It’s been an incredible journey for me this past year and a half! Last year I took a break from writing so I could focus on opening and growing my new business. I have to say that it has been joyous, difficult, maddening and triumphant all at the same time. I have had numerous requests to join women’s business groups, or powwow business events, but have been so busy juggling work and home, that I choose relaxation instead of sharing my business growth strategies in a public forum. I have privately talked to many who want pointers, or just want to know exactly what I’m doing. So here are some of those answers I give people who contact me when they are thinking about going into business for themselves.
Setting up a brick and mortar business is an extreme investment and risk. If this is something that you aspire to do, make sure you take your time, do your research, and do an in depth business plan. Planning, getting enough funds together, applying for a business loan, and getting the right location is vital. You also need a business lawyer, accountant, web designer, marketing and any other professional that you need to hire. If you skip these steps, the likelihood of you struggling and folding in the first year increases greatly. You also have to be prepared to work. The amount of work and effort you put into your business determines your results. Going in thinking that it’s a glamorous ride is false. You will have to sacrifice. I know many people that have suffered tremendously thinking that they will have more freedom and can just show up whenever. Customers learn quick that your hours are unreliable, and will go elsewhere.
People start out excited and motivated and sometimes the only way their dreams of owning a business is if they go partners with someone. Always research your partners, and put legal documents in place. Business is much different then friendship, and most people cannot handle both. Have specific roles in place, and be ready for one person doing more work than the other. If you can wait, save more money, or find just a silent investor, that is the way I would go. I’ve seen many businesses struggle because of conflicting partners. It’s a personal choice, but I really think holding your own is important. It also gives you control of your own business. You can always hire professionals to handle the areas you need help with. It might be more costly at first, but will be beneficial in the long run.
After the doors open, the real work begins. From finding the right fit of employees, implementing procedures, putting social media to work, and getting customers in the door, it’s a non stop job. I went through web designers, until I just did the work myself. I went through incompetent employees that I gave too many chances. Then I tightened my policies and shortened my tolerance levels. I went through product design challenges, until I got my branding and formulas right. These are typical obstacles that will be an ongoing challenge as a business owner.
I’m very fortunate that my staff right now is gold. They are awesome, work as a team, and support each others success and growth. It wasn’t always like that. Finding competent retail staff is a challenge, and I’ve gone through a few that this job wasn’t a good fit for them. Always learn from each situation and implement new policies, qualifications, and always research peoples references. People’s past performance is an indicator of their work ethic. If you make a mistake, evaluate where you went wrong, and set out to improve in that area.
Your customer experience is the most important part of your business success. This not only expends in your brick and mortar, but also your web presence. Being positive, and excited about your store and brand is contagious. Friendly, informative service is imperative. Working with others in your business community expands your client base. When you realize the fact that you cannot carry everything, but you can refer someone to get that item at a neighboring store, you build relationships. When you refer to others, others refer to you. Everyone wins, and everyone is successful. I have several businesses I share clientele with. I also have local businesses that have put in a really good effort to not refer business to me, and even go out of their way to cause trouble. This is a huge mistake, as you are limiting your customer flow, sales volume, and tarnishing your reputation as a reputable business owner in the community. Word travels fast in the business community, and no one wants to deal with someone who conducts business in a negative way. I have no tolerance when it comes to people who want to take advantage, are controlled by their ego, or just are unprofessional in their business dealings. Long time business owners see people like this a hassle they want to avoid. No success ever comes from trash talking, taking advantage of, or mistreating others. It’s a huge turn off. In the end, no one will do business with you, and you will fail. When you own a spiritual business, this is even more important, as you give off a vibe that others will pick up.
Being an intuitive business owner, I use my abilities to guide me every day. More often than not, I receive inspiration to guide me in the direction to go. I set my goals high and focus on the energy that goes along with that end result. The choices I make reflect my end goal I wish to reach. The vibe of my store reflects that. Being able to tune into my end result has made it easier to grow my business faster. Along the way, whatever doesn’t match that vibe gets bumped to the side. Whether its products, suppliers, people, staff, teachers, or readers, it either fits at Smudge 100% or failed 100%. Being aware of what doesn’t work in your business is valuable. The quicker you acknowledge what doesn’t work, the quicker you can let it go and move on to new things that do. You will always have kinks, bumps, and failures, but learning from them and moving on to something that works better is key. Don’t hang on to something or someone that is not working for you or your business success.
The right markup on products is very important. The more you lower your retail price, the more product you need to sell. Always crunch your numbers and make sure you are charging enough to cover your costs. Bargain prices might seem appealing, but won’t pay your bills, or allow to serve your customers properly. Always charge accordingly. People like good quality products and service, and will pay accordingly for it.
So when I was planning my business and then growing it, what was and still is my end goal? First I wanted to have a self sufficient business in a short time. I wanted people to fall in love when they walk in the door. An experience is memorable, and Smudge is an amazing environment and a beautiful space. It makes and impression. I also wanted to hold a high vibe environment where personal growth and spirituality go hand in hand. I also didn’t want any labels or stereotypes associated with my business. It’s an open environment where anyone can go, and is warmly welcomed. As I use many tools, concepts and belief systems in my own personal practice, this is what I wanted represented at Smudge. I also wanted a staff familiar not only with the products I sell, but who also are active with personal growth and spiritual evolution in their own lives. Smudge is a pro-active business that supports local programs and organizations like Hiatus House, that helps families break the cycle of domestic abuse, and provides education and support so people can achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Having goals, and breaking them down into smaller achievable steps is key. Being organized, focused and open to new ideas helps. Never be shy to ask for help or advice from a seasoned successful business owner. Learning from someone who has been in business for a long time, will help you avoid some big mistakes and pit falls. They will also share stories of the ups and downs. Know that it is a hard road that is riddled with frustration, heartbreak, stress, and failures. Also know that by choosing this road you will grow, feel alive, experience extreme happiness, and have a sense of accomplishment that only a fellow business owner feels.
Always follow your dreams, but be prepared and informed, and you will succeed.