I'm going to be super real with you: I was really naïve about starting my own business. Like, I thought I'd make some stuff, keep up with social media a few times a day, and it would just sell.
Y'all...it's way harder than I thought it would be.
Don't get me wrong; I knew that it would be challenging, but I didn't understand how much. Considering that I spent years in retail management, you'd think I just knew this, but I did not. Maybe I didn't realize how badly I wanted this to succeed.
When I had the idea for this business, I had just finished my undergraduate degree and was considering a Masters program. I was working full-time at a local bookstore. I was dealing with severe anxiety, frustration, and chronic pain. And let me tell you: working at a bookstore when you have chronic pain is not easy. I lied constantly about how I was doing. Unfortunately, my health started to take a serious downturn. I was getting sick all the time. I would feel so guilty for having to miss work because of it, primarily because I needed the job, I didn't want to be a burden on my co-workers, and, for the most part, I liked the job itself.
Then, after a serious two-week illness that included multiple ER visits, and one call to the paramedics, my doctors began to worry. The word "cancer" was thrown around (after a full year of blood tests, I've finally been cleared), and the next thing I knew, I was making an appointment with an oncologist. My anxiety became completely unmanageable. That's when Aaron and I sat down and had what my mama calls a "come to Jesus" meeting. We made the decision, along with my doctor, that it was time to take care of myself without the added pressure of feeling like I was disappointing everyone at work. I was going to quit my job and focus on my Masters program.
But I needed an income. I liked making soap. Why not do that too?
Yeah, this was not what my doctor had in mind, but I was excited. I sent out samples, got some feedback, and launched an Etsy store. It went pretty well those first few months. It helped that I launched right before the holidays. I felt great about it.
But maintaining those sales was a struggle. After the euphoria of the holiday season sales wore off, I had to face a hard reality: these soaps don't sell themselves...especially online. I spent the next few months introducing new products, bettering my photography (still working on it), and launching my own website. I didn't realize that there would be chunks of time where I would make no sales at all. I realized that I needed the support of other small-business owners along with some new products.
I found a killer group of women who are also on this bus with me. We all have different types of businesses. We get to bounce ideas off of one another. We encourage one another. And we realized that we all seem to be having some of the same struggles. Big sigh of relief...and then growls of frustration. We're all taking these fly-by-the-seats-of-our-pants self-taught crash courses in marketing, photography, sales (seriously, I'm so thankful for all my years in retail), making business connections, etc. We're failing and succeeding and failing some more. It is SO. MUCH. WORK. Most of these women are working full-time jobs and running their business. Some are juggling families with small children and running their business. We're dealing with health issues and running a business. I am personally jugging a huge class load, babysitting my nephew, writing my novel (for class, but also for me and NaNoWriMo), and running my business. I find myself missing 40-hour work weeks. I also just realized how fortunate I am to know these badass women.
When you start your own business, you have this idea that you can create your own schedule, work when you feel like it, and just be easy breezy beautiful. I was one of those people. I knew it would require some work, but I didn't realize that there really is not much downtime. All day long, I am managing social media, creating scent recipes, researching how to lower my costs so that I can keep my prices low, updating product listings, making products, figuring out how to reach a wider audience. I post polls asking for what my customers want to see, doing free one-card tarot readings, researching local events, managing travel details for out of town events because there are no local events for my customer base.
One of the awesome women in my group turned me on to Rachel Hollis and the Last 90 Days Challenge. Overall, she's probably not someone I would've sought out, but I gave it a shot. She's not my usual style (it's a lot of Jesus sometimes, and that's not really my thing), but for a small-business owner, she made a lot of sense. And it's inspired me to really take a look at my business and what I want to get out of it. So while I am constantly peeing (part of this challenge is drinking half my weight in ounces of water), I'm also figuring out how to create a better business for me and for you.
I love what I do, and I love my customers. So I do it. I get up every day and do it. But I have realized that I need to take control of my business in a new way. Contests, behind the scenes, and more is coming your way. Someday I want to see these candles and soaps on the shelves of my own storefront, and that means more work. More, but different.
I hope you'll stick around with me and see where this goes.