The First Year In Business | Some Things I've Learned Along The Way
In some ways it feels appropriate to be writing this and in some ways it feels like this whole business thing just started yesterday! A year?! Already?! Yep, it's true. The Hatchery has now had it's doors open for an entire year. I definitely don't know it all and I'm learning more every single day (isn't that how you know what you're doing is worthwhile?) but I felt compelled to share a few things these past 365 days have taught me.
Go All In On Yourself
You have to be willing to remove all the distractions and all of the excuses and start actually moving in the direction of your dreams. It’s not easy, in fact, this is a daily (sometimes hourly!) struggle, but at some point, you have to go all in on yourself because nobody else is going to.
Part of this shift is realizing that it will take time and requires consistent growth. You’re not going to wake up every morning with a big smile on your face pumped to devote your whole day to your business. However, you probably can take five minutes in the morning to get your shit together, take some breaths, listen to your heart, and get that fire in your belly reignited so that you can get started on your list.
For me, going all in on myself meant admitting that Ellie needed to go to daycare. I know so many entrepreneurial parents who struggle with this one, as well. But for me, I became annoyed working at home with her. The thing is, I was annoyed with her for acting like a kid and it became all too easy to say “Well, she was whiny today, so we spent three hours on the couch instead of getting XYZ done towards the business!” I share this not to shame other parents, but to let you know that it really is ok to admit that you need a break to get work done. I knew that, for me, the emotions I felt sending her to full-time childcare were not about worrying about her quality of care - they were about suddenly realizing that I had gone all in on myself and I had no more excuses left. This was a monumentally pivotal point for me and the business!
I was recently meeting with someone and they asked how I even got started - what happened between me brainstorming ideas and setting foot to pavement and actually getting launched. I shared the books l read, the interviews I did, the phone calls I made, the websites I perused over and over again. Aside from allowing me to make new connections, this gathering of info led me to identify the actual problem the business would eventually solve for others.
Now, this is not to say that every idea isn’t a great idea, but before you take the leap into business ownership it’s imperative that you do your research. Are you solving a migraine problem? Will people actually pay money for this good/service? What about your idea is different than what is already out there? I realized that finding this all out from potential clients was going to require questions that gave real feedback and not the feedback I wanted to hear. Everything changed when I was given the book, All In Startup by Diana Kander (thank you, Geoff!). It’s a marketing book with a story and even a love quarrel - clearly a page-turner. In the book, the author talks about doing unbiased research. It breaks down some great examples of how to ask non-leading questions and helped me conduct unbiased research:
Example of leading questions: “What is it like to work from home?” “How productive are you working while your kids are at home.” “Do you feel professional meeting a client in a coffee shop?”
Example of non-leading questions: “Where do you work?” “What are the pros of where you work?” “What would help your current working environment?”
Sound simple? It’s not. It’s not like you’re chatting it up with your grandma about your plans and she is all googly-eyed over it because she’s just so proud of you. Some people will have answers you really don’t want to hear - but that’s actually what you need. This may prove you have a genius idea, it may prove it’s actually not a huge issue, or it may prove that within the complaints there’s a different problem you could solve. The people will tell you, but you have to be willing to listen.
Find Your Support System
Please allow me to make one thing explicitly clear: business ownership is not all sunshine and rainbows, this shit is hard. Everyone in your life is not going to understand what you’re going through - and you shouldn’t expect them to. In fact, if most of your friends/family work a traditional 9-5 job very few of them will get it, and that’s okay. It just means you should find a group of people who are going to listen to you vent, are going through it as well, and won’t let you get away without asking what the next step is.
This group isn’t going to allow you to throw constant pity parties. They’re the people who will not accept “I’m fine” as a valid answer when you’re clearly so not fine. They’re the ones who will help you understand that whatever you’re worried about is silly and doesn’t even make sense, so you need to talk it out and move on. They’ll be the ones who help you realize that what you thought was a big deal, really isn't. Sometimes you’ll come to them and answer your own question before you’re even finished talking.
