It’s our five year anniversary of going into business! Whew- that feels like both a lifetime and a split-second. Today I’m sharing a few key lessons the last five years have taught me. If you’re an entrepreneur or want to be one, or just want to know a little more about the personal journey I’ve been on running DLC, read on….
1. Time management. You never really know if you’re good at this or not until you have no set schedule. It made me both appreciate flexibility and miss having somewhere to get dressed and go each morning by a certain time. Over time, I’ve learned I work best in the morning, should block schedule mindless tasks in the afternoon and that I need movement somewhere in my day. Oh, and that getting dressed- shoes, jewelry and all- makes you a whole lot more productive.
2. It’s really hard to do everything yourself. When we finally hired our awesome Studio Manager, Elizabeth, this past year, it was like 1,000 lightbulbs went off at once. All these years I had been trying to manage ALL the tasks of a small business- order fulfillment and customer service, accounting, new product creation, vendor relationships, marketing and so much more. Whew! I was exhausted, overwhelmed and never felt like I was doing it well. When Elizabeth came in and started to systematize many of these things and just take them off my plate (and do 1,000% better job than me), I realized we had long needed her position. The lesson: having more than one brain and set of hands makes everything run smoother and is truly what’s required to grow.
3. You find what you’re really passionate about. Along with not being able to do it all, I’ve also found a clear line of things I love doing. Not every part of being a small business owner is fun, and no one is good at everything. I’ve found that I love creating new products and working with local designers to bring my ideas to life. I also love interacting with you, our wonderful fans and customers and hearing about your love of local. I love making an impact in my community and am excited to grow our philanthropy program this year. And I love creative marketing and dreaming up an amazing customer experience. Things I don’t love so much? Accounting, inventory, website maintenance and paying taxes (you too?!) :)
4. No amount of online training or fancy business coaching will make your business magically easy. I think this is something most new entrepreneurs stumble through for awhile. You sign up for every course that promises to teach you something that will propel your business forward. “How to sell on Instagram starting day 1!” “Plan your best year yet with this 1-page worksheet!” It’s an easy trap to fall into. There is so much to learn and any shortcut sounds worth the time and money. But what I’ve learned is that you have to do those courses with the intention to make it work for your business, and not every course will work for your business. Plus, they take a ton of time and the implementation is a whole other story. Bottom line: Finding the right course or business coach is GOLD (I love me some Lela Barker and have found my unicorn as a boutique artisan brand with her), but you need to set aside the time and energy to do the work. And you have to come to enjoy the work, because that part right there never ends.
5. Find your tribe. I don’t know if I’d still be on this journey had I not found my tribe. There’s no two ways about it, being an entrepreneur, creative business owner or just your own boss is HARD. It’s a path not yet laid out, filled with many choices you probably won’t know the right answer to. It can be hard to make a paycheck, stay focused and feel successful, in whatever way you define that. I’ve been able to get through these tough days through the support of my mastermind of other women business owners, groups like AWE and Femworking, as well as the vibrant community of idea-starters here in DC and Northern Virginia. They are the people I’ve turned to with hard business questions, when I need recommendations on a contractor or when I need some perspective on how good or bad things really are. And they are definitely the ones I turn to on the days I want to quit, because I just feel too overwhelmed or stuck to take another step forward. If you’re on this journey, make sure you’re not doing it completely alone!
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