Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Letter to a Small Business Owner

Eight years ago, I started a business in fifth grade, the week after I turned ten. I know this sounds like the beginning of a triumphant success story, but it is not – here rather is the story of an extremely long learning experience. 

Though I put a reasonable amount of effort into TheRosePicker early on, it took about 2-3 years before I finally started seeing any inkling of success. When you start a business shortly after hitting the age of reason, you don’t exactly make smart decisions. 

The first thing that I learned about owning a business, especially when you sell products instead of services, is that you have to have a second form of income. Depending on the success of your business, you’ll need to make sure to have something to keep things steady and smooth. 

As a people pleaser, the next lesson I learned came easy. As my Grandpa, an attorney, has always said – “the client is always right.” Even when a situation is 110% their fault, just pretend its not and move on. I’ve almost always adhered to this principle, and after more than a thousand transactions, the number of reviews less than 5-stars is in the neighborhood of about ten – less than 1%. And that 1% is just from people who didn’t read the description and didn’t respond to a follow-up message I sent them afterward, asking about their experience. 

Another thing I learned really quickly was that Advertising is way harder than it looks. I’ve spent a few hundred over the years on a Catholic blog that's brought in a considerable amount of income, but I’ve also spent a great deal on Facebook and Instagram ads, and since I’m not great at copywriting, those dollars have pretty much been wasted. So make sure you have an ad provider with a niche audience and that you know how to use an ad tool (in my case, social medial ads) before you put a lot of money into it. 

Something I wish I put more thought into over the years is setting business goals. I’m still learning how to set reasonable goals in my career and implement them to attain success. The things I’ve done so far have been nearly by accident. There’s been no system or strategy in writing. If I ever start another business I think I would put much more time in setting up a cohesive plan and goals to shoot for. 

The thing I didn’t think of when starting my business was the amount of time I’d have to put into each product. I have to hand-make each product and it takes about an hour and a half. It’s also an incredibly intricate craft that’s just really difficult to train anybody into. When I start my next business, I plan to focus especially on creating a product that’s easy for me to make or obtain. 

Lastly I have to remind you that owning a small business is crazy hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. I’ve ran my small business with a lot of chronic illness, years of school and hours of working my day job. To call it extremely difficult is a dramatic understatement. I’ve literally grown up with my business. It’s not my dream business yet, but I’ve learned so much about what NOT to do, that I feel well prepared to start another business in the future. I hope you feel confident in your business because if you stay educated and make smart decisions, you’ll have a really amazing business yourself.


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