A whole year in business, I can hardly believe it! The 1st September marked one year since I held the keys to Tinker Tailor in my hands for the very first time.
As the first anniversary approached and I looked through these photographs taken by my good friend Tia Talula during our opening week I wanted to put some thoughts down about the lessons learnt along the way.
Key lessons for success and staying sane in business
The months have flown by yet some weeks felt eternally long as I faced challenges for the first time and tried to get my head around running a business.
There have also been plenty of lows like the time it snowed so heavily on the day of our Christmas wreath making workshop that we had to cancel – or that time a fellow business owner decided to trash me on social media but you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.
We opened for business within 3 days of getting the keys with the help of some of our closest friends who worked really hard to get us ready for the opening day. Until that point, I thought opening the doors was the difficult part, now I know that was the easy bit.
It isn’t for the faint hearted
The last 12 months have been among the hardest in my life. Trying to juggle family, a business with zero experience and the small matter of a home renovation (what were we thinking?) took its toll on me emotionally and physically.
In the early days, I wasn’t resilient at all and I was close to tears most days. I was exhausted as well, working long hours and generally not looking after myself. The business came first because being responsible for paying someone’s salary every month has a very sobering effect on you. It brings with it the sort of anxiety that puts a knot in your stomach and keeps you awake at night.
Slowly, however, it got better and today, merely a year later, I’m a confident business owner. There is still a huge amount to learn but I’m tougher and better at dealing with the difficulties that come at me ALL THE TIME.
It’s hard, there’s no way to sugar coat it and life will throw all manner of crap at you. Success will partly depend on picking yourself up and carrying on regardless.
Go with the flow
I know it sounds cliched but it’s true!
I’m in retail and in the service sector, we are a lifestyle store which means that we sell a range of gifts, homeware and fashion accessories and we are a cafe. We also host creative workshops and events so it’s a very mixed bag and no two days are ever the same. Some days are quiet and it’s easy to get down about it but generally speaking, things will pick up again and you’ll wonder why you ever worried… until the next time of course!
I’ll never forget when one of my customers who also happens to be a retail guru, stopped to chat during an extremely quiet, icy and depressing week – she simply told me not worry. That Mother’s Day and Easter would come and I would be really busy again, that I should hold my nerve and make the most of those retail highlights.
You know what? She was 100% right, everything changed and I learned to accept the quiet times and capitalise on the good days which leads me neatly to my next point.
Don’t be afraid to take action
Taking time to reflect and assess what is and what isn’t working is essential for the success of any business.
Don’t be afraid to change things up, try new things, listen to your customers and keep growing. Making a business work is almost entirely up to you and if you think about it positively that’s a whole lot of power right there in your hands!
This seems so obvious but you will definitely need a contingency fund, no matter how well you have planned, unexpected expenses will crop up.
Speaking from personal experience, work out how much you need to start the business and add a third for emergencies. We didn’t do this and we got a couple of nasty shocks within the first few weeks of opening.
It’s good to talk
When you’re self-employed it’s all too easy to become isolated and to retreat into yourself along with all of your problems. Thankfully, I have been able to rely on a handful of women who are also in business, they lift my spirits more than they’ll ever know.
I am a part of Southwood Social Hub and I make the effort to talk to friends I have connected with via social media off line as well. Taking the time to do that, to chat and put the world to rights is a great mood lifter. Do not carry the emotional burden of running a business alone – I can’t stress this enough!
So that’s it, my very brief roundup of the first 12 months and a few thoughts about staying sane. Now wish me luck for next year!