Oh, and they’ll be the exact ones who are willing to give you a little kick in the pants because whatever you’re worried about isn't even true! Those are the best - you know, when you worry about one small thing and then all of a sudden you think you may have this rare disease, your business is going to close, and your marriage is falling apart….calm down sister. These friends give the tough love and you 110% love them for it. Find them, lean on them, and love them hard.
Learn To Embrace The Phrase “I don’t know”
This took me a little while, but once I embraced the phrase, I don’t know….it felt like freedom. For real you all! I’m pretty sure it was a meeting with a Business Relationship Officer that these words came out of my mouth for the first time in regards to the business.
I had never met him and I was so scared that he was going to see that I actually didn’t have my shit together. He pulled up a couple coworking websites to see if I had looked at them - I hadn’t. He asked about my plans for memberships -I shared what I had rolled around in my head for a while. He also asked about financing, and that’s when it finally happened - I uttered the words “I don’t know yet.” Waiting for him to laugh me out of his office, he said: “okay, well here’s some advice I can give you.” Ummmm what? I’m pretty sure I lost 354 pounds of pressure that I had put on myself. It was SO incredibly freeing to smash my worries into the ground with three silly little words. From that meeting, he shared some coworking spaces he had heard about, a book that changed the way I was doing research, and is now a friend that I am no longer intimidated by just because he’s a banker. It also inspired me to ask for MORE help.
Invest In Your Weaknesses
As a start-up, we don’t have a money tree in the back, trust me I looked long and hard! However, you have to figure out what your time is worth. This may seem silly early on when your business is your only baby, but you’ll soon realize you actually can’t do all the things. Your time and your energy will never allow it. For us, this means looking at bookkeeping and marketing as necessary areas of outsourcing.
If you’re sitting in front of Quickbooks for 4 hours a week trying to reconcile your account - is that the best use of your time? I might have gotten an A in Accounting 101 and 201, but that’s about it. I can 9 key like no other, but I can not read a balance sheet like no other. Oh, and for marketing? Well, I was pumped to create my first 7 Instagram posts and then quickly realized I was out of ideas….I dare you to go back to our first 7 posts on Instagram and our last 7... Right?! Bringing in professionals like Lara with Bloom Bookkeeping, Hoot Design Co., and our very own Raigan allowed me to be freed up for my strengths which include networking and community building.
Bring in professionals for the areas you’re lacking in. Seriously, it’s ok - and you’ll thank yourself come tax time!
Learn To Say No
This first year, I have said yes to so many things and have not regretted any of them. They have led me to opportunities I wouldn’t have found on my own. However, not all of them have been the best decision ever, but we don’t learn from always getting things right.
Burnout is real no matter who you are in. This year I have attempted to outdo my body twice - once resulted in my getting the flu, the other resulted in my getting strep throat. Okay body, I get it now!
I remember meeting with Collin Bunch and I shared my guilt of not living up to all those Instagram quotes: HUSTLE! You can sleep when you're dead. Work while they sleep. Blah, blah, blah. He said, “opening up a business is a marathon, not a sprint. If your body isn’t healthy, you’re not doing yourself any favors.”
Eventually, you learn that what you are saying yes to needs to be greater than what you will have to say no to.
Trust in yourself - you were given your vision for a reason. You are worthy of your “crazy idea” and you’re probably the only one who is capable of accomplishing it.
Learn to let go of control and rely on something outside of yourself - whether it’s God, the universe, Buddha, or a rock you found when you were 3. I have to remind myself weekly that this whole idea was given to me, not someone else, to me. More importantly, I have to remind myself that it’s way bigger than I am.
My faith grew when Ellie was born and grew, even more, when we started this process. I could not have come up with this idea all by myself and be connected to the right people out of luck. Call me crazy, call me woo woo, but that’s how I roll. I do my best to think positive thoughts, to think of abundance, and to know that anything that I want is out there. Again, this is something I have to be mindful about every single day - and also not beat myself up for if I do stray off track.
And you know what, every time I’m reminded of this greater purpose, something amazing happens. I have an amazing friend who I can call when I’m freaking out. Every call includes the same message, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be and you need to remember that you are not in control.” No joke, usually the very next day it happens - a God wink, a Universe thing, whatever you want to call it. A new member joins, I get an email about an opportunity, whatever it is.