5 (of many) Lessons I Learned Starting a Business

2018 was quite a year for me! I had visions for starting Wander Wear late 2017 and 2018, I was busy at work trying to build an apparel brand on e-commerce. Both were new to me! I've been a small business owner since 2013, so the basics of running a business aren't entirely new, and I have a Bachelor's degree in Business. However, no matter how long you've been at it, there will always be lessons to be learned. Here are a few that hit home my first year running Wander Wear.

1. Cast the net wide but know when to reel it in

I cast the net wide in the beginning, meaning I tried all of the things. I  wasn’t always sure what I was looking for- not sure of which designs or apparels would sell, not sure of which types of marketing strategies would send traffic to my website, and not sure what I needed to know. So I went wide and tried a lot of things. This resulted in wasted time, energy and lots of money - and a lot of shirts in the graveyard pile.  I wanted to do so much and expand so fast that I lost focus. 

LESSON: Casting a wide net is not a bad thing, but knowing when to reel it in is key. The more I’ve realized this, the more clarity I’ve gained about what I want and how to move forward. 

Casting the net

2. Love your products and services, but don't get attached

After all, this is why you decided to start your own business right? I was so naive to think that everyone was going to love all of my designs! But that wasn't the case. And you must be thinking, “DUH Tina!” 🙄 But when you're so close to the things you do - and you know the inspiration behind those things - you think that everyone should "get it". But that hasn’t entirely been the case. After wasting so much time, energy and money trying to get everything into production - I had to check my ego.

LESSON: Just like with casting a wide net, I also had to reel this in. A big part of the creative process lies in the editing. I wanted to get so many designs out so fast that I lost sight of my brand's soul. I forgot about my WHY. I went into my shop and removed all the products that didn't do well. I thought it was going to be painful, but it was pretty cathartic. Cleaning out my shop’s closet has left space for more creativity and products that fit my brand.

Pile of shirts

3. Make a budget and stick to it!

For someone whose background is in financial risk management, you’d think I'd get it. Honestly, I think my excitement led me to go crazy the first year trying and testing everything under the sun! Whether it was on apparels for fresh designs, working with marketing agencies or purchasing online programs, I wasted more money than I’d planned. I didn't start with a clear budget because I didn’t start with a clear path. And when I finally did create my budget, I didn’t stick to it.  

LESSON: Looking to start a business soon? Make a business plan. I've done a few of these myself for my other businesses. I thought I’d gotten the hang of them, so I decided not to do one for Wander Wear. Big mistake. Mostly because all businesses are inherently different. Not only should you create a business plan, but you should also revisit it often. Just like you, your business is constantly evolving and so is the world around us.  I will be creating a plan for 2019 and sticking to it! Let me know if you want to do this together!

2019 Budget

4. Information overload is a real thing

There are so many fun new apps and tools and programs and sites available for businesses and I wanted to get my hands on ALL OF IT! And with everything available at our fingertips today, it’s far too easy to click away. With all this information, you think I'd be all set to run with it. Nope. Instead of helping me “streamline/prioritize/simplify/organize” I ended up drowning in information, data, analytics, statistics- oof. Some days I’d just do nothing - another permutation of analysis paralysis. This is par for the course with e-commerce blowing up and digital marketers sniffing around for a vulnerable new business to prey on.

LESSON: Sometimes starting with the simplest tools can yield the best results. So I removed some of the apps, and went back through my FB groups and deleted anyone I didn’t engage with. I unsubscribed to emails that no longer served my needs, and I removed pages from my newsfeed that distracted me. By doing all that, I would only be absorbing quality, relevant information to help me achieve my goals.

Information Overload

5. Stop comparing yourself

Yes, I know it's hard not to look at your competitors’ website, FB page or IG feed and not feel inadequate. This is possibly the worst thing I could've done to myself in my first year. What started out as an innocent competitive marketing analysis turned into an obsessive, self-loathing, second-guessing mind f*ck. Comparing could easily turn to imitating, which is another thing that made me lose focus on my WHY. It's within our nature to compare and I, unfortunately, am not impervious to it. 

LESSON: I'm not 100% there yet, but I've slowly unfollowed some of these businesses so they’re not mocking me from my newsfeeds on FB and IG. When I start to feel myself drift back into that comparative headspace, I have to remind myself that what I'm putting out there is unique and different from what these companies are selling...and that it’s mine. I love that it ties back to me creating more thoughtful and unique designs for my tribe, and myself.

Comparison

Wander Wear started out as a passion project, and that hasn't changed. Without trying, taking action and making some bad decisions, I would never grow. The year was not all lost, however. We did a lot of things right. The team is much stronger and knowledgable. We learned how to pivot when opportunities arise. We created a small community of women who have appreciation and pride in the inspiration behind our designs. We may have not met our financial goals, but the lessons we learned were far more valuable. In summary, last year’s lessons have lead to next year's overarching goal - Simplifying: my designs, my mission, my desktop, my goals. I made a sign for above my desk that says "What is your WHY?" to remind me not to stray too far from my path and my passion.


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