But there will always be negative influences. By this I don't mean disregarding sound advice, more question where the 'advice' is coming from - it's usually a place of fear. I had a fair few people question my sanity when I told them I'd quit my very well paid, highly regarded job and turned down another to set up my own business on a whim. At first I didn't really have much more of clue about what I was going to do other than 'sell cool stuff' so I did see their concern. These were people who cared about me and didn't want to see me make a bad decision. But I knew that it would work for the sole reason that it had to work, this WAS the Plan B, I was putting everything into it and so I would 100% ensure that it worked. Did I have a business plan? Nope. Did I even know what I would be doing in 12 months time? Nope. All I knew is that it was going to work. Also other 'advise' I'd like to chuck in the bin, 'it takes 3 years for most businesses to make a profit' again nope, I didn't have 3 years I needed to make a profit from the start so I made sure I did. That's not to say every decision I made was profitable, I've made some right cock-ups but over all I kept money in the bank. Finally for anyone who says you need to follow your head and not your heart, again nope, Dogwood Lifestyle is through and through built on decisions from my heart. If it feels right I go with it, I trust myself, I trust my instinct and everything I've learnt in life. That's how I live my life and its how I run my business - seems to be working out ok!
One last note, I won't wish you luck, I will wish you courage and success!