So you want to start your own business huh? Excellent! It will be one of the most terrifying yet satisfying life decisions you’ll ever make. Terrifying because you’re taking a huge risk, and there’s always a chance it may not work out the way you planned. Satisfying because it’s your baby, and well, there’s an even bigger chance it will actually work out exactly the way you planned… or better. I am a huge supporter of BWs (Boss Women), so I say GO FOR IT! But set yourself up for success: Be passionate about your product or service; do your research; read everything you can find; take classes if you need to; ask lots of questions; prepare properly and avoid the mistakes I foolishly made when I started my Jewelry Design business.
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell
Mistake #1 – Failing to Define your Target Market
When I started selling my jewelry, I didn’t have a target market, I just wanted to get my stuff out there and start making money. Erm…BIG MISTAKE. If your strategy is to target your product to every single person on this green earth and then hope for the best…I can guarantee your sales will be pretty much non-existent. I, of course had to learn that the hard way. It is so important to know who your ideal customer is so you can create a successful marketing plan around them. Do your demographic and psychographic research.Who needs your product or service? Who is most likely to buy it? Learn your audience, research their likes and dislikes, find out what they’re thinking, where they shop, and what motivates them.
Mistake #2 – Refusing to Create a Business Plan
Listen, you can wing it if you want, but from one BW to another, it probably won’t do you any favors. Refusing to write a Business Plan is like trying to get to your dream destination without a roadmap, or building a house without a foundation. It is a disaster waiting to happen. Your Business Plan is the foundation of your business, the more solid it is, the stronger your business will be. A good Business Plan foresees obstacles and provides solutions and contingency plans, it provides action steps to reach your business goals, it gives financial clarity, and assesses your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The SBA website has a fantastic Business Plan guide that can be used for any business.
Mistake #3 – Choosing a Name that doesn’t Grow with your Business
When I started out making jewelry as a hobby, I chose the name ‘earringz n’ thingz’ because I thought it was fun and cute. The name seemed appropriate at the time for a hobby, and I was still learning the basics of jewelry-making so my designs were pretty simple. But as my passion grew and I made the decision to turn my hobby into a side business, my creations became more intricate, and my customers more sophisticated. And while using the same name was fine for a while, eventually it just didn’t fit. I had outgrown ‘earringz n’ thingz.
Changing the name of your business can be a hassle. Not only do you have to notify the government and register your new name, you have to notify your customers and vendors. You also have to change your logo and rebrand all your marketing materials. When naming your business, think long-term, and make sure that the name you choose will still fit with your brand should your business expand.
Mistake #4 – Thinking You can do it by Yourself
Look, as Boss Women, we sometimes think we can be bad all by ourselves. But here’s the truth, asking for help does not make you less of a SuperWoman. And when it comes to starting a business, accepting outside help is crucial to your success. Find yourself a mentor, advisor, or business owner who has experience in your field. Bounce ideas off them, ask questions, listen and learn. Sometimes the financial side of your business can leave you confused and frustrated. Trust me, I can relate. I work in Finance at my full-time job and still get flustered with my own finances. Whether you hire an accountant or reach out to your former Finance professor for advice, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Mistake #5 – Undervaluing Yourself and Your Work
This one is especially for my creative BWs. DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT. Your time is valuable, and your work is valuable. You are offering a piece of yourself in your product, your blood, sweat and tears. I know so many small business owners who undersell themselves, because they are afraid they will lose their customers to the competition. I must admit I am still guilty of doing it sometimes, but I’m getting better (a work-in-progress as my friend Mich would say). If you don’t believe in, or see the value in your own product, then your customers won’t either. You know the quality of what you’re offering, so be confident. Undervaluing your work not only messes with your customer relationships, it messes with your bottom line. Know your worth right from the start